We were lucky; the bus to Sucre was only one hour late. We literally had to jump into the bus. Bolivian busses are always an adventure! This one was another indescribably uncomfortable one. I truly saw the most disgusting bathroom of my life and the worst part was, not piing in it was not an option. Further up the road, we got bombarded by kids; they would throw water balloons at us. They knew exactly where to throw, because the next 15minutes I had water dripping on me. Later, I got to know that this only happens during carnival, it’s a miner tradition, to purify your body. Though, in this case, I think it was just a children’s joke.
During his biking trips, 40 years ago, my father met Africans who had never seen a white man before. They would touch his skin and hair, in bewilderment. I wonder what it was like to meet people who were discovering something new. An experience where there is no money involved, where no one is afraid of the other. What it must have felt like to not be looked at as a white man, not being treated like a gringo or a muzungu (white man). One thing is sure, now I know what it feels like to be “the foreigner” and I must say, most people are just waiting for you to make the first step. We often obtain a smile, just by saying “hola”, which means hi in Spanish.
To finish, a little anecdote, a pickup full of children drove by, they saw us working in the river, they all started yelling, “Gringo! Gringo!”. We all started laughing and yelled back “Wowowoooohoo!”. I turned the position around, lets wonder what would happen if we would cross, for example, Matongé, the African corner of Brussels, in a pickup, as they do, while yelling “Hey black man! Hey black man!”, as they yell “Muzungu! Muzungu!” I think we would have serious problems. ;o)) I believe Europe seriously needs to chill!

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We came from Rio de Janeiro and we found peace in Samaipata. With peace of mind came sports. Every morning before breakfast, we would go for a run, a swim and do some Pilates exercises. Wonderful!

This beautiful village set amid the stunning wilderness surrounds of the Cordillera Oriental is a perfect base for treks into Amboro National Park. There are numerous sights to explore. El Fuerte appears to be the biggest pre-Inca carved stone in the world; it’s definitely worth a look. We are not that into “old stones”, but the view is stunning!

In the weekends, the party people from Santa Cruz disturb this wonderful peace to “party” in a more beautiful surround. They get wasted and it’s very annoying.

We finally got baptised with travel diarrhoea! Our bus ride to Sucre was that same night. There are no bathrooms in Bolivian busses and the drivers only stop every 5hours.Luckily we were able to postpone the bus ride until the next day. One of our medicine bags got stolen in Santa Cruz when we got of the bus, so we had no Imodium. In a Bolivian pharmacy we found RestorFlore, which works even better than Imodium.

To eat, Samaipata has several breakfast opportunities. At the Posada del sol, Trent and Rosario make the best breakfast of Bolivia and the French bakery, next to the plaza, makes wonderful croissants! The “Mercado central” offers the best “almuerzo’s”, soup and main dish for 9B$ (0, 90€). Another great place is Chakana, right on the plaza.

In Bolivia you definitely get your dose of carbohydrates. Mostly you can choose between 2 meals, meat or chicken with potatoes, rice, French fries and a side salad. Bolivian food is tasteful and cheap.

To sleep, the Posada del Sol, for me, is the best place in town, www.posadadelsol.net. Another option is el Jardin, as the name says; it’s a wonderful garden with tons of flowers and fruit trees. The million of mosquitoes and sand flies do kill the magic.

Info about Samaipata: www.samaipata.info.com, www.posadadelsol.net.

 “El tren de la muerta”, also known as the death train, travels from Quijarro, at the Brazilian Border to Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s largest city. The train is very famous and often described as a backbreaking journey through soy plantations and the steamy Pantanal. This is partly where the train got his dark name from.

We took the bus, which I think should get the same dark name, “el bus de la muerte”, because it is also indescribably uncomfortable! 26 hours of pain through the Pantanal! On the other hand it was a great adventure. We finally felt like we were travelling! I sincerely think that after crossing the biggest swamp of the world in the middle of the rainy season in a Bolivian bus, we can handle any kind of transportation. The 24 hours flight to Australia doesn’t look like an obstacle anymore. After 28 hours we finally arrived in Santa Cruz. From Santa Cruz we took the Samaipata express taxi. You share a cab with 4 people and the 3 hours drive cost you 4€.

Watch out! Some people dress up as fake policemen and hand out falls visas.

Watch out! Remember to pay a visit to the bathroom before boarding a Bolivian bus, because there is no bathroom aboard and the diver will only stop every 5hours.

Watch out! In Bolivia toilet paper in your bag is a must!

Another marvellous bus ride from Bonito to Buraco das Piranhas. We briefly saw the Pantanal because the Pousada Natureza, which was unreachable, was fully booked. Horrified by the price of the other hostels we decided to visit the Pantanal in Bolivia. 24 hours later we drove threw the Pantanal in a Bolivian cross bus, at night during the rainy season. That was an unforgettable experience! Trucks were stuck in the mod and several were off the road. During a four hour wait, Nico performed an indescribable mosquito chase. The ceiling of the bus was a mosquito cemetery.

We spend a night in Corumba which was tourist free, probably because the city has a reputation for drug trafficking. Tourists though are left alone.

Watch out! To get to Bolivia, all the Brazilian border formalities need to be completed in Corumba with the federal police.

To get to Bonito we got a ride with Miguel Angel Allou, former champion of car races. It was a bumpy, fast and Spanish ride! Wonderful experience! In Ponta Pora we made a little tour in Paraguay, there is no customs.

Bonito is a charming little town. It’s well-known for her underground lakes and her crystal clear rivers. The downside is that these locations can only be visited with tours and the transportation to these sights is not included. Which turned out to be fairly expensive. We decided to rent a motorbike and visit the cheapest sites. This turned out to be very satisfying. At the Buraco das Araras we saw several ara parrots and caimans. The Balneario del sol, is a wonderful natural pool, with waterfalls, a death ride, hammocks and a lot of fish called piraputanga. We had a nice talk with some Brazilians from Miranda, in the Pantanal. Its funny, Brazil has a 7000 km long coast and inside the grounds every 100km you can find a balneario municipal, so there’re beaches everywhere! At the Balnéario Municipal we snorkelled down the river. Nico found a tooth in his foot, which later at the aquarium looked like the teeth of the pirañas. Haha, luckily they weren’t hungry.

The HI hostel Albergue de Juventude do Ecoturismo is truly perfect, http://www.ajbonito.com.br. Good price, pool with volley net, free internet/WIFI and great double rooms.

Another interesting blog http://peacerob.berlektrolin.de/.

We are finally on our way to nature! After calling the bus company, Pluma, we went to the bus station to catch the 6 o’ clock bus to Iguaçu falls. Unfortunately there was no 6 o’ clock bus. Luckily we found another option threw Curitiba. We spent 26 hours from Rio de Janeiro to Foz do Iguaçu. Brazil is a beautiful country with a lot of sights, but it’s also a huge country, so you better be patient, because the trips between the sights are long. Brazil equals to 17 times France!

The 275 Iguaçu waterfalls crash from 80m into the Iguaçu River. They are situated at the frontiers of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. The Brazilian side gives a grand overview and the Argentinean side gives a closer look of the falls. Ideally, both sides have to be visited to see the falls properly. We only visited the Brazilian side, which was absolutely wonderful! I believe you’re never deceived with Unesco patrimonies! The funny thing about this park is the several coatis’ you’ll encounter during the visit. On your lucky day you might see capucine monkeys and lizards in all shapes and forms.

Watch out!  Don’t hurry into tours. The nationals’ park visit is more than satisfying.

The bird park (Parque das Aves), across the waterfalls entrance, is worth a look. It holds 800 different bird species.

Albergue Paudimar is a good address, pool, free internet / WIFI, football field, pool table, it is located 12km from town on the way to the falls.

Foz do Iguaçu is definitely worth the detour!

Information, Foz do Iguaçu: www.iguassu.tur.br, www.paudimar.com.br.

Our arrival in Rio de Janeiro was far from comfortable. After 2cancelled and 2 delayed flights, which made us spend 30 hours between Brussels International airport and “Aeropuerto Galião”, we finally arrived in Rio de Janeiro, unfortunately our luggage didn’t.

Piratas de Ipanema Guesthouse, certainly the cheapest deal in Rio de Janeiro (8€ / pp/ night). We were sharing our dorm with some of Copacabana’s beach vendors. This hostel has all the party information you’ll need, from street parties to favella parties. Other positive aspects of this hostel are its location, the pool and pool table, the free internet / WIFI and the friendly and trustable staff. On the other hand, the hostel has a dark atmosphere. I believe, some parts of the hostel have never been cleaned and the 20 persons’ dorm has mosquito net-free windows, which are open 24 hours a day. Eviva dengue ! After 6 hours of struggling with heat and mosquitoes, we flee to a hotel. Which was understandable given the events of the past 30 hours.

The Real Palace Hotel is situated 500m’s from Copacabana’s beach.

Copacabana beach is 4,5km’s long. During the day the beach is packed with people and vendors. Though the waves were huge, I didn’t see any surfers. For some people this is a dream, for us a nightmare. Tourists camping on the beach. It was 45°C, we had no air. You could smell the pollution. Everything was expensive. After 2 days we were sick of it. Damn British airways and TAM airlines! At night people often get hoarest on the beach, as did we, luckily Nico is big and the police was close. The streets next to the beach are packed with hookers.

Our highlight in Rio de Janeiro was definitely, when we had some beers at sunset on Copacabana beach. Followed by a great live concert in Lapa, the singer was a big Brazilian guy, singing sunny music in a Hawaiian flowery T-shirt. Just wonderful!

 For us Rio de Janeiro was not such a good experience, we were hungry for nature and got stuck in a city. Luckily we met Ludo and Mary on the beach. Ludo is Belgian, from Willebroek, Antwerp. He invited us on his boat in Costa Verde, a real paradise!

The islands Itacuruça and Retendor de Jaguanum are close to Isla Grande, south of Rio de Janeiro. A lot of small islands, beaches where you can find food and drink for reasonable prices. Absolutely wonderful!

 As for our luggage we got those 5 days later, we were told every day that we would get them the next morning. A nightmare!

 Watch out! The entry paper you’ll receive at the airport will be asked from you to get out of Brazil. You’ll have to pay about 100 U$ if you don’t have the exit paper. 

Information, Rio de Janeiro : www.ipanema.com & www.riodejaneiro-tourismo.com.br ; www.piratadeipanema.org

Brazil

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