Category Archives: beaches

under the sea

The beach on Redang for our surface stopOkay, I am actually on holiday now, there is no way I can call this week even slightly difficult, stressful or challenging. Then again, I’ve been on the move for 13 months and quite frankly I think I deserve a holiday before coming home.

Right now I am in the Perhentian islands with Bron, on Pulau Perhentian Kecil. Imagine a stretch of cobalt blue ocean with gently undulating waves. You are speeding across this stretch of water in a speed boat heading for two small islands almost interlocking into one another. They rise up to hills in the centre and are covered with dense, thick green jungle. Around the shores are small idyllic white beaches and rocky outcrops. As you round the corner there is a long beach ahead of you with pale creamy sand, a few brightly coloured parasols dotted along the length and a few locals and tourists playing volleyball. The sea morphs from dark blue to turquoise as you get closer to the shore. A few restaurants and wooden bars are dotted about the place with most of the simple wooden A-frames and bungalows set back in the bush and palm trees, large spotted geckos hanging out in the eaves and snap up the insects and huge monitor lizards sulk around in teh shadows. Waking up to go for a morning dive you can see the sun rising over Long Beach and shining through the palm fronds and in the afternoon you can walk five minutes through the jungle to see the sun set over the clear waters from Coral Beach. Jealous yet?

This place is lovely, relaxed, beautiful, laid back and easy. The Malay people generally are just the loveliest warmest people which makes such a difference after Vietnam and Cambodia where there is a reasonable amount of hassle and rip offs. No, the Malays are relaxed, helpful, friendly and all seem to have an excellent sense of humour. We’ve been here for three days and I’ve been on some fantastic dives, I’ve seen turtles, Bamboo sharks, Bat fish, Blue Ring octopus, Cuttlefish, Moray eels, seahorses, huge mangrove rays, angelfish, scorpion fish, Titan trigger fish, lionfish and barracuda to name but a few. I’m loving the diving, just the feeling of being under the water and looking up a bank of coral to see the sun shining from above the water through shoals of hundreds of tiny fish, looking down on tiny orange and black clownfish darting in and out of their anaenome homes or staring out into the blue and seeing crowds of hunting trevallis swimming by. I took a digital camera out for the first time and turns out underwater photography is a lot harder than it is on dry land but I’ve included some of my better efforts.

This afternoon I went down to a huge sunken boat called Sugar Wreck which was just like something from a Jules Verne novel. Huge baracle and clam encrusted sides towering above us with bamboo sharks hiding under the base, cuttlefish changing colour as they swam over the sea floor and we even came up into air pockets nine metres down under the wreck and had a quick chat! Bron has been entertaining herself and has gone off snorkelling in a secluded beach with one of the very lovely guys who works in our chalets. She said something about needing to go and improve her Malay language…

Coral baySadly as I came up from the Sugar Wreck dive I had to move away from the line as another group were going down. So I swam alongside their boat as ours was behind. The current here is really strong so I was staying close to the boat. Now if you dive off a boat you usually enter the water with a backward roll. You always check behind before you do this and usually the boat driver or the instructor (who should be the last one off the boat) also keep a look out. Unfortunately for me this didn’t happen and this guy just rolled back without checking and clunked me on the head with his air tank. Those things are big and heavy. By the time I reached my boat it was bleeding profusely and there was blood in my mask. Our dive master pulled me out whilst yelling at the other boat’s driver. None of them apologised which I thought was more than a little rude, they just sawm off for their dive. I am fine though, it throbbed a bit but otherwise I’m okay and the guys at the shop have covered it in antiseptic and antibiotic cream. Still I’m taking it easy for the rest of the day just in case. Luckily the afro hides the bump. Now if I can just go and find the monitor lizard that lives behind the kitchen…

dirt bikes and dirty dancing

Happy New Year! Phnom PenhCurrently chilling out in Sihanoukville, which has been a lot of fun, but is beginning to burn a hole in both my liver and my wallet! Our last night in Phnom Penh we ended up being covered in talcum powder and wished a Happy Khmer New Year by the staff in the restaurant – for some reason we were the only westerners they felt the need to talc…Turns out I look pretty scary with a white face!

Big Night out in SnoopVilleThe next day due to some late night Cuba Libres in an Irish Pub chatting to a fascinating old American guy called Bob, we were all fast asleep for the whole of the four hour journey down to the coast. About 15 minutes after arriving we found ourselves in a $7 bungalow in a place called the Monkey Republic. Kids in Ream National ParkSihanoukville is a weird place, everything seems to be owned and largely run by westerners, there are bars, restaurants, beach loungers a go-go and the place is more full of backpackers than our bathroom is of ants. And still, it’s a nice place, the beach is cute and chatting to the kids there is very amusing even though we refused to buy anything from them (many reasons not too, namely trying to encourage them to go to school). Beach Kids in SihanoukvilleThey have Camembert, Monterrey Jack and Feta cheese in the restaurants which, after two months of Dairy Lea and plastic cheese, is heaven. The music is good, the rum is dark and the weather is hot, so really it’s a fun place to hang out. Thursday night proved rather messy although it started out so peacefully having post-sunset Cuba Libres in a little beach bar with Squid and chicken skewers for dinner. How it descended into a bar crawling, gin-fuelled, dance fest is beyond me – maybe the addition of two new friends, Tara (Camden) and James (Glasgow) tipped us over the edge. Well it was fun, but sweaty, and at least this time I didn’t break the beds! We all wisely decided to have the next day off and concentrated on eating food, drinking water and sitting in the TV room with the fans on full blats watching DVDs.

The pink scooter girlsToday Rob, Mika and I hired bikes to head out to Ream National Park abut 20km from town. Mika and I have very cute, but speedy automatic scooters in hot and baby pink. Rob, being a boy, and being Rob, hired a 250cc Dirt Bike! Thankfully apart from a broken brake handle both he and the bike made it back in one piece – actually it was pretty cool although I didn’t quite feel confident enough to have a go as my feet couldn’t reach the ground from the seat! We drove out to Ream National Park and rode through the edges of the jungle along the coastline dotted with palms and small local wooden houses on stilts. shells in Ream National ParkThe narrow strip of beach was deserted apart from ourselves, strewn with drift wood, shell fragments and tiny white crabs scuttling into the surf. There was a good few kilometres on really rough, bumpy track which Mika and I carefully navigated on our hers and hers scooters whilst Rob went flying along at full speed and grinning like he’d just found the true meaning of happiness! Bless! Well I am off to meet Rob, Mika, Tara and James in the bar for a few drinks and a quiet meal…and if you believe that, you’ll believe anything!

the easy island life

Phu Quoc Island, VietnamWhat is it about islands? It doesn’t matter which part of the world you are in but when you put any kind of civilisation on an island small enough to drive around in a day, with hot weather and palm trees the whole pace of life just slows down and any urgency to do things kinds of drifts away with the tide. Getting to Phu Quoc island was probably the most I have actually had to work at transport in Vietnam. This country makes you supremely lazy, tourists buses have booking cafes a go-go offering you easy, inexpensive fares to everywhere you want to go, they pick you up from the door of your hotel, drop you off slap bang in the middle of all the hotels of your destination, in fact a trained monkey could probably travel around Vietnam with ease. Long Beach, Phu QuocThere are no tourist buses that go to Phu Quoc as sensible people fly directly there. We decided to take the hard route and besides, the flights were all booked out. So we had to get a taxi and a minivan to the bus station and then get a local minivan bus six hours across the bumpy roads of the Mekong Delta to Rach Gia. There were two tiny old women on the back seat with Mary and I and quite frankly they were mean. They were at least half our size and took up all the space, refusing to budge and then sprawling against and over the seats with their wrinkly arms and legs. Nice! It was a long ride to Rach Gia. We spent the night in a little hotel and then caught the morning ferry over to the island where a local bus ride and 30 minutes of phaffing up and down the guest houses on the back of three motorbikes eventually brought us to somewhere to stay!

Mary getting suited up on the boat, Phu QuocWe’d picked a small place with a series of spacious but simple bungalows with balconies and hammocks in a long garden that lead down to the beach and beautiful views of the island. All the places to stay are along the west coast in an area called Long Beach. Our section of beach was covered in white sand, a few shaded sun loungers, a few small rocks lay in the impossibly clear waters that led out into the warm turquoise sea. Blue sky, white puffy clouds, restaurant right on the edge of the beach and cheap, ice cold beer. What more do you need. Well rum actually. Mika and I brought a litre of cheap dark rum and cans of Diet coke thinking we’d never drink the whole lot. Then after dinner Mary went to bed and somehow the two of us were up chatting watching a seriously impressive thunder storm rage outside and bizarrely, by 4am, we’d finished all the rum!

Bat Fish, Nudibranch gardens, Phu QuocThe next day we managed to do nothing but swim, eat, read and lie dozing in the hammocks. I’m not usually a beach person but it’s been a long time since I switched off and properly relaxed, so it felt wonderful. The next day we went out diving in the northern area of Phu Quoc. I hadn’t done any diving for two years so although the visibility wasn’t great it felt really good to be under the water again and it has got me seriously excited about diving in Malaysia. Me Scuba Diving, Phu Quoc, VietnamWe did see the most incredible jellyfish on the first dive, a huge pulsating pink and red translucent animal with dozens of tiny white fish swimming around beneath the umbrella of it’s body. I was torn between trying not to get too close and trying to get a good picture with my new underwater disposable camera! Between the low visibility and infrequent sunshine the photos are, interesting, but I’ve put some on anyway, they kind of have an blurred, exploration of unknown depths kind of quality to them! Mika and Mary, Phu QuocThe second dive was at a place called Nudibranch gardens and apart from the beautiful branch corals everywhere it is known for the Nudibranches which are small slug-like creatures in psychedelic purples, yellows and blues. They look a little like those weird lighters they sell at festivals with fluorescent spikes sticking out of the sides! There were also bat fish, which were far larger than I’d realised from the photos, and when I turned around to spot one I was somewhat startled to see something the size of my head peering straight into my goggles. I backed up a little hurriedly and managed to take out a chunk of dead coral reef behind me… I’m so graceful!

cooking classes, Cua Da Beach & custom-made clothes

School girls in Hoi AnI am definitely falling victim to the infinite charms of Vietnam. This place is coming close to rivalling India for the sheer number of photogenic opportunities, whether it is farmers plowing rice paddies with huge horned buffaloes, the women in their cone-shaped hats paddling with one oar down the river, or the beautiful 18th and 19th century architecture in the town of Hoi An. Farmers near Hoi AnThe food is wonderful, the history is intriguing, Vietnam has, over the centuries fought off most of the big bad boys of Asia; the Indian Chams, the Khmers, the Chinese, and of course more recently the French and the US. I found this quote in the history section of the guide book that I particularly liked written by Le Loi who rallied the country successfully against the Chinese in 1428:

“Our people long ago established Vietnam as an independent nation with its own civilisation. We have our own mountains and our own rivers, our own customs and traditions, and these are different from the those of the foreign country to the north…We have sometimes been weak and sometimes powerful, but at no time have we suffered from a lack of heroes.”

Japanese bridge? Hoi AnJames and I arrived in Hoi An in the late afternoon after a scenic drive through the rice fields and along the sea front through the town of Danang. Hoi An is full of charms, full of restaurants serving white rose (shrimps wrapped in rice paper bundles), hot pot soups of sea food and spice, LaRue beer, cafes, bars, a river front lined with brightly coloured boats- all with ominous white and black eyes painted either side of the prow, markets, old women in pointed hats selling sticky slabs of sugary peanuts, the streets are lined with brightly coloured beautiful houses, palm trees, red and pink flowers creeping over tiled roofs, old ceremonial chambers with Japanese, Chinese, French and Vietnamese architecture all blended together, and most dangerous of all Hoi An boasts an incredible 400 tailor shops.

Hoi An riverW e were recommended a tailor shop called Peace by our hotel and we went around on our first morning. I planned to get one dress and maybe get a copy done of the top I brought in Brazil and have worn to death travelling. The women in our tailors are lovely, and the things they make are beautiful and lets just say that this is day three in Hoi An, James has one suit, two trousers and three shirts and I have a total now of one Vietnamese traditional outfit, two tops, one dress, a formal skirt and a winter coat. Whoops. I have told the owner if she talks me into getting anything else I will stop recommending her shop to people!

CuaDaBeachApart from popping into the tailor shop (which invariably involves the girls getting me to try some weird fruit or sample a local soy bean drink while we have a chat) we’ve been wandering around the old town, visiting the historical sites, sitting drinking Orangina in cafes, cycling down to Cua Da Beach and vegging out on the soft sands, eating incredibly well in the wonderful restaurants in the evenings and drinking ice cold beers while we play cribbage in the bars (I am still loosing)!

Cooking class HoiAn

Today I left James and went to have a half day cooking course with the Red Bridge Cooking School in town. We started off with a tour of the local market and I found out what a good deal of the unusual fruits and vegetables were, my favourite being a nobbly wrinkled green fruit which is a bitter melon. Tastes like crap apparently but is very good for the body! Unusually for someone who generally has the domestic leanings of a fruit bat, I ended up buying kitchen utensils! A very funky mutli-purpose blade that slides dices, peels and shreds, it’s actually very cool! River crabs, Hoi AnAfter the market we all piled into a colourful wooden boat and travelled down the palm fringed river to the cookery school pausing to watch a local fisherman expertly fan out his net into the water to catch fish. Well actually he wasn’t catching any fish just then, he was showing off for the cameras and then frantically paddled up to ask for some money!

The cooking course was brilliant, and our chef had a very dry sense of humour which is unusual in Asia, he kept saying the most amusing things in a totally dead pan tone:

“For this use lemon grass, or if you don’t have lemon grass use fresh ginger. If you don’t have fresh ginger in your country…move.”

We learnt how to make spring rolls, rice paper, seafood salad, Hoi An pancakes, Aubergine in clay pots and cucumber and tomato carving. We ate all the food we made and then had yet more for a late lunch, we were all stuffed as pot-bellied pigs when we climbed back aboard the boat back to Hoi An.

Hoi An Fisherman

cocktails and cows at sunset

Anjuna, GoaI hadn’t really expected to like Goa a huge amount, Cows on Anjuna beachI imagined a very touristy, built up beach resort and I couldn’t have been more wrong. Goa has a really strong Portuguese influence from their occupation and as a result the beautiful white churches and the architecture in Paniji and even the beaches reminded me wonderfully of Brazil. I met up with my friend from Nepal, Andrea, in Anjuna where Lucy from Deep Griha was also staying. We had a little guest house set back from the beach path which led to our favourite In Salt and Pepper, Goarestaurant San Francisco on the corner of a long wide beach on which lazy cows slept all day, a few tourists lay sunbathing and a very warm blue ocean came slowly rippling onto the sands. Lianna also turned up in Little Vagator just up the coast so we joined her for a late afternoon swim and watched the most perfect sunset between the palm trees from up the side of the hill behind the beach drinking cocktails! That night actually got a little messy, Lianna had befriended two English guys, Mike and John who were great fun although it was their fault we ended up trying the local paint stripper which may account for why we ended up partially clothed in the very nice pool of their lovely hotel at 2am!

Beach seller, GoaI decided to hire a moped on Tuesday and immediately decided that they were the best things in the world to drive. I went to raise Jumping on Mandran beachLianna out of her hangover and after a restorative lunch we headed up the coast through small beach villages, along palm forested hills and up to Mandram, a lovely wide empty beach about 45 minutes north where we stopped for drinks and a afternoon swim. I still can’t get over how wonderfully warm the sea is here! On the way back ominous clouds started to roll over the horizon and the light was fading. I would have been fine had it not been for the collapsed electricity wire across the road which was being held up by a policeman with a plastic truncheon. I stopped then edged slowly forward under the held up end, the road was wet and the wheel slid slightly, I panicked worried we would hit the wire and hit the brakes but sadly pulled the brake on the accleration handle and in pulling down pulled the acclerration too. We skidded and Lianna hopped off the back and the moped fell on top of me. Nice. Right in front of the policeman aswell. Luckily Lianna was fine and apart from 10-year-old style grazing on my elbow and knee I was fine. Moped 1. Claire 0. We were fine after that and ditched the moped and got a motortaxi to the beach bar to meet the others, Ayesha and Sarah were also in Anjuna by now aswell!

Devils in PanijiWednesday morning Andrea and I took the moped down to Paniji, an hour drive south and explored the Portuguese churches and buildings, so like so many places in Brazil, and kept seeing these gigantic papier mache torsos on bamboo scaffolding everywhere through the town. It turned out they were devils that are burnt at midnight to herald in Divali! On the MopedIn the afternoon we all went down to the famous Wednesday market at the bottom of Anjuna, it was fairly huge but I guess I’ve just been travelling too long as I didn’t really see anything I hadn’t seen before, allbeit on a much smaller scale. Plus being a tourist trap the sellers started at totally ridiculous prices, it almost wasn’t worth bartering! That evening there was the mother of all thunderstorms, lashing rain, forked lightening which was a little too close for comfort and the most deafening thunder. Once the lightening had journeyed a little further away and the rain died down we fled to the nearest beach restaurant for food. We could still see streaks of lightening far out at sea briefly lighting up the whole beach area. Impressive but a little unsettling.

Palolem beachOn Thursday Andrea and I headed down to the beach at Palolem in South Goa which was lovely. The beach is a huge crescent fringed with thick groves of palm trees, in between which tiny villages of basic beach huts are built every season. We found ourselves one such wee hut and had two days of doing very little but reading, eating lovely Goan food (prawn curry mmmmm!), going on a mini boat trip, watching the sunset, buying embroidered bags and scarves in the market and chatting. I think because the season is not in full swing Goa was not too busy and just seemed very unobtrusive and chilled. Although I was looking forward to getting ‘home’ to Pune it was definitely a wrench to leave.

the art of love beneath an umbrella

Galle Lighthouse

Okay I just love the slightly intriguing entry titles, just to intice you to actually read on in hope of some tittilating gossip, sadly there is none. In fact the heading refers to the multi-purpose Sri Lankan umbrella. All the women here carry them around, using them as parasols in the midday heat and as protection from the random, not infrequent rain showers. The Umbrellas of Love, GalleThey also have a third slightly more clandestine use. In every park, botanical gardens and along the walls of the Dutch fort this morning, you will see young couples sitting together on benches or steps, close together, their heads, presumably deep in conversation, shielded from prying eyes by the ever-useful umbrella. In a country which still views public displays of affection as a cultural no-no, the trusty umbrella shield is about the only privacy a couple can get! If Douglas Adams had spent anytime in Sri Lanka the umbrella may well have usurped the towel as the one item no interstellar hitchhiker should leave home without!

I am growing rather fond of Galle, the crazy old architecture, pot-holed streets, ancient walls and little shops and cafes. I found the wonderfully small and cosy Serendipity Arts Cafe on a recommendation from Jim in the jungle (!) and had my first pot of real coffee in ten days along with banana and honey Sri Lankan pancakes for breakfast. They also have a huge collection of travel magazines and a few photography books, what more could you need? I then walked to the bus station fending off the usual enquiries “Tuk-tuk Madam?” and got the local bus 10km down the road to the beachside village of Unawatuna.

Serendipity Cafe

Unawatuna BeachIt is quite incredible to think that nearly three years ago this bay was completely devastated by the Tsunami. I was talking to some of the locals and apparently, before the wave hit, the sea suddenly retreated out for 100s of yards, exposing all the fish and corals so everyone was rushing out to look at the spectacle when the enormous wave swept in. There are few traces of the devastation left in the bay now and it’s a laid back beach resort backed with palm trees, golden sands, turquoise water and a white peace pagoda dominating the sky line at the far end. I ran into two of the Dutch girls from my trip to the rainforest and spent the day with them; relaxing on sun loungers, swimming in the wonderfully warm waters of the bay then climbing up to the pagoda to see the waves crashing in on the rocks. As I’ve said before, this travelling is a hard life!

Friends in Unawatuna

sun, sea, sand, surf…did I miss something?

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Sometimes when travelling you just seem to arrive in the perfect place, with the perfect group of people at the perfect time and nowhere could be truer of Itacare. I arrived in this laid back beach town just after sunset on a warm evening and my initial plans to stay for a day or two quickly went right out of the window. Within two hours of arriving I was sitting sipping passion fruit cocktails in a little street side bar with some new friends, resting my havaianas up on the table and thinking that this travelling lifestyle really is pretty hard work!

On Praia da Concha

We’ve had a group of about 10 of us from 8 different countries which is fairly impressive; Josefina (Argentina), Valentin (Austria), Kevin (France), Marcus (Germany), Lucilla (Italy), Ana (Spain), Fernando (Brazil), Thomas and Anya (Norway), Rob (UK), Lucy (Germany) and myself.

Sunset in Itacare

I´ve been to beautiful palm tree-lined sandy beaches in between stretches of jungle, been surfing ( I stood up twice and had my first “drop” which was absolutely amazing, since when I´ve been falling all over the place), swam, trekked through the jungle to remote beaches, drank from coconuts (tried juggling them too but not so successful), drunk more cachaca than can possibly be good for one person in a lifetime, stayed up every night partying in the clubs, until after sunrise, to Reggae, electronica and Brazilian funk (though not in the same night), gone skinny dipping on the beach at 5am and had a huge black lizard henna tattoo on my arm…and despite all this I feel pretty lively, relaxed and, surprisingly, not that tired!

Kevin with the Favela barmenSo we are off to have pizza tonight, drinks with our favourite barmen in the Favela bar, drinking caiparinhas with passion fruit, and then to dance until dawn, at which point I have to come back, grab my rucksack to get a 7am bus to finally take me away from this little paradise and one step closer to home.

Josefina and I

Today we hired surf boards and walked about an hour to get to the furthest beach in town called Prainha, a pale sand sweep lined with palm trees and white crested waves crashing into the shore. After 40 minutes of getting churned up by the waves trying to stand up on my long board I collasped under the coconut palms with the others, looking up through the leaves at the blue clear sky and wondering if life can really get much better than this…

my lizard

the girl from ipanema

Rio de JaneiroI am in Rio and I love this place more than I can express although my liver maybe feeling slightly differently about the experience! I arrived in Rio on Friday afternoon and managed to catch a local bus to my hostel in Ipanema which is lovely. It´s kind of the smart beach area, nicer than Copacobana, with cafes and amazing juice shops on all the corners. I nearly didn´t find the hostel as the entire ground floor is a rather funky little bar. I befriended a Columbian girl, Ivonne from my room, and we sat drinking caiparinhas with a friend of hers in the bar. Just to explain the caiparinhas they serve at home are pale in comparison to the Brazilian ones, these are made with cachaca, a rather strong and extremely tasty sugar liquor drink mixed with ice and lemon and pretty much bugger all else. It´s refreshing, pretty cheap and extremely potent. So after sipping my way through about four of these I realised I was surprisingly drunk! So it didn´t take much persuasion for me to go out at 1am to Lapa until the wee hours in the morning. Lapa is a really old part of Rio with gorgeous delapidated buildings and a huge two tier viaduct. On Friday and Saturday nights the streets turn into one huge party with guys selling beers and cachaca on the streets and loads of samba clubs and bars. Really good fun.

Botafogo fans in Rio
On Saturday afternoon I went to the football and my god, you have never experienced passion for the sport until you go to a match in Brazil. They´ve just built a huge, beautifully sleek new white stadium in Rio and the match was the first game to be played there, Fluminese vs Botafogo. The noise was just immense and everyone was jumping around, singing, starting mexican waves, flashing green flares and it´s so infectious. My the time the match finished and our team Botafogo had won 2-1 we were singing and jumping around along with everyone else.

Corinne and I, Rio
We got back in time for a fiesta in the ar which for some reason involved us all dressing up like farmers and wearing straw hats and pigtails…we went back to Lapa and after a few hours drinking in the streets and getting chatted up by various amusing groups of Brazilian guys we ended up in a random hiphop club (mainly because it was the cheapest to get into). I have never laughed so hard and so much as I did in that club. On the dancefoor everyone would gather round in a circle and then guys would go into the middle and do this amazing break dancing, head spins, back flips you name it. Well we´d come in with a group of Irish guys we found in the street who decided after an hour that they could give all the Brazilian gangstas a run for their money and were then doing bizarre Irish jigs all over the club. So we witnessed several dance offs between the locals and the Irish and it was the most bizarre and amusing thing I think I´ve ever seen! Later we ended up in another samba club and at 7.30am six of us were sitting on Ipanema beach, before going to bed, watching the morning joggers go past!

Rio graffiti
Rio is a beautiful city and there are such contrasts between huge skyscrapers, smart hotels in Ipanema, the old historic buildings of Lapa and the many, many favelas sprawling up and down the hills in between the barrios. They also have the most amazing and creative graffiti all over the place. Apparently the most frequent ways for young guys to get out of life in the favelas is either through football or through becoming a popular graffiti artist. Today we went to a artist market in the tiny cobbled streets of Santa Teresea near the Centre. A friend of Ivonne´s from Sao Paulo was in town so he drove us around and four of us went around the markets, had a long late lunch in a great restaurant with pineapple and mint fruit juices…it´s really felt like a weekend, except of course, I don´t have to go to work tomorrow! In fact tonight I am doing a very touristy, fairly foolish thing (considering how little sleep I´ve had this weekend and the balance of cachaca over blood in my veins), I´m going to a party in a favela. It´s all about the favela chic and besides, when else will I ever get to party in a place run by drug lords where they don´t even let the police into the neighbourhood?

bad for the budget, good for the soul

I know I like to make out that actually this travelling business is really quite hard work; overcoming language barriers, constantly meeting new people, navigating new places, buying bus tickets, finding food, somewhere to stay. Well I’m currently in Paraty on the Costa Verde, the Green Coast south of Rio and for the first time since I arrived in south america I truly feel like I’m on holiday. I caught the bus down from Sao Paulo two days ago and arrived in this unbelievably cute, laid back small town full on old white buildings with brightly coloured door and window frames, cobbled streets and a beautiful bay with green turquoise water stretching out into a bay dotted with tiny, jungle covered islands.

Paraty

The hostel is lovely and right on the river front but my room which I’m sharing with three other girls is so small it’s hysterical! There’s Hettie from Somerset, Loreto from Chile and Karina from Portugal who has now become my official translator for the bad Brazilian Novellas on TV that are strangely addictive! They introduced me to an amazing dessert here called Acai, it’s made from amazonian fruit made into a pulp which they turn into either ice cream or a type of hot porridge stuff which you eat with granola, chopped bananas and honey, oh my god it’s sooooo good! Later the four of us went out for a quiet caiparinha which was rather strong and we were sitting peacefully outside a bar when we were accosted by a group of Brazilian boys, all studying german and all dressed up as rather passable women! The last thing I expected to see in Brazil was a group of 18 year olds in drag speaking german! Within about half an hour we were all in the bar over the road dancing and drinking and the Brazilian’s definitely love to dance and the caiparinhas with cinnamon and cloves are bloody delicious!

Island beaches, Paraty

Yesterday we all headed out on a boat tour to visit some of the island beaches dotted around the bay. We sunbathed on the roof of the boat, went diving off jetties, snorkelled in clear deep waters and wandered along palm fringed, yellow sandy beaches, life is tough I tell you! Then today I ventured a little further afield and got a bus to the nearby fishing town of Trinade in search of a nice beach I’d been recommended. Unfortunately following a friendly looking dog that seemed to know where it was going I took an unfortunate detour through the jungle and was hiking barefoot up and down tree roots and streams for nearly 40 minutes when I realised the beach was not supposed to be this far away! Got back and found the right path and finally made it to the beach. It was lovely but sadly by now the clouds had decided to settle over the hills so I had a lovely afternoon reading just without much sun!