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

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A day on the beach in Buzios

Let me try to describe a typical day on Geribà beach - Buzios.
We start by catching a small, falling to pieces mini van thing at the corner which drops us off at the best beach in the world. We get ourselves settled and get our first drink (a guarana or cha mate leao com limao). It´s not long before we head for the waves, with or without a body board - the waves were excellent today and we´ve all got pretty good at the sport. When our hour´s up we dry off in the sun and contemplate what to eat. The choice is varied: vendors of milho (corn on the cob), kebab and grilled catupiry cheese on a stick, empanadas or ice cream roam the sea front all day. Once lunch is taken care of we play some palette. That has resulted in aching muscles and we´re no good compared to the teams of professionals we´ve seen! Again a splash about session in the sea and then an ice cold fresh coconut watching the shade dominate the beach indicating the end of the day is near and it´s time to head back in another rickety mini van!
Big kiss, Marie


Monday, April 24, 2006

Beaching it in Buzios

A game of palette on Geribà

Geribà beach

As always we were on the party boat

Working on our tan

One of Rio at night

Uma belleza!

Hello from Búzios!

As you may have realised, the amount of posts on the blog have steadily declined (actually, save Virginie´s last post, there are no posts) since we´ve returned to Brazil... This is in no way related to any lack of enthousiasm or home blues, nor is it related to Virginie´s chronic lack of cash... Brazil just happens to be paradise on earth and Brazilians are the angels... and there simply is no moment during the day or night that one of us turns to the others saying "let´s go and find an internet café and keep the blog updated"... Today, however, we´ve decided that duty calls and that some communication with the home country as well as an update of the blog is highly overdue.

Problem is... I don´t know where to start... The entire trip has been fantastic but there are just no words for what Brazil is... Whereas the nature in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia is of such vastness and sheer beauty, from the stunning lakes and glaciers in the south, the magnificent sealife in the east and the awe-inspiring Bolivian altiplano, and the culture and people of Bolivia is of such colour, Brazil just happens to have everything lined up to make it the greatest place on this planet to be and let be...

Cariocas (inhabitants of Rio) say that God made the rest of the world in six days, and devoted the seventh to Rio... I now know that it´s true! I know that you would all understand our lack of commitment to the blog at this very moment, if you knew Rio de Janeiro.

So, we´ll be heading home soon to enjoy summer in Europe, see all of you and get back to real life... But there´s no way Brazil got rid of me that easily... I'll be back!

Papi: You will soon wish you never asked about Brazil and Rio... You will beg for us to talk about anything else! Hasta pronto! xxx
Martin: You never warned us about this! C u soon!

First pictures of Rio de Janeiro

Ola,
I´m afraid to announce that my entry will be short today as this internet place makes you pay for the amount of minutes you think you´ll need up front. So to avoid losing my entry including long awaited pictures, I´m keeping it short.
Although it rained our first 2 days in Rio and we only got to see the Christo´s toes, the sun was out soon enough alowing us to see what I now consider the most beautiful city in the world! I don´t think i´ll be very efficient in telling you exactly what it is about Rio, and actually all that we know about Brazil so far, that makes it so - all I should suggest is that you all make sure that it be one of your next holiday destinations!
Check the pictures - they´re close enough to the real thing and will have to be sufficient for us too when we return home to remind us of the place we´ll come back to as often as possible. We´re in love with Brazil and Brazilians!
Isabel Adler - thanks for your input on helping us discover Rio. I have tried Açai - they mixed it with strawberries - it wasn´t bad, but I´m not yet hooked. Next on the agenda, a night out in Lapa. Would be really nice if you were here to show us around though.
Martin - thanks for all your useful Brazil info too. We think of you very often, especialy from Buzios (where we are now) and which Arnaud is writing about at this moment.
Big hugs, Marie
View of Rio from Pão de Açúcar

Pão de Açúcar

Sunset over Rio

View over Rio from Corcovado Hill

Christo Redentor

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Rioooooooooooooooooooo!

We´re back! And this time from Rio!

There´s something about Brazil, I just can´t begin to explain.....it´s put some sort of a spell on us because we are all miraculously cured from any ilnesses we had in Bolivia, we wake up in good moods and we are all thinking of ways of coming back, maybe even moving here, and that before we have even left!
Rio is amazing and Brazilians are simply, adorable. While we were beginning to get worried that maybe our first impressions of Brazil had been exagerated, possibly because we had just arrived from cold, dark Europe, we are happy to find that all our first impressions have been re-confirmed. I have lost my heart to Brazil and know that I will have to come back here again and again.

Today we went to visit the Cristo redentor, or Christ the Redeemer at the top of the Corcovado mountain. We had a great taxi driver/guide who took us to some amazing view-points to get an overview of the vastness of Rio. It really is split up in very different areas and bays because it gets interrupted by all sorts of rock-formations in the sea. The guide, who originally lived in a favela was well keen on explaining the whole favela phenomenon and way of life there, which made me feel that the favela tour might actually be justified. I´m worried that, the way that Marie felt about the Potosi mines, we might come across as voyeurs who get some sick kick out of watching people´s misery. But speaking to our taxi-driver who was so keen on talking about it and showing favelas to us, made me realise that it is such an important part of Brazilian city life that it would almost be shameful not to know more about it. We´ll see....I´m still broke so I´m not sure if I can afford another excursion. And just writing that makes me think how disturbing that sounds....I am too broke to go into favelas....hummmm. We will really have to think this trough.
Anyway, I have got to cut this short since A and M are making a move and I´m not in the mood for walking home on my own through dark Rio.
I forgot to say that we actually never got to see the Christ! I was about to cry, standing there, knowing that seeing it must have given us such a powerful sensation and only being able to see his toes through the fog....

We at least have areason to come back!
I gotta go and will write again soon! Sorry about this very very rushed entry!

Besinhos!
Vigi

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

La Paz

... I'm back with a few pictures of La Paz - overall a high and very steep city, but the feel of it it again a good one. Although very aprehensious about this one's safety, especially after the story of the Austrian couple being kidnapped en route from Copacabana to La Paz (our exact itinerary), drained of their bank accounts and killed only a few days ago. The only precausion we could take was to make sure we didn't get dropped off at El Cementerio where they were apparantly taken. Luckily, as these entries confirm, we're all alive and well and we don't feel unsafe in any way!


La Paz is big, it's busy and having being built at such an altitude but in a valley makes it a very tiresome city to visit. We overall have enjoyed it, but are longing for the Brazilian beaches.
Bolivia has been fantastic, the vibrant streets lined with artesania stalls, pharmacy type stalls, snack stalls (you can buy everything on the street and you have to because there are no supermarkets), the countless churches and it's culture have made for an excellent experience.
I will remember Bolivia this way but especially I will remember the people. Almost everyone we come across, whether on a dirt road through their farms or at street stalls in the city, are excessively polite and friendly. We're all señora/señor or amiga/amigo to kids or adults alike. And they're not pushy in any way. They try to sell you stuff, of course they do, but there's no harassment and if you leave without having bought they still fare you well with a smile.


The day after tomorrow we fly to Rio. I think we'll all feel healthier when we get back to sea level. We have too many moments of weakness, fatigue and sometimes even nausia and I'm guessing the altitude has something to do with it. At least I hope it does! Normally once back down our extra red blood cells who've been created to carry extra oxygen around our bodies for the last almost 3 weeks will give us a major energy boost and we'll be able to follow the Brazilian rythm of life...

Big hugs, Marie

A few more pictures from Lake Titicaca

Chulie and Albero my guide on Isla del Sol

Sunset on Lake Titicaca

Piglet feeding time (farms around Lake Titicaca)

Longing for sea level...

Hi!

This is our pen-ultimate day in Bolivia and I must say I´m glad to leave for Brasilian beaches... Living daily life at more than 3600 metres above sea level is exhausting... What's more is that La Paz does not have one street at less than a 45° angle... I honestly don´t know why anybody would found a capital at this altitude in between four mountain walls. What's more is that it´s generally cold but when the sun comes out you burn instantly... Oh well.

Now some more sacrilege (I hope to make up for it in a second): Lake Titicaca is a large lake that's very high up, Copacabana is a tourist trap at its shores...

However, despite the hardship, Bolivians are really great people, and Sucre, Potosi, Uyuni have been some of the highlights of this trip... It's just that sometimes the Gringo trail is really for Gringos that believe that doing the death road is the ultimate test in bravery and that a lake must be cool if it's that high up... (lake Titicaca is lovely, but just go for a walk along its shores on your own, skip the agencies and don't listen to your guide).

Ciao, Arnaud

Genevieve, Helena, David!
I wouldn't want to skip this trip for any money in the world, but the promise of having a nice dinner all of us together in Brussels would convince me to come home now... Helena, I'm looking forward to having you as a guide to Brussels when we get back. D&G: Can't wait for July! xxx

Last hello's from Bolivia

Hey hey!

Despite lots of hassle we did eventually manage to book a ticket from La Paz to Rio! Although it has managed to ruin me – I have now 28 euros left on my bank account for the next 4 weeks – we’re all thrilled to be returning to Brazil, and are looking forward to tropical climates, flip-flops, caipi’s, Guarana’s and Brazilian alegria. We leave La Paz this friday 14/04 and only arrive in Rio on saturday 15/04 as we make a stop-over in “lovely” Curitiba. Interestingly enough it is cheaper to spend the night there and catch the plane to Rio the next morning, rather than just flying to Curitiba and bussing it from there. When asked why, the girl from the agency just laughed and said we would not believe her if she told us. We decided to leave it at that, and have since given up on understanding air-line logics.

Since I am broke, we have equally put a lot of effort into changing my British Airways ticket back home. This is proving to be even more difficult than flying from La Paz to Rio, and all we can do is cross our fingers! It’d be good for me to go home now since it would allow Arnaud and Marie to splash out during their last three weeks and see the rest of Brazil in style, since right now my lack of money is putting constraints on the whole group.

A result of this is that we have taken it very easy in Copacabana by Lake Titikaka and have also been taking in La Paz very slowly. I think the altitude and the fact that the city is built in a valley and is therefore v-shaped - meaning that wherever you go, you are walking up excessively steep hills - might be playing parts too though. Although La Paz can not be characterised as a beautiful city, I am fascinated by it. While it only houses 1.5 million inhabitants you get the impression of being in a vast city, with the surrounding hills covered in houses and at night in lights, a constant buzzing activity and mad traffic taking over all areas of the city centre.....it’s definitely unique!
Our hotel is located in the old centre of town, close to the witches’ market where they sell everything from little Inca statues to dead lama foetuses....We have not yet bought anything but definitely make sure not to upset them when walking by their stands. Tomorrow, Semana Santa officially starts. Last Sunday we were lucky to witness the service for Palm Sunday in San Francisco church, where they played Bob Dylan to an over-crowded church. That would never happen in Europe. Today we witnessed el dia del niño and hopefully we get some processions tomorrow.... La Paz is treating us well.

And then on friday, off to Rio! I am so grateful that we get to finish our trip in Brazil. If I end up going home early, I certainly know the destination for my honey-moon :)


See you all very soon now!
Ciao ciao!
Virginie

Copacabana - Lake Titicaca

Dear friends,
Here's an update of what we've been up to in the last few days.
We made it out of Sucre on a very comfortable bus (those who say Bolivia is still so behind are oh so very wrong) and connected in La Paz directly to Copacabana - Lake Titicaca (on a slightly less comfortable and very muffy smelling bus).
Being tired after the long journey and again having ascended to 3800m our enthusiasm of the place was unfortunately almost non. I'm not sure exactly what we had expected - but I guess it was a little too much. The village of Copacabana, which every tourist we'd heard from claimed it as being so sweet and charming, had non of it and frankly the lake looked very much like a lake :o) That said, I will put the negativity aside because I did enjoy it and whilst on my little boat trip (which I went on by myself) to Isla del Sol I did see it's beauty. I guess when you learn about the highest navigable lake in the world in one of your primary school geography lessons and then get to go there you hope for a lot, but essentially unless we stood lower than the lake and the lake somehow floated above us at 3800m we couldn't really see it's altitude could we?

Lake Titicaca

The main plaza in Copacabana
Back from my excursion, we all went on a walk through the farmlands surrounding Copacabana. These people live with their animals and clearly don't have much to make a life from, but somehow they don't even seem bitter. Only one man told me off for taking a picture, but I think that's because his boat was sinking. I honestly had no idea.
I'll start a new entry about La Paz with a few more pictures, so will leave you here for just a mo...
Marie

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Still in Sucre - but getting out

Sucre

Terrace at La Recoletta above the city


Well the people on the street knew better. The bus stike did last 2 days instead of the media's promis of only 1.

We are leaving today though - we have our tickets. It's a long ride to La Paz - 12 hours - and we're not really sure what to expect. We certainly shouldn't expect the comfot of Argentinian Flecha Bus which came with leather seats, but we should get reclining seats, a loo as well as a telly, so we cannot complain.

We only have 7 days to see La Paz and Lake Titicaca - it's going to be a squeeze, but we've booked our flight from La Paz to Rio for the 14th so that's our deadline. We'll do the best we can with the time we have.



Merci Travel Service pour votre mesage. Vous n'avez pas idee comme j'etais heureuse de vous entendre! Je pense souvent a vous et imagine bien que vous ne chomez pas. C'est rare que notre departement s'ennuie - je suis sur que j'aurrais de quoi m'occuper quand je rentre.

Thanks Christian for working out how to leave a comment and for doing it! It's always great to hear from those I think never checked on us, but in actual fact did all along.

Anneke, merci pour tes messages aussi - on les a bien recus maintenant!



Although there's no way I want this trip to end I do honestly look forward to seeing you all when I get home. I have a good life in Belgium (sounds tacky, but is undeniable) and am anxious to return to some of the comforts I know!

Big hug, Marie

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bus strike

... Hot off the press - we're experiencing something of Bolivian instability.

Today we planned to head to La Paz, but found out last night that no busses would operate today. Today we asked in an agency if tomorrow the strike would be over and they don't know. Vigi found news saying it should last just 24h but people on the street are saying it might last more.
Yesterday we observed people purchassing flight tickets to La Paz thinking they were just travelling in luxury - now we understand why.

On one hand, since I know Bolivia is unstable, I'm glad we're getting to experience soft instability, but on the other hand we're on a schedule and need to get La Paz and Lake Titicaca done so that we can go back to Brazil :o)

We'll keep you posted.

Hugs, Marie

Monday, April 03, 2006

Sucre - Tarabuco







Potosi and the mines








El Salar de Uyuni







Uyuni... before the Salar







Sunday, April 02, 2006

Beautiful Bolivia in pictures

We've finally forced ourselves to sit down again until the photos are actually up and going!

http://s39.photobucket.com/albums/e175/gonesouth120/

The reason why it took so long has actually nothing to do with the quality of Bolivian connections which are surprisingly advanced, but is simply due to us. I have equally been unable to force myself to write on the blog lately. Firstly due to the fact that I have finally after three months realised that it must be really dull for you all to read three different versions of the same events, but mainly because I just can't be bothered!
And I don't know why I can't be bothered because I haven't felt as inspired about most recent places we've been to as I am about Bolivia. So far Bolivia has it all as a place to stay in for a bit longer, and not just as a tourist. The nature is simply spectacular. The culture and the amount of churches seem immense after Argentina and we are all eagerly absorbing it! The people are....... finally different, but what a great mix of cultures! The interaction with the little ones in particular is so easy and so rewarding. We have decided that we'll ship a truck-load of them home with us, and have today bought lolly-pops in the local market of Tarabuco to lure them into it!
No, of course not. We did buy lolly-pops and are planning to go to the fruit market to buy some fruit because it is incredible to see their little faces light up when you can offer them something that is simply for them and not just money. The children are extremely witty and are put in charge of businesses such as shops, hotels and artesanias stands. Since half of the time we get attended by proud little Bolivians, showing off their summing up skills, you can imagine that we are buying an aweful lot. It's impossible to say no to such eager, hard-working kids. Add to that irresistible prices and beautiful jewelery and you have a recipe for very, very heavy bags.

Since our life-threatening experiences on our last excursions - the mine being the most ridiculously dangerous event I have ever undertaken, with me cursing myself for not having brought some pills in case the mine caves in - we have kind of decided that we have had enough of excursions. Our Bolivian guide did have a point when he asked us why on earth we decided to spend U$10 to visit these dirty, unhealthy, exhausting and dangerous mines, and you do sometimes wonder when you meet the tenth American proudly sporting a t-shirt with 'death-road survivor' written on it...... (Death-road is supposed to be a 70KM long, breath-taking but life-endangering road leading from la Paz to the tropical Bolivian Yungas). I think we will skip that from now on. We have all had our fair share of thrills on this trip. I have faced some of my fears and have no immediate urge to put my life at risk again. I just want to continue enjoying every bit of Bolivia. I no longer want to rush to see and experience more of all these unique things only South-America has to offer. I just want to absorb the great atmosphere and way of life that these people are blessed with. I will need to absorb it, as well as keep it in mind as an example and reference once back in Europe. I know it will come in handy at times!

I will leave it at this from now. In a few weeks from now you can all enjoy us on our Brazilian beaches and in our swim-wear again, although this time it might be slightly less enjoyable. We're (I am) still as white, only slightly fatter. South-America is a massive continent and their is no way round endless drives and bus-rides, which unfortunately does become noticeable after three months.

Besos!
Vigi