Gone South 120 - Virginie, Marie & Arnaud

We've gone south for 120 days & invite you to join us (if only from a distance) on our trip through Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia & Peru. The initial idea of doing it by car was temporarily abandoned due to lack of funds to rent a car. This obviously doesn’t rule out the purchase of a car somewhere along the road. Should you want to see what we're seeing, doing and enjoying, come back here & drop us a line! We'll try to keep this blog updated with photos & comments. Enjoy it!

Name:
Location: Brussels, Belgium

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Last entry from Montevideo

Hello all,
I'm afraid I won't be able to make this a long one. It's 1:30 am and I'm dead knackered, but I could not leave Montevideo without putting down my thoughts of it.
I've loved it here. This city really has got so much to offer. Every part of the city, which we have by now more or less discovered, has something special about it. The well maintained and popular areas as well the more delapidated, abandoned ones each have a great feel to them. We where warned about the areas not to go into at night from our first hour here, so took note of that and stayed clear of those. Everything is however very safe during the day and it can be felt. We are always careful and make sure we aren't too obvious about our things, we take as little on us as possible, and keep some coins in our pockets to give to street kids, but I have most certainly not felt unsafe at any moment.
The clean, tree lined streets have some gorgeous, old and so architecturaly rich buildings on display. The great, still driven old timers add so much cachet and even the packed Rio de la Plata beaches are appealing (excluding the jelly fish - which Vigi got stung by yesterday, but reassured was harmless. It happens many times a day aparently)...
The people here are also fantastic. We thought less than in Brazil upon arrival in Uruguay, but in fact they're also very kind and always willing to help.
Tomorrow we're moving on though, east to La Paloma from where we'll return westwards again past Montevideo to La Colonia to cross the Rio de la Plata over to Buenos Aires.
I hope you can get a feel on Montevideo from the pictures. I'll check in again soon.
Keep the comments coming please.
Take care. Big hugs, Marie

Uruguay! For more photos follow link.





Follow link





For more pics go to the link...





Sunday, January 29, 2006

A slightly longer summary... (Internet is free here!)

Hey hey!

We are close to the end of our third week in South America... All in all that's pretty good news since it means that we are on schedule without feeling like we've had to rush anything, skip anything or wake up at 5am... On the other hand time seems to pass too fast!

Following Virginie's post, I feel like I should reassure everyone that spirits are still high and that, although a little akward at times, I couldn't have wished for better travel partners. We seem to complement eachother on many levels and each in turn makes sure decisions are taken (the risk of us getting stuck in Parati was always real). I think Marie and I restrain from excessive amounts of hugging and smootching and Virginie sometimes showers a little longer than would strictly be necessary (poor thing).

I believe last time I wrote we were still marvelling at the falls in Foz... simply amazing! We then moved on to Salto, Uruguay, which is compeletly of the tourist track. The bus, therefore, dropped us of alongside the road at 6 in the morning (roughly 20 km´s away from the Uruguayan border with Argentina)... We were "lucky" to be taken under the protective wings of a taxi driver who was keen on driving tourists accross the border (slightly expensive but far more effective than any other means...). Salto, with 90.000 inhabitants, the third largest city in Uruguay, is a charming little place with some amazing 30´s and 50's architectural marvels that have seen better days... Our hotel, really nothing special and the worst so far, surprised me in the morning as I went onto the top floor to have the breakfast... The music, the light, the furniture all reminded me of that great scene in the Godfather II where several maffia bosses are discussing affairs on the roof terrace in Havana! I loved it.

Moving on from Salto, we went to Dayman thermal springs... Having completely ignored the word "thermal", we were looking forward to spending some time in a Spa to refresh after several days of 40 C +... No such luck... our hotel pool was 38 degrees, and some of the pools had temperatures up to 42. We didn't stay long despite the return of our luck with really cosy, nice little hotels for no money at all.

Montevideo....What a city! Archtitectural wonder after architectural wonder, beautiful coastline, really hot but dry, great people, nice markets and just overall one of the most pleasant (even where ugly) cities I've been to. Lots of poverty and street children though and some areas (right next to our fantastic hotel) are no go at night. As Virginie already said, I would gladly live here and if GE was to set up GSA, I'm signing up!

Uruguay also has some of the most amazing old cars in the world and, consequently, must have some of the best mechanics in the world to keep those things driving. Anyway, the pictures might give you an idea.

As for the general backpacking experience, I would like to correct Virginie's early comment... about us being pathetic backpackers... It is true that we have so far succesfully avoided all places resembling youth hostels and that we've had our own bathroom every night and had some hotels that could even be called luxurious (especially the one I'm writing from now). We have, however, not gone over budget once, and in comparisson to the prices some of the backpapckers pay for a bunkbed in a room with 10 other smelly Europeans, we have barely paid more, if anything at all. We've had the nicest hotel owners, the loveliest houses, pools, and nice showers... And restuarants still accept our custom!
So, I would be tempted to say that we are great backpackers, roaming this beautiful continent in style! (NB: Beware of youth hostels, they are mentioned in all the guides, are very often the only one in town and the owners know very well that all those Americans and Europeans have a Hostelling International card... 'cause that's what you do.)

Right, a few pats on our own backs, and moving on to the pictures!

Enjoy, stay in touch, use the blog to bring up the European winter temperatures...

Love, Arnaud

Hey everyone!

Wow this will be a hard one to write. I'm sitting here with very mixed emotions and I don't even know why. First day of the trip that I'm feeling slightly sad at all.

We've arrived to Montevideo yesterday, which is an amazing city, definitely a place where I can see myself living. And so cheap! But it's also definitelty the place where we have been confronted with most poverty so far. There's a massive gap between the rich and the poor here. I can't even begin to imagine what Rio would be like. It's great to be here though cos it's the real world, rather than all the holiday resorts we've visited before, but as always, it's the kind of situation where you wish you could do something to help and where you know that handing over your spare change or a slice of pizza is really not gonna make the difference. Maybe I will do some voluntary work again at some point in the future..

We started thinking about Valentine's day coming up soon, and I just started realising that it's not always that easy to be the little sister travelling with a couple. Didn't feel like that in the beginning, and since we were constantly meeting people I hadn't really put much thought into it. Now however, I realise that there will be times where I will want to go off more on my own or give these two some more 'privacy'. And although I've done quite some travelling on my own before, I couldn't see myself going out on my own in Montevideo. It's a big city and everyone has been warning us of the dangerous areas, which happen to be right next to the best going out areas. Bad city planning if you ask me :)

Anyway, we will post some pictures again soon, but I'm afraid they won't be representative of this amazing city. It's got such a good feel to it, and no picture could let that come across. I realise nothing of what I'm saying is making much sense and hopefully my next post will be a better one!

Bolly: thanks for finally using the blog. Hahaha, I'm glad I know you well. You know, it's possible to write comments that are longer than one line too :) Hope you can call me mañana.
Thanks everyone else for dropping us a line every now and then. We do realise we keep you entertained when you're sitting in front of your computers at work. Keep it up cos otherwise we might stop posting pictures and then you will get bored!
Tan:I haven't dedicated anything to you yet! I love the way you write girl and you don't have a dull job so we know your messages are genuine :) Big kiss! x

Besos,
Vigi

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Salto - Uruguay

No pictures today - I don't have my usb cable on me - sorry.
I actually just want to use my space today to say thanks to all of you who are commenting so faithfully on our blog - especially Mommy, Tan, Ben, Edith, Emily, Katarina... and those of you who are slowely but surely joining such as Genevieve :o)
We appreciate it so much and are glad to hear that you are all enjoying reading it as much as we are enjoying keeping it up to date.

More pictures will come soon. Salto is very cute and has a lot of charm, but in my opinion has seen better days as many of it's once architecturally rich buildings are delapidating. As are their very old timer cars - beautiful, but which would never pass the control technique :o) No passa nada.

By the way - my tummy is fine again.

Gros bisous, Marie

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Iguaçu Falls - Argentina









Just a quick short one this time as we're not going to spend too much time internetting today.

Yesterday we visited Iguaçu Falls on the Argentinian side (meaning our first border crossing) - for me less spectacular (although undeniably amazing) but for Arnaud and Virginie apparantly better. One reason for my lack of enthusiasm could of course be that I was not actually all that well. Had a bit of a 24h tummy bug which was pretty bad last night - but I'm much better today - no need to worry Mommy :o)

Above are a couple of the pictures. First ones from right above the Garganta del Diablo (the biggest fall) where the spray was so immense that I couldn't leave my camera out too much as it's not an underwater one! Followed by the second largest fall and a few other beauties. We also took a 12 minute boat ride right under the 2nd largest fall (San Martin I think), but no pics of that because again my camera is not waterproof. We got completely drenched - great experience - but again tourist attractions are over priced. Oh well - we are enjoying ourselves...

This evening we're going to take another long bus ride to Concordia - just before the Uruguain border. Probably stay there a day and then head into Uruguay to Salto before slowly making our way down to Montevideo.

I'll check in soon. Big kisses, Marie


Monday, January 23, 2006

Pics...





Long one

Hello you faithful bloggers!

It feels like all of you have joined us on this trip which is so nice! I do feel like I've been very bad at writing myself, so I'll try to make today's entry an extra long one! But before I forget, baby: once again a super happy 25th birthday to you! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx We all thought very, very much of you on the 21st! It was so nice to finally hear your voice after two weeks and even the people in the bus station who overheard our exctatic conversation seemed happy for us :) I miss you tons and I love you! Come find me soon!

Right, sorry for all of you who aren't Mike :) I also miss you and wish I could share this with more of you! Right now we are in Foz do Iguazu. Foz (the city) was painfully disapointing after our 21 hour long journey all the way from Ilha do Mel. Not only was the trip excessively long but it was absolutely bizarre too. We first took the boat from the island to the mainland. This was followed by an hour long bus ride to some remote train station in a place caled Morretes, where we were supposed to catch 'the most amazing train ride' in Brazil. The train left two hours later than expected, drove about 20 km/hour and was filled with 10 mad Sri Lankan guys singing and banging on the train walls troughout the duration of the whole trip. Pleasantly entertaining at first, but mindnumbing after four hours! Although many of the views we saw reminded us of the Belgian 'Kempen' the pictures somehow make it look quite spectacular. (There were one or two really amazing views to be honest but NOT worth the detour). Thank god that our first day at the Iguazu falls has been absolutely amazing!

Tomorrow we'l take a boat-ride through the water falls. It'll be our third boat trip of this holiday already. The best one so far was our "party" boat, which took us to see the dolphins in Ilha do Mel. We lived our first moment of fame here when the entire boat started clapping and cheering as we ran to catch it and then again, when we got off the boat. They seemed happy that we were from Europe and not from Argentina! But they were not impressed when neither I nor our German friend Kae agreed to sing in front of the whole boat...

Right, gonna drop it here since we’re all writing at the same time and I’m sure we’re getting repetitive.

Bonpapi en Bonnemami! Ik ben blij dat jullie met ons kunnen mee genieten! Wij genieten er ook van om jullie berichtjes te lezen! Lang leve technologie!
Papi et mami: C’etait chouette de vous parler mais j'aimerai tellement que ce soit plus facile! Os quiero un monton!
Cris: Money and my baby......so don't think I'll stay more than four months. Tell dude to get his ass over here :) When do you arrive? Cant wait to see you and meet your man! besos
Lud: This is a blog. Isnt it cool? hahaha
Emma: Don't be shy! Thanks for the mail sweetie
Michael C: Sorry about the accident! Where are you now?
Saraaaah: Ga je me nog komen bezoeken?
Steph: What a surprise! Ben super blij dat je nog leeft. Hoop dat het volgende keer is lukt om af te spreken.
Fifi: je bent een schat!
Emjay: Why don't you join? You've been away for a year. Dont think a few more months will make the diff.
Cousins: The most faithful bloggers of all :)
Cedric: No tuuuu!
So many other people, I can't even remember. Hope this made up for never writing back before.
Aaah yes Tiagoooo: hahaha, but I know Portuguese now! We'll have a conversation when I get back!

Time for some pics now people and then some dinner.
Lots and lots of kisses to you all!
Vigi

Foz de Iguacu... we made it

Hi,

I'm exhausted... The girls seem to be completely unaffected by the longest journey yet. We left Ilha do Mel yesterday (I believe)... stayed extra days just to catch the train ride back to Curitiba... The entire process of getting from Ilha do Mel to Foz de Iguacu involved a boat (2 hours), a bus (1 hour), a train (5 hours), a night bus (11 hours)... This is not counting the waiting times. The train ride was rather dissapointing (especially after all the back-breaking trouble we went thru to take it) ... I had a nervous breakdown (albeit a nice one) on the train as a group of Sri Lankans persisted in singing and bashing the train walls during the entire journey...

The falls are beyond beautifull... !!!

This journey is turning out to be even more amazing than I ever could have imagined, but looking thru the windows of the bus this morning as I "woke up", I saw the most amazing landscapes I've ever seen... Then, as we approached Foz, some twenty truckers were getting ready to hit the road... A bar / hotel parking was packed with hundreds (if not more) of second hand trucks American style... I wished then that we had had a car and could continue this trip seeing everything... not just what all the tourists see... It's never been about getting there and seeing it... for me it has always been how you get there... or don´t. The lonely higways, the lost villages, the truckers and waking cities...

Anyway, I believe Virginie and Marie will be writing a little more, I´m K.O.

Ciao ciao,Arnaud

Foz do Iguaçu - Brazil

Hello All,

Vigi, Arnaud and I are each typing our messages at the same time from 3 different computers so chances are there's going to be repetion in today' text.
I'm dedicating today's text to my Mommy because of all the people I know, I think she is the one who would have most liked to share today's visit of Iguaçu Falls Brazilian side with us! And actually she kind of did as I did manage to reach her from my mobile from within the spray of the falls which I though was wonderful. Wasn't it Mommy?
Don't worry all other family and friends - a thought went out to you all too as I know many of you are envious of what we're experiencing. I would be if I was on the other end.
Tomorrow we're going to cross into Argentina to see them from the other side. In the meantime enjoy these pictures (via the link below) and keep the comments comming - we love reading them!

http://photobucket.com/albums/e175/gonesouth120/

... Thanks Em for keeping a close eye on us. The busses are the hardest part of travelling and since we want to see 6 countries we're going to suffer in that aspect. Trips are excessively long, but once we know which routes to take with help our our Foot Prints guide, internet and info at the stations themselves they're pretty efficient.
Non of us speek Portuguese but Arnaud and Virginie both speak fluent Spanish so we get by on that. Plus we've picked up a few essentials and since the Brazilians are so far the nicest people I've ever met everything is made easy.

Anne Banane - Merci de ton pt message. Bien sûre que je continue à penser à vous même si je suis très loin. Je t'embrasse ainsi que Quentin et Cédric. N'hésitéz pas á poster des pt messages directement sur le blog aussi.

Baby face - I'm not forgetting about you. I tried to call today from the falls, but the connection failed for which reason I don't know. I'll try again soon. Thanks for being amoungst our most faithful bloggers. Please do keep it up. Kisses, kisses and more kisses.

Take care xxx

PS To all others checking our blog from time to time - please do post a message every now and again. I'd like to hear from you too - eg. colleagues at work, S.A. friends...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Cont'd 3

1. Capaoeira Belgian Style
2. Perilous Journey
3. Ilha do Mel


Cont'd 2

1. Ah llaike it a lo
2. Brazilian Beach-hopper
3. I'll have a horse in birdie along onion, skip the spunk please.
4. Gruta Encantadas
5. Camouflaged hole-digger





Cont'd

1. Shells or something like it...
2. We llaike it a lo....
3. The boat to Ilha do Mel
4. Ilha do Mel
5. Ilha do Mel main street




Pictures Curitiba and Ilha do Mel

1. Vitoria enjoying Barbie Girl on the iPod on bus to Paranagua
2. Oscar Niemeyer in Curitiba
3 & 4. Curitiba
5. Patricia & Claudio as our "guides" in Curitiba










Still to come...

Hello all,

Vigi and Arnaud have basically said what there is to say, but I didn't want to leave my space open, so I'll maybe just tell you what we plan to do next. We are getting a tad bored on this island and think we should continue our adventure by getting off the beaches a little (although they are beautiful). Hopefully on Sat we'll leave here and head for Foz do Iguazu. Spend just a day there and then head down via a couple of spa resorts in Uruguay to Montevideo...

Thanks again to all for following us. I do wish some of my South African friends would comment though - come on guys!

Mommy - thanks for reminding me of my half birthday - I had actually not yet checked what date we where today. We'll drink a caipirinia to celebrate tonight.

xxx

Stuck again... still don´t mind

Ola tudos!

I should probably have checked what Virginie wrote on her entry in order to avoid repetitions... But then again, you´re all at work and probably have nothing better to do than reading the same story over and over again. So here we go...
We're still on Ilha do Mel waiting for the "amazing train ride out of here". Although none of us are complaining abouty being stuck here, we feel like we´re waisting too much time on beaches (theoretically).

Straight after my last blog entry we went for a swim on the surfing beach with massive waves and had a little scare, as Virginie remarked that we could no longer see the beach (a slight exageration, but we were far out). Virginie started swimming back right away whilst Marie and I body-surfed our last wave... All of a sudden the current made it really difficult to get back and we struggled for a while with waves crashing on us to get back to the beach...

Then yesterday we left for a hike to the other side of the island, had a nice swim, and had to get back over rocks (the only way back) during high tide... A little adventure as I slid of the rock, got a little stuck... Anyway, have a look at the pics.

Hope you all enjoy the blog a little. Thanks for all the comments, it´s really nice to hear from all of you!

Love, Arnaud

Will, I told you to come along and then you thumped me... What can I say? All of you should have (and could still) come along!

Sylvie, merci pour les petits mots a partir de GE! Je propose d'installer les bureaux ici...

Papi, je cherche ton "comment"! Vous nous manquez beaucoup! Je répondrai a ton e-mail plus tard... xx

Working on our tans

Pasty white Cristina?!! Maybe a seriously diluted 'chocolat au lait' but not pasty white! Hey, it was early January when I left Europe and we´re all working really hard on our tan now! Think we're gonna get there soon (Arnaud already is there).
Just gonna let the pics talk for themselves now.

ciao xxxxx

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ilha do Mel

After a night in Curitiba and a great guided tour around the city by Patricia and Claudio we took a bus and a boat to officially arrive in paradise: Ilha do Mel. It´s a tiny island where cars have never driven and bikes could impossibly get around as all the paths are white sand... As I write I´m surrounded by hummingbirds and other colourful creatures, this also being the main reason why I will keep this short and keep the pictures for later as the waves, coconut trees and white beaches are waiting for me. We will stay here until Saturday or Sunday when we´ll head inland for the Iguazu Falls by taking what is claimed to be the most impressive and beautifull train ride in Brazil.

Our feet are back to normal size after a couple of days of seriously ugly fat feet... very uncomfortable on night buses. We still have no clue of the possible cause of this and actually couldn´t care less now that the sea water has given our feet what they needed.

Kisses,
Arnaud

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Trinidad cont'd...



And some more pics (no link this time)...






I wish I could put up some more pics but the bus to Sao Paulo, then Curitiba and then Florianopolis will be driving into the station any moment now... I'm burned and happy... starting to look like a Brazilian (I hope)... The bus ride (see pic to the left) was the craziest I´ve been on, but also very beautiful. I would never have thought that a bus could actually drive on some of the stretches... and at that speed!

Anyway, I'll continue living naked like everybody else here... till next time...

Arnaud

Leaving Paraty

We planned to leave Paraty yesterday afternoon - but got stuck here until now as there where no more seats on the busses until tonight 23:40. So we're leaving in an hour or so to Sao Paulo where we hope to make the 50 min connection to Curitiba and from there catch the connection to Florianopolis... We'll see how it goes.
Today since we had another day here we took a local bus (a great experience) to a beach a little further south called Trinidad. So beautiful. We swam in gorgeous blue ocean waves and had a fab time. My feet are burnt, but other than that we're all doing really well. Unfortunately I don't think we can put those pics up now (we're a bit tight on time - although Arnaud has just said he's going to try) and we may not get the opportunity to blog for a few days, but thanks for visiting us so much so far - and please keep it up.

Tan Thanks for your lovely message - I'll put on a few more pics of me soon.
Helena - I'm sorry we forgot you, but by all means catch the next flight out here - you're more than welcome to join us!

BIG HUGS, Marie

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Stuck in Paraty (but not complaining)

Ola!

Right. We´ve tried to leave Paraty, honestly, and failed miserably... Not due to the lack of willpower (although I´d come and live here) but because several busses left in front of our nose (full, too late, too early, etc...) So, we´re still here and loving it. The new plan is to leave tomorrow evening late, drive up to Sao Paulo overnight and head staight south to Florianopolis and enjoy some more beaches, dolphins and Brazilians before heading to Montevideo (Uruguay)... Since it hasn´t rained here for some months, the falls at Iguazu are half-sized... We´ll do them when we get back.

Today was also our first attempt at back-packing (got our luggage two days ago) ... We were exhausted, soaked and with swollen feet... yet we made it barely 2 km´s further.... (Virginie is the veteran here and her feet look just fine).

Marie says hi to all but can not make it since her feet are in the air... She promised they´ll come down by tomorrow.

Jamie: Should have joined! Miss you...
Pinar: Maybe some Brazilian Universities will do? Porto Alegre? Sexy woman!
Ola: I don´t like group e-mails... Love you!
Niall: You lived in South America? Whenever you´re back we need to meet up!
Mami: Click sur "comments" pour lire tes messages! XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Michael: Might have to get back early for the wedding! Congrats to you and your man!
Martin: Guaranaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!

Everyone else: thanks for all the posts on the blog and e-mails... they´re shutting the e-mail place so will get back to you very soon.

Just a few more words: I´ve a rot petch on mi fat....

Love,
Arnaud


Getting stuck in Paraty today meant finding a new cute lil Pousada (although without a pool this time), realising that Brazilians are not only extremely nice but also trustworthy when they say they have a lovely hotel to show you, lots of swollen feet and me peeing in my pants (no, worse, in my skirt) at the bus station, and learning how to play Brazilian pool (which involves hitting around balls until you are bored) from our Brazilian friend Ney.

Brazil keeps getting better by the day! Hope the rest of the trip goes crescendo as well although we think it´ll be hard to beat Paraty! We´ve found the perfect excuse to come back here by leaving half of our luggage in our first hotel. We´re pathetic backpackers and proud of it!

Bolly!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There´s a bizarre "anonymous" writing on our blog. Is that you? If not, switch on your mobile! I miss you so badly and wish you could be here!
Vlerick people: SAP was nice, but just not quite nice enough to keep me there. Don´t overdo it, I´d still like to meet up with you and get some Caipirinhas when I get back.
Everyone else, thanks a million for all the e-mails! I will get back to you when I have time.

Missing you all!
Love,
Vigi

Friday, January 13, 2006

A few pics! Follow the link....





http://photobucket.com/albums/e175/gonesouth120/