Sucre (7 May 2012)

Okay, so this is two years later, and we still haven’t finished our blog on the 4 month Americas trip in 2012. So this is a next step towards finishing our blog about our adventures in Bolivia..Last time I blogged, we were at the end of our Salar de Uyuni trip and dropped of at Uyuni where we booked an overnight bus with Matthieu and Sonia.

The overnight bus from Uyuni to Sucre was an 8 hour nightmare. Luckily it was only 8 hours and not 16 hours like one of the bus rides in Argentina. The “semi-cama” bus was more like a local bus, no leg space, no reclining seats, and a crazy bus driver going much faster than he should. The two promised bathroom breaks happened next to the bus (literally). Definitely a culture shock. Luckily we arrived safe and sound in Sucre at around 5 am the next morning – super tired. We didn’t book a hostel in advance, so the four of us (Matthieu and Sonia went along)¬†went in search of a place to stay. We took a taxi to the first hostel, and then walked to two more hostels before finding a place to sleep. We only stayed until 10 am, checked out and went in search of a better place to stay. After the Salar tour, we were all looking forward to a little bit more luxury. Cobus and I first checked out, and about 2 km further we found a nice 3star hostel (more like a hotel). A little bit later Matthieu and Sonia arrived at the same place ūüôā

Our first day in Sucre were spent sleeping. We didn’t have energy for anything else, except finding something to eat. Also, all the busses and taxis were on a strike, so we couldn’t really go far. For dinner we went to a great bar/restaurant, called¬†Florin.¬†Cobus had some catfish, and I had a llama steak. Both meals were prepared to perfection, and we can absolutely recommend this place.

Dinner at Florin, and a stroll around the town square

Dinner at Florin, and a stroll around the town square

The following day we tried to book an excursion going to one of the nearby communities outside of Sucre. To our surprise, the answer was the same everywhere – none of the excursions were 100% safe to book, since they didn’t know when the roadblocks will be open again. There were suppose to be a strike everyday of the week the week we were in Sucre. So having not much to do except stroll around in the city, we went to the much advertised Dinosaur museum in their Dinosaur bus. There were lots of lifesize plastic dinosaurs around which was cool, and far away (really far away)¬†in the distance you could see the dinosaur tracks. Funny thing is you had to pay to get inside the museum, and then you also had to pay to use the binoculars in order to see the dinosaur tracks in the far distance. The museum hasn’t been open for too long, so with a few more years and more funding, hopefully they’ll be able to make it much nicer. At the moment it might be better do book a bike tour to a different place outside the city where you can see other dinosaur tracks up close. Back at the hostel we were advised to book a bus for the Wednesday night to La Paz, otherwise we might get stuck in Sucre for a while due to all the roadblocks. We booked the same bus as Matthieu and Sonia, and then joined them for dinner¬†at a closeby Italian restaurant. The restaurant was in the owners house, and with the owner being Italian, it ensured a great atmosphere and great food.

The dinosaur museum

The dinosaur museum

Dinner with Matthieu and Sonia at Cafe Monterosso

Dinner with Matthieu and Sonia at Cafe Monterosso

On Wednesday we didn’t book any tours, since we thought we will be leaving that night. We checked out at the hostel, and went sightseeing in the city. We also tried to find flight tickets from La Paz to Rurrenabaque in the Amazon basin as we weren’t up for a very bumpy 18 hour bus ride in Bolivia’s semi-cama busses. In the afternoon we were¬†surprised to find out that all busses were cancelled for that night due to roadblocks between Sucre and La Paz. No busses were scheduled for the rest of the week. We ended up spending the rest of our Wednesday finding a way to get out of Sucre. The agency who were helping us (I think their name is Real Andean Adventure) was an experience in itself. The two woman working there were not so good in dealing with lots of customers. It seemed the way they were trying to keep everyone happy, was to help everyone a little bit, then, not finishing, help someone else a little bit, then someone else, then getting back to you, then moving on again. In the end, everyone were helped during the same time period, whether you were there first or last. I think we spent 3 hours in there.¬†It was crazy! I almost went crazy! The¬†cherry on top¬†was of course when the lady made a mistake with our booking and we lost our tickets to Rurrenabaque on the Saturday. The next flight we could get was on the Sunday. At that point we decided to go to another agency who managed to book a flight for us on the Saturday to La Paz and the Sunday to Rurrenabaque (at least we knew they made no mistake this time).

On Thursday we visited La Recoleta, where the Mirador and the Franciscan monastery are situated. The Mirador, with its sweeping terrace decorated with white columns and arches, is situated on the plaza of La Recoleta and offers a beautiful panaromic view of the whole city. This Franciscan monastery was founded in 1601 and is one of the most beautiful examples of colonial architecture in all of Bolivia. The monastery museum is worthwhile for its anonymous sculptures and paintings from the 16th to 20th centuries, including numerous interpretations of St Francis of Assisi. One of the highlights is the magnificent wooden carvings on the church choir seats dating back to the 1870s, each one intricate and unique, representing the 26 martyrs who were crucified in 1597 in Nagasaki  (they were all Franciscan missionaries in Japan).

Mirador with Franciscan monastary and view over the city

Mirador with Franciscan monastary and view over the city

Inside the monastery - beautiful woodwork, a very old cellar, and gardens

Inside the monastery – beautiful woodwork, a very old cellar, and gardens

We also went to the Museo de Arte Indigena in an¬†old building¬†close to the Mirador.¬†The museum is part of a project to revive hand-woven crafts of Bolivia. There are a series of exhibition rooms and a shop selling woven goods. It seems that someone did extensive research on Jalq’a and Tarabuco weaving (two different ethnic groups) so lots of¬†insightful information was¬†available¬†– you can¬†get an English¬†version of all the information in the museum in the form of a book. There is an extensive display of examples of modern weaving by the Jalq’a And Tarabuco weavers – both very different. The Jalq’a come from around Potolo valley and their weaving always uses red and black. The patterns chosen is characters from the spiritual realm (for example demons). Every piece is different¬†and¬†designs are inspired by dreams with¬†no written record of the different patterns. All are done from memory and passed down from mother to daughter. Tarabuco designs, on the other hand, focus on scenes from everyday life, for example animals, people working, etc. The background is always white with the characters woven in different colours including black, blue, purple, red, yellow and¬†orange. We were also privileged to see¬†a Jalq’a woman weaving¬†– it¬†was¬†fascinating to¬†watch her. We tried to figure out what she was doing, but the method of weaving seemed very complicated. We definitely recommend a visit to this museum!

The weaving museum - definitely worth a visit

The weaving museum – definitely worth a visit

Since we spend so much time in the museum, we didn’t have much daylight left. However, we stopped at a few shops and appreciated some local art. We also passed through Plaza 25 de Mayo, the colonial heart of the city surrounded by¬†many of Sucre’s most important¬†historic buildings and restaurants. We visited a small coffee shop called Flavour, with some of the yummiest sandwiches we have had on our trip. The restaurant owner is¬†also Dutch like the owner of Florin – there seems to be quite a lot of Europeans living in Sucre. That evening we treated ourselves to some pizza bought from a street vendor. The pizzas are made in a portable little pizza oven – Cobus was very impressed by the simple yet practical design. We also went to a traditional dancing show Origenes – it was a bit touristy, but very insightful and interesting to see all the different types of dances in Bolivia.

Colonial Sucre

Colonial Sucre

Colonial Sucre

Colonial Sucre

On Friday, our last day in Sucre, we decided to visit the local food market. We tasted as far as we went and had a great time. Our favourite remains the¬†fruit salad section where you can order a fresh fruit salad or smoothie¬†topped with cream. All the fruit salad vendors look exactly the same, and they all try to compete for your business. Actually, in all the different sections, the vendors in that section look exactly the same. It’s like visiting a market in Africa – everyone sells exactly the same thing! We also visited a few local art shops, and bought ourselves 2 table cloths. It was about all we could fit into our backpacks…

The market and the pizza oven

The market and the pizza oven

We left our hostel the Saturday morning early by taxi – luckily there was no taxi strikes that day so we could get to the airport in time for our flight to La Paz.

1 Cor 13:4-5

4¬†Love is patient, love is kind…, 5 … is not easily provoked.

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Salar de Uyuni (3 May 2012)

Our Salar de Uyuni Jeep tour organised by¬†Turistur¬†Los Salares started between 7 and 8 am on the 3rd of May. Our group consisted of 6 people, namely the¬†guide and his wife who was the cook (Segundino and Porfidia), a French couple we met that morning (Mattieu and Sonia), and Cobus and I. From Tupiza, the salt flats and lagoons tour takes 4 days to Uyuni. If you do the salt flats and lagoons tour from Uyuni, most of the companies do 3 day tours (since you don’t see the landscape covered on the first day from Tupiza). Our Jeep was fairly comfortable, accept for the 2 seats in the back, and¬†Cobus had some difficulty to sit there with his long legs. Other than that, the Jeep was perfect for the tour. It was also clear from the start that Segundino was a very responsible driver, for which we were grateful.

The first day’s drive took us through dry but beautiful mountainous landscapes, a lot of altitude gain, small isolated towns, deserted towns, llama herds and extreme temperatures from warm to cold. The first day was a long day in the Jeep – we were trying to cover as much ground as possible in order to take it more easy the following days, when there were more to see. We stopped in a small isolated town for lunch, where Porfidia provided us with a nice cold meal. The inhabitants of the town was not¬†as curious as we expected and no one came to greet us, probably because so many tours stop there. The children seemed more curious, but once they saw a camera, they turned their faces and walked away. The Bolivian people didn’t seem to be very fond of having their pictures taken – according to a guide book some of them believe that a photo captures their spirit.

From top left to bottom right. 1. Our Jeep. 2. Santos 3. The dramatic landscapes of the first day. 4. The llama herd. 5 – 8. The town and surroundings where we had lunch.

After lunch, we passed by a big llama herd (cool!!) and through¬†the ghost¬†town San Antonio, which¬†some tourists¬†refer to as “small Machu Picchu” at a very high altitude of 4690 metres. According to legend,¬†the town was famous for its wealth of gold, but the devil ruled there and forced the¬†suffering villagers to flee.¬†Here we had our first encounter with a strange animal, the Viscacha, which looks like a cross between a squirrel and a rabbit and hops like a kangaroo. Further along the way, we also saw Vicu√Īas, a relative of the Llama. Vicu√Īas are wild animals¬†and¬†look similar to the llama with less wool. Later we saw¬†a beautiful sunset, got our first sighting of one of the¬†high altitude lagoons, and arrived at¬†Quetena Chico¬†between 8 and 9 pm in freezing temperature.¬†The hostel where we stayed was basic as they told us, with no showers, cold water and uncomfortable dorm rooms beds. All the hostels in these small isolated towns provide similar facilities. Porfidia quickly supplied us with warm coffee, hot chocolate and cookies, and started preparing dinner in the kitchen. It felt so strange having a cook and¬†guide doing everything for us – I guess that it is part of what you pay for, but still not something we are used to. A second group from the same company stayed over in the same hostel. When dinner was served, we realised that we definitely got the better cook of the two, in fact, we had a great cook! Her vegetable soup was DELICIOUS¬†with lots of flavour. After dinner, we went to bed with¬†almost all our¬†clothes on (it was so cold) including our beanies, thermals, gloves and socks.

Top left to bottom right: Our first sight of the snow covered Andes peaks; passing out from lack of oxygen in the ghost town; a viscacha; the first high altitude lake we saw; sunset

The next morning we were back in the Jeep again at 8h30, with an eventful day ahead. There was lots of lagoons on the list of sights, and it included visiting¬†the Polques¬†hot springs (which sounded great considering the cold weather).¬† On the way to the first lagoon, we passed through a type of marshland with all the water frozen. What amazed us was that the llamas were grazing in these icy cold frozen “grassland” and did not¬†seem to be affected by the cold at all.

Ice cold

Continuing our journey, we arrived at the first lagoon, Laguna Kollpa. The lagoon was still frozen half, however, 5 flamingos dared standing in the water. The surrounding landscape is desert area, which makes the water such a special sight. The second lagoon was home to more flamingos, and were less frozen. It was also a little more beautiful with a nicer setting, but very similar.

Laguna Kollpa and a random giraffe walking on water.

After the first two lagoons, we passed through more¬†arid landscapes and the Salar de Chalviri (salt flat). We reached the hot springs at noon, where we stopped for lunch. The number of other Jeep tours increased exponentially at the hot springs as the tours starting from Uyuni joined the scene.¬†While we were warming ourselves in the hot water, Porfidia prepared another delicious meal for us. After lunch we continued to Laguna Blanco¬†(white lagoon)¬†and Laguna Verde (green lagoon) at an elevation of 4300 metres. The colour of the water of Laguna Verde is different shades of blue/green, depending on the time of the day.¬†Its colour is caused by sediments, containing copper minerals. The Licancabur volcano in the background makes a beautiful picture. We arrived at the lagoon a bit late, as the colour of the water wasn’t so bright as just before noon.

The salt plains, hot springs (with Matthieu and Sonia) and Laguna Verde

It was freezing cold at Laguna Verde, so we didn’t stay for too long and continued our journey north to the Sol de Ma√Īana geysers at an altitude of 5000 metres. The geysers were an interesting and great smelling site (just joking). Needless to say, at 5000 metres it was even colder than at Laguna Verde. Added to that we were all struggling to get enough oxygen at the high altitude. However,¬†it was definitely worth seeing the surreal landscape of steam and boiling mud.

The geysers

Our last stop for the day was Laguna Colorada (red lagoon). It turned out to be¬†our¬†favourite Laguna. The lagoon is a shallow salt water lake containing red sediments and algae whose pigmentation result in the reddish colour of the lagoon’s water. The lagoon also contains white¬†borax islands and blue water areas,¬†contrasting with the red coloured water. Hundreds of flamingos feed on the algae in the water. It is really a¬†spectacular¬†but unusual¬†sight.

Laguna Colorada

Our day ended at a nearby hostel in Wayllajara, which was even more basic than the previous one. It was also much colder than the previous night, but luckily there was a fireplace where we could warm ourselves. We played a card game, and in true Potgieter tradition¬†we¬†taught¬†Sonia and Matthieu¬†the game “poepkop”. Porfidia supplied us with hot water bottles for the night,¬†for which we were very¬†grateful.¬†Despite the hot water bottle, I¬†woke up in the middle¬†of the night¬†struggling to stay warm. Luckily there were extra blankets¬†I could use.

Top left to bottom right: Facing the below zero temperatures outside; getting warm around the fire; the poepkoppe; the dorm rooms in the hostels; early morning; kersvader

The first stop on the third day of the tour was the petrified volcanic rock formation called Arbol de Piedra. The surrounding landscape was dry desert with no water or anything green in sight (the Desierto de Siloli). We saw some vegetation returning after a few kilometres. The higher peaks of the Andes in the far distance were covered with snow.

The petrified tree (Arbol de piedra) and surrounding desert. After a few kilometres some vegetation returned.

We reached some more high altitude lagoons with the mountains reflecting in the water and lots of flamingos – great for photos!

Stunning reflections in the high altitude lakes

One of the last lagoons we passed by – there was lost of flamingos. Absolutely gorgeous scenery.

After enjoying the scenery at the lagoons, we had lunch further along the route with the semi-active Ollague volcano in the background. One could see smoke rising from the volcano.

Extreme sports near the volcano: 1. Eating 2. Looking over the edge 3. Push-ups 4. Jumping over the volcano

We continued to the town San Juan de Rosaria and visited the necropolis (mummy graveyard) and museum. It felt a bit creepy looking at all the skeletons, but it was still interesting. The¬†oval shaped tombs were constructed¬†from¬†volcanic rock. They believe royalty was buried in this graveyard (due to the elongated skulls). The royalty were buried in the fetal position according to their believes of being born into a new life after death together with personal items and offerings. Continuing from the necropolis we passed some of the farms where they cultivated quinoa. They don’t have a lot a machinery, so farming is on a small scale. The communities living in these harsh conditions amazed¬†us – it’s a lifestyle based on simplicity, hard work¬†and day to day reliance on the land.

After San Juan we reached the Salar de Chiguana salt flats. The train route from Chile to Bolivia passes through here.

Waiting for the train…

On our way to our final destination next to Salar de Uyuni, we arrived at the scene of an accident Р6 girls in a Jeep with their two guides. We assumed the driver was in a hurry since it was getting dark, and saw the deep ditch in the road too late. Luckily there was only a few broken noses, possible broken arm, scratches, and a few stiff necks where it could so easily have been fatal. Seeing the accident and how easy it could happen on these roads, we were immensely thankful for our very responsible driver/guide.

Our final destination for the day was the salt hostel at Puerto Chuvica, on the border of Salar de Uyuni,¬†where we spent the night. The entire hostel¬†is built from salt – very impressive!¬†We were¬†privileged to get our¬†own private room for a change, and for 10 bolivianos we could take¬†a warm shower – at last! After 3 days of extreme weather and few comforts, the warm shower felt like heaven on earth ūüôā The¬†salt hostel¬†was the most comfortable of the three we stayed in. When chatting to other travellers, it turned out that we definitely had one of the best accomodations next to Salar de Uyuni. For dinner we were treated to a bottle of wine and lasagna. After dinner the four of us along with the other group went for a stroll on the edge of Salar de Uyuni. It was sooooo cold. After a while Cobus and I¬†ran back to the hostel¬†in an attempt to warm ourselves. It turned out to be a bad idea, as I ended up¬†coughing and wheezing and struggling to breathe for 2 hours due to the cold dry air. Why I developed asthma at 29 is still a mystery to me, I’ve never had any problems before.

The hostel built with salt bricks – Cobus valitdated it ūüôā The picture at the bottom right was taken late at night on the salt flat.

The following morning we had to get up at 5 am to be on time for sunrise on Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world,¬†where we would also have breakfast. The first¬†section¬†of the salt flat was still covered with water. When reaching the dried up parts of the salt flat, we were just in time for sunrise. Wow! The Afrikaans idiom “Die oggendstond het goud in the mond” are certainly true! We entertained ourselves by taking loads of pictures.

Sunrise on the salt flats.

The salt flats provide an excellent backdrop for having fun with perspetive.

All the things you can do with a giant bottle :).

Oh what fun it is to jump…

My favourite husband ūüėČ (and me of course)

After an hour of pictures and breakfast we continued to the¬†salt hotel in the middle of the salt flat. Due to¬†the environmental issues caused by¬†the hotel, it¬†is no longer in use.¬†¬†Reaching the edge of the salt plain, we were able to see how locals “farm” and extract salt. We also saw the Ojos de Agua del salar (eyes of water), which are holes on the surface of the salt plain from where bubbles escape.

Salt farming, the salt hotel, ” ‘n uil op ‘n kluit”, climbing a salt mountain, and our little Jeep on the BIG salt lake

We had our last lunch in the town next to the salt plain, where Porfidia treated us to another of her delicious Bolivian meals (quinoa, chicken, different types of potatoes and sweet potato). We finished our tour at the train cemetary next to Uyuni.

The train cemetary

Segundino dropped us at the bus station in Uyuni where¬†the four of us¬†booked an overnight bus to Sucre. Uyuni itself was nothing special – it’s not a pretty town. We had to spend the rest of the day there, which felt too long for the dull town.

In retrospect we think starting the trip from Tupiza instead of Uyuni was the best decision. Ending the last day with Salar de Uyuni is a highlight, and afterwards you can immediately continue your journey to another town instead of staying in Uyuni. Tupiza is great to start the tour, since you can also enjoy the town for a few days. The 4 day tour was an amazing adventure Рalthough there were very few luxuries, seeing the variety of strange and beautiful landscapes made up for the discomfort. We liked Segundino and Porfidia a lot. Segundino being very responsible, Porfidia with a gentle spirit and being extremely thoughtful. They are a great couple and treats everyone around them with a lot of respect. We also enjoyed getting to know Matthieu and Sonia. We decided to stick together for our journey to Sucre by bus.

The arid landscapes in Southwest Bolivia holds a vast amount of unexpected treasures. It’s a place¬†seemingly harsh and without any life, yet in the midst of all the “nothing”¬†it holds a¬†beauty¬†difficult to comprehend. It’s a place where you are brought to silence and¬†appreciation. As for the communities living there –¬†such harsh conditions must surely build character and teach one to appreciate a simple yet rich lifestyle.

Tupiza (30 April 2012)

Once we had our passports stamped, we walked through Villazon in search of a bus to Tupiza – the first place we would stay in Bolivia. We found a very cheap local bus leaving at¬†2 pm Bolivian time (3 pm Argentinian time). It was clear from the beginning that travlling by bus in Bolivia would be a veeeerry different experience¬†compared to¬†travelling by bus in¬†Argentina. The semi-cama busses in Bolivia¬†were similar to the¬†very economical busses in Argentina. Also, you were lucky if your seat was not broken, or if some local didn’t almost sit on your lap¬†(Cobus had the involuntary privilege of providing a older lady a “lap” seat¬†for a while¬†as she¬†allowed other passengers¬†to pass ;-)). The drive to Tupiza was over within an hour and a half, so the uncomfortable bus was bearable.

The lady who ended up sitting on Cobus’ lap

First on our list in Tupiza was to find¬†the tourist information¬†office where someone could direct us to our hostal and provide us with a map. Our hostel, Hostal Los Solares, wasn’t too far from the bus station¬†on the other side of the river, so it was possible to walk with our luggage.¬†Hostal Los Solares may look somewhat¬†rundown¬†from the outside, but once you’re inside,¬†the place is¬†sooooo nice. The hostel is run by a local family, and it was one of the best places we‚Äôve stayed in¬†so far for the cheapest price so far. We paid the same price for a clean and comfortable private double ensuite (with very hot water) than for the dorm room in the shocking Hostal Humahuaca. Santos and his wife are excellent hosts, and gives the hostel a homely atmosphere.

Hostel Los Salares

Santos advised us to go to the Alamo restaurant, which is also one¬†of the¬†eateries¬†rcommended in¬†the Lonely Planet guide¬†book. On our way to Alamo, we saw another strike (I think in almost every country so far we’ve seen at least two or three). Alamo is a good midway restaurant (between touristy and local) and a place to taste Bolivian cuisine.¬†We paid 70 bolivianos for the experience, which included two main meals, drinks and a tip. Coming from Brazil and Argentina, we were so surprised at how cheap it was. Later on we even found cheaper local restaurants,¬†and also realised that the more touristy ones are more expensive, as usual.¬†The restaurant is decorated in green with¬†photos of Hollywood stars on the walls. We enjoyed the music videos¬†which included music from the 60’s through to the 90’s!¬†Some of the music videos we haven’t¬†even seen before.

The Alamo restaurant

Back at the hostel we met Tara and Alfred from Bristol, UK. They¬†have been¬†touring around the world for about¬†8 months, with one more month to go. It’s interesting how many travellers you meet in South America that are travelling for more than 6 months.

Tara and Alfred were one of the nicest¬†couples we’ve met so far, and we were disappointed that we could not spend more time with them¬†– they were leaving the following day.¬†Also in our hostel was 3 travellers from Germany who have been doing volunteer work in Buenos Aires for a year.¬†Two of them worked¬†in an orphanage and the other one were¬†aiding handicapped people in their daily tasks. There are a lot of travellers¬†in South America, particularly from Europe,¬†who do volunteer work at some¬†point or another, and it is amazing (and heartwarming) to hear what some of these people do.

Cobus, Linke, Tara and Alfred

Cobus, Linke, Tara and Alfred

Tupiza is surrounded by dramatic red escarpments which jut ruggedly skyward from the coarse, gray terrain. Legend has it that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ended their notorious string of bank robbery raids¬†near Tupiza, where they were¬†caught by the Bolivian army. A¬†horse trip seemed appropriate in this cowboy country and¬†we booked a 5 hour horse trip for the¬†morning of the second day. Our guide was a 16 year old boy named Luis.¬†He couldn’t speak any English, and we only a little Spanish, so we didn’t have a lot to say to each other. The landscape is a beautiful extension of the landscape seen in Northwest Argentina.¬†The horse ride was great, but¬†we¬†quickly had to accept the fact that¬†we were not leading¬†those Bolivian horses, they led themselves. The horses¬†know the road so well, they just do what they want to and for 5 hours I was not in control at all. The horses¬†either walk very slow or run very fast;¬†you just have to go with the flow.¬†I¬†got a bit worried¬†two thirds into the journey when my horse¬†broke away from the other two and kept on running. After that, I asked the guide to take the reigns of my horse for the last part of the journey as my legs were getting tired from¬†clutching to¬†the saddle (obviously a 5 hour horse ride for an unfit person was a bit enthusiastic). Cobus’ horse was a mare and a bit more laid back, so he was disappointed he didn’t get to ride my horse. He later on switched horses with the guide, and almost fell off the horse, hehe.

A cowgirl and cowboy from South Africa ūüôā

The scenery around Tupiza

After the horse¬†riding, we¬†met up with a cool couple from Ireland,¬†Donal and Jemma,¬†and two guys from England, Damian and Alex. All of them were¬†on an extended travel trip through¬†South America. We went to Alamos again as we all enjoyed the food there. We had a very nice evening full of laughing and chanting along with the music videos¬†from the 80’s and 90’s.

Alex, Cobus, Linke, Donal, Jemma and Damian in the Alamo

The next day we were so stiff from the horse riding! I struggled to walk around like a normal human being, so we walked veeerrryyy slowly through the¬†town and the markets. In contrast to Argentina, Bolivia operated more similar to South Africa in terms of the working day. There was no siesta time as in Argentina, but rather a normal 8 – 5 pm day. I was caught by surprise in the market realising that some of the more traditional local people didn’t want business from tourists. They made it no secret that they prefer the traditional life style, without¬†any tourists. At first the unfriendliness¬†really upset me, but later on I realised that I actually prefer the honesty above people putting up a friendly face in order to get more business! We bought some supplies for the Salar de Uyuni trip, which included¬†a pair of sun glasses, beanies and a pair of gloves. Afterwards we decided to try out one of the MANY Italian restaurants in Tupiza (believe me, there is a whole street dedicated to Italian restaurants). We were disappointed¬†with the food and the prices were much higher than the other local restaurants.

We booked a 4 day trip across the South West of Bolivia to Salar de Uyuni through Hostal Los Salares, who organise their own tours. The trip would start very early the next morning, so we decided not to stay up too late. Unfortunately, reorganising and packing for the trip took longer than we expected, so the early night did not happen.

Tupiza was such a nice town to start travelling through Bolivia. We definitely recommend¬†staying in this town for at least a day or two. Bolivia seemed to hold some great adventures for us and we were very excited about the next 3 weeks! Although I was somewhat upset about the unfriendliness of some of the locals, Santos and his wife showed me the opposite,¬†by being very hospitable people. Bolivians seemed to be more genuine in their approach. Also, there were no expectation with Bolivians¬†to receive¬†a tip for every simple little thing they do, like we found in Argentina. We tried to tip the guy who loaded our luggage in the bus, but he didn’t want to take any money. In Argentina some of the guys didn’t want to give our baggage claim tickets¬†to us if we didn’t tip them.

The experience of “honest unfriendlyness”¬†was a reminder to me to be genuine at heart, genuine in my approach to people. It reminded me also as a christian, to be genuine¬†in my¬†christianity – no fake morality; no fake religiousness; no fake conversations with God, but rather open and honest, even if it means exposing¬†my worst feelings before Him in prayer.

Psalm 51:6

6 Maar U verwag opregtheid diep in ‘n mens se hart: laat ek dan diep in my binneste weet hoe U wil dat ek moet lewe.

Matthew 23:27-28

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Humahuaca (27 April 2012)

Our bus ride from Salta to Humahuaca did not go as smoothly as we expected. We did not realise that Salta is 1200 m above sea level, while Humahuaca is 2900 m above sea level. Everything went smoothly until we got to about 2400 m, where Cobus started experiencing sinus pains (he has not fully recovered from his flu in Buenos Aires). The last 45 min (and 500 m climb) of the journey was extremely intense as the sinus pressure increased and was joined by a headache and dizziness (to the point where we were even thinking of turning back). We arrived in Humahuaca at around 3 pm and started towards the tourist information situated below the bell tower in the main square (of course ;-)). Unfortunately it was closed, so I left Cobus with all the baggage on a bench next to the square in order to search for a place to stay. I was rather worried about him and the altitude was also starting to have its effect on me, so I just quickly checked a few nearby hostels. I decided on a local place (that did not really cater for backpackers) which seemed clean and comfortable, and had its own restaurant. Cobus went straight to bed dosed with sinus pills and diamox. I explored the town a little bit more, and bought some water and coca leaves. When I got back, Cobus got his mouth stuffed with coca leaves. The leaves are very bitter, it’s almost like putting raw spinach leaves into your mouth. After a few hours of sleep, Cobus felt a little bit better, and hungry, so we stumbled into the small restaurant area across from our room. We had costeleta (beef ribs) and humitas (again; it was nicer than the one in Salta, but the one in Cafayate remains unbeaten).

The local hostel we stayed in. Right – Cobus feeling a lot better at the sight of meat.

The next morning Cobus felt a lot better, but still not 100%. We decided to stay another two nights in Humahuaca to acclimatise, making sure that the next increase in altitude would be less painful. We found a cheap hostel near the main square where the rooms looked clean. Again we were lucky to have the dorm room to ourselves. Unfortunately, we didn‚Äôt really check the beds or the kitchen or the warm water, so were surprised by the condition of the place. The beds had really uncomfortable mattresses, the kitchen facilities were scandalous and the not even luke warm water (24 hours hot water is advertised), even though it was freezing outside, ensured that you are colder after a shower than before. Hostel Humahuaca is really not a good option to stay in ‚Äď it seems like the owners do not really care about the place or anyone who stays there. Honestly, I think the only good thing about the hostel is the dog Canella! But, we were not up for moving to a third place in three days, so we bit the bullet ;-).

Hostel Humahuaca and the lovely kitchen facilities. What you see in the pictures, was literally all there was, together with loads of dust. Bottom right –¬†Canella, the super cute dog.

Humahuaca is a small town with cobble stone roads and a beautiful surrounding. The town may seem a bit touristy as there are plenty of hostels and on a Sunday scores of tourists arrive by bus to visit the weekly markets. Apart from the markets and the surroundings, the only real attraction in town is the massive Monumento a los Héroes de la Indepenciathat towers above the main square (their independence seem to be celebrated everywhere). Other famous towns that we passed on our way to Humauca include Tilcara and Purmamarca, also known for their beautiful coloured earth. A less touristy option further Northeast on the road to the Bolivian border would be the the town called Iruya, where homestays are offered for a more cultural experience.

Humahuaca

We decided to book the Hornocal trip for the afternoon, which is a¬†trip to a¬†beautiful sight high up in the mountains at around 4300m above sea level. Just before the trip we¬†gave the kitchen at Hostel Humahuaca a go, and managed to cook some carbonara in the very cold room with almost zero facilities – we were¬†a bit proud of ourselves ;-). The trip up to the Hornocal was bumpy and dusty and we had to stop a couple of times for the vehicle’s engine to cool down. Once at the top, the views were stunning as the sun illuminated the bright coloured ridges of the Hornocal. We only managed to stay a little while due to a blazing wind, but it was worth the trip.

Hornocal. I couldn’t stand the cold for too long, and forgot my beanie at the hostel, so Cobus was kind enough to lend me his jersey to wrap around my head ūüôā

Back at the hostel we had leftover carbonara for dinner, while chatting to 2 german girls studying Latin American studies in the nearby city of Tucuman.¬†We found the conversation to be a bit lobsided ‚Äď one would expect someone studying sociology and history would have some very strong opinions, but they did not really have a lot to say about anything. We later concluded that maybe it was due to the big¬†difference in age, hehe ;-).

Our last day in Humahuaca was spent sleeping till 11 am, enjoying a decent, self-made breakfast (egg mayo sandwiches, cereal and cappuccino) and walking about the small town. Believe me, if you had dry toast and coffee every morning for a couple of weeks, an egg mayo sandwich tastes like heaven. We decided to buy a typical maté cup from Argentina (before we went over the border) and a tarca flute (typical instrument in northwest Argentina and in Bolivia). Our dinner consisted of pasta again (anything else was impossible to make in the kitchen) with a tomato based sauce and olives.

The big monument at night

The next day we got onto the 10h10 bus to the border town of La Quiaca. Obviously the bus was half an hour late: South America time seems to be similar to Africa time…

Top Рhaving some fun in town. Bottom Рthe very rapid bus service; waiting for our bus; Cobus having to use some South African remedy to help cure his dry skin

The bus journey to La Quiaca took more or less 2 hours with some pretty scenery along the way. Luckily Cobus¬†didn’t experience any sinus pain at the increased altitude,¬†yeah!¬†From the bus station in La Quiaca we walked the 2 km to the Bolivian border town called Villazon. The border crossing went smoothly – it only took us¬†a little more than an¬†hour from the bus station¬†to getting¬†our passports¬†stamped.

Approaching the Bolivian border ūüôā

Our stay in Humahuaca were supposed to be only one night, but the extra two nights made it possible for Cobus to recover. He gained a special insight into the following Psalm (especially verse 1 ;-)) :

Psalm 121

I¬†will lift up my eyes to the hills‚ÄĒ From whence comes my help? 2 My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. 8 The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore.

 

Salta (25 April 2012)

We arrived in Salta around 3pm (a¬†4 hour bus journey from Cafayate), passing through¬†the Quebrada de las Conchas again¬†on the way. We were greeted by some eager hostel promoters, trying to convince us that their hostel was THE ONE. Since we didn’t get the chance to book a hostel in advance, we were rather thankful for their initiative. We chose to stay at¬†the Hostelling International Backpacker Suites, which turned out to be a rather good choice. Salta is a popular destination in high season, but during the late autumn and winter months, the hostels in Salta compete for the fewer travellers passing through threre.¬†Hence we managed to book an ensuite¬†double room, including dinner and breakfast,¬†for half the usual price (and even cheaper than some of the dorm rooms in high season) –¬†the price¬†even¬†included a free taxi ride to¬†the hostel.

After seeing our nice room (in comparison with the cheap price we were paying), we decided to postpone our bus tickets to Humahuaca to the next day. Luckily we found an office of the bus company in the main square and didn’t have to go all the way back to the bus station again. We had lunch at a local restaurant near the main square, and ordered humitas together with the menu del dia (a 3 course meal at a very reasonable price of 20 pesos). Unfortunately the humitas was not as tasty as those in Cafayate, but it was still good.¬†We had flan with dulce de leche for dessert¬†– yummee.¬†On our way back we were introduced to the Bolivian folklore dance called the Cueca, which is being described by some as¬†a seduction game between a man and a woman who dance while agitating a white handkerchief in their right hand, hehe. Some variations exist, according to region: Cueca chapaca (Tarija), Cueca pace√Īa (La Paz), Cueca chuquisaque√Īa (Sucre), Cueca cochabambina (Cochabamba). Obviously the dance has also become popular in the northwest regions of Argentina that¬†borders Bolivia.

The Cueca

We returned to the hostel to relax a bit before heading off to the place where we got our free dinner (it was about 14 blocks away from where we stayed). The free dinner was onion cake – not my idea of a nice meal, and my stomach is not very fond of onions as well. At least Cobus enjoyed the free meal, with the added bonus of the virtue “gasvryheid”.

The onion cake

The next day we reserved for searching for the Cafayate Alfajores brand, and just spending some time walking through the city near the main square. Most tourists use Salta as a base to explore the surrounding areas (for example Cafayate, Cachi, and the Jujuy region), and the city is perfect for daytrips to these areas.

Some of the buildings around the main square. Obviously the Coca Cola company is also present. Further away from the main square the buildings is not as nice.

Unfortunately we couln’t find any good quality Alfajores ūüė¶¬† We had lunch at the Guemes house –¬†tallarines and ravioles with very chewy meat for 27 pesos pp. Our dessert was ensalada de frutas, which turned out to be a slice¬†of weird tasting¬†cheese with (also a¬† weird tasting) fruit jam and nuts on top – not necessarily the fruit salad we had in mind…

The “Ensalada de frutas” at Guemes house

The Guemes house is a museum in tribute¬†to¬†Mart√≠n Miguel de G√ľemes (8 February 1785 ‚Äď 17 June 1821). G√ľemes was a military leader who defended northwestern Argentina from the Spanish during the Argentine¬†War of Independence.¬†The museum is¬†situated in the house where he used to live in Salta. After lunch we¬†did some shopping and were able to buy ourselves a nice Tango cd. In the supermarket we were surprised to find almost anything¬†for sale, even car tyres ??

Tyres for sale in a supermarket…hmm…not a common sight in South Africa

We also visited the local market. We decided not to try the complementary dinner again, instead making ourselves some nice fresh fruit salad (the kind of fruit salad we are accustomed to) and yoghurt.

Locals selling their products near the market. There is a definite increase in poverty in the Northwestern region of Argentina compared to the rest of the country.

We didn’t spend so much time in Salta to really appreciate the city,¬†but we have seen Cafayate and were on our way to Humahuaca. Honestly we didn’t think Salta was such a beautiful city, but¬†we think tourists rave more about¬†the city due to the opportunities of day trips from Salta. The alternative option of San¬†Salvador Jujuy is apparently not so nice.¬†Our bus left Salta at around 10 am.

Cobus haven’t completely recovered from the flu yet,¬†so¬†we were thankful for the two more quiet days in a nice and clean hostel. Travelling is hard work ūüėČ and to¬†give yourself a day off seems to¬†be more important¬†than we originally thought.

Mark 6:31

31 And He said to them, ‚ÄúCome aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.‚ÄĚ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.

Cafayate (22 April 2012)

On our arrival in Cafayate, one of the local woman (a primary school teacher) whom we met on the bus, helped us to find our hostel. She advised us to rather take a taxi as it was already late and quite a distance to walk with¬†backpacks. We arrived at our hostel, La Casona del Ser, at around 9 pm. The hostel is on the edge of town, with an almost farm feeling to it. The owner of the hostel did not receive our booking via hostelbookers, but¬†fortunately had an empty¬†dorm room available for the night. Although the mattresses were thin, we did not have any other option at that time of the night. We met another couple, Marianna and Max, in the common area of the hostel from Mexico and France and ended up chatting until about 4 am in the morning! Obviously we enjoyed their company a lot ūüôā After that the hard beds didn‚Äôt matter at all.

La Casona del Ser

It was great being in a small town again! The next morning we went with M&M to town, where they helped us to book a trip to see the Quebradas de las Conchas near Cafayate (they could speak Spanish). Afterwards, they went a different way as we went to a local restaurant for pizza and a glass of the local Torrontes white wine. The thin crust pizza with a lot of toppings was filling and the white wine was refreshing and definitely worth tasting Рvery fruity and sweet, almost like a fortified wine. Our Quebradas trip started just after lunch time, so we hurried back to the tour agency where two other people joined us on the trip. One of them was a lady from England, called Hillary, who helped to translate some of the trip as she could speak a little Spanish. The Quebrada de las Conchas nearby Cafayate are fascinating, beautiful rock formations. These formations were formed over years by wind, water and weather while the coloured layers are a result of the exposed minerals in these rocks.

The first stop on the trip in the Quebrada de las Conchas.¬†In the bottom middle I discovered that Cobus is¬†one of the¬†X-men ūüôā

Bottom left – Everyone seems to name something in their region “The Devils Throat”.

The various minerals inside the different rock layers result in different colourful patterns.

God’s canvas

We returned to our hostel just after 7pm. The plan was to have dinner together with Marianna and Max, but we all were so tired after the previous late night, so we stayed at the hostel. The next morning we went on a wine tasting tour visiting Bodega Nanni and Bodega El Transito. We really enjoyed tasting, among others, the different variations of Torrontes wine produced in the region. Some of the Malbec was also good. Nanni was a bit more professional and informative than El Transito, but both had some good wine.

Wine tasting in Cafayate with Marianna and Max

Next on our list was tasting some local food at the municipal local restaurant. Marianna introduced us to goat stew, humitas and tomales. Humitas is basically a mix of maize meal, different spices and cheese, and cooked within fresh corn leaves. Tomales are similar, but combined with meat, less spices and cooked within dry corn leaves. The goat stew and the humitas were both very tasty Рa perfect combination of flavours. M&M had to catch a bus to Salta, so had to leave early. We hope to see them again somewhere along the gringo trail.

Goat stew, humita (left) and tomale (right). Humitas are cooked within fresh leaves, while tomales are cooked within dry leaves.

After our very tasty lunch, we¬†walked to Cabras de Cafayate, the goat¬īs milk¬†cheese farm approximately 2 km outside town. The road was beautiful, making it a definite worthwhile outing. At the farm they took us on an explanatory tour – from breeding and feeding the goats¬†all the way to how they make the cheese. Some of their goats they imported from South Africa. They concluded the tour with a cheese tasting – they had some really nice cheeses!

Top – Cabras de Cafayate and a goat herd. Bottom –¬†Mr¬†Goat White¬†from¬†South Africa, and a very scary chicken

After the cheese¬†tasting we stopped at the ice cream shop in order to taste some of the recommended sorbet in Malbec and Tannat flavours. It was good, but it’s like eating frozen wine, so a bit weird. We also went to the Alfajores shop. They have a great selection of Alfajores and they tasted great too – the best we’ve had so far! Even better than those from the Havanna shop…

For our third and last night in La Casona del Ser we were lucky to get a double room with a much better mattress than in the dorm room. The next morning we¬†got a bus to Salta. The owner was so¬†kind as to take us to the bus station in his very antique car ūüôā¬† We had a good laugh on the way to the station – the car is very old, and the boot didn’t close anymore. The owner waited until we were in the bus to wave us goodbye before he went on his way again! ūüôā

The proud owner of La Casona del Ser with his antique car

We enjoyed Cafayate a lot and would love to go back for the friendly small town atmosphere, the Alfajores, the wine, and the beautiful surroundings. The owner of La Casona del Ser was also a special person with a kind and¬†gentle¬†heart, someone who went out of his way to keep his customers happy – a quality not always found in the South American tourist industry. He actually gave us a huge discount for not having a room ready for us on the first night. Sometimes as a tourist in South America one feels so exploited having to pay gringo prices for almost everything, a lot of people trying to talk you into buying things you don’t need or want, people cheating, museum prices being 4 times more for tourists than for locals, etc.¬†Therefore La Casona del Ser really surprised us. We wish the owner well and¬†hope his hostel becomes very popular! We also had a great time with Marianna and Max with whom we would like to spend some more time.

I hope, as a christian, that part of our witness will also be that of gentleness and kindness.

Philippians 4:5

5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

Buenos Aires (17 April 2012)

Our first overnight bus experience in Argentina was good. Compared to long distance busses in South Africa, the cama bus was a very comfortable way of travelling 15 hours to Buenos Aires (much more comfortable than the 14 hour flight from Dubai).¬†Obviously if you expect a hotel in the form of a bus, you will be disappointed, as it’s still a bus. The Via Bariloche busses seemed to be all fairly new and comfortable. To our surprise, the prices quoted currently are more than double the prices listed in the Lonely Planet guide book for Argentina, which made it difficult to stay within their on-a-shoe-string-budget of $35 pppd. The cama bus from San Ignacio to Buenos Aires was about AR$500 pp compared to the¬†listed price of ¬ĪAR$170 in the guide book.

We arrived in Buenos Aires around 9 am the following morning. The original plan was to stay with a fellow CouchSurfer again, but unfortunately our host had to go on a business trip. We therefore booked a room in Reina Madre Hostel in the Palermo district of the city (as the couple from Denmark recommended). The hostel is a family-run hostel, with some semi-permanent students living there. I think we were the only backpackers in the hostel at the time. The family was friendly and helpful, and the hostel was very clean. We stayed in the double room the first night (for a good sleep after the bus journey) and can recommend it – very comfortable bed!
Later the afternoon we went on a city walking tour covering the area from the San Martin square to the Recoleta area. Our guide shared some interesting stories about the city‚Äôs people and the aristocratic era of Buenos Aires. At the start of our trip we saw a photographer taking some ‚Äúarty‚ÄĚ pictures of a crazy guy climbing onto one of the statues. The guy threw a rope over one the horses and climbed on the horse in his ‚Äúadamsgewaad‚ÄĚ. Hahaha. A couple of minutes later the police were on the scene‚Ķ On the tour we saw some of the aristocrat palaces. Wow, we couldn‚Äôt believe that so many families (over a 100) lived in these mansions, like they were kings, with loads of servants, hosting parties, etc. Today,¬†only 1 of the mansions is still privately owned¬†(by an old couple). The rest of the palaces are now¬†either owned by the government, or used as embassies, hotels¬†or¬†museums. Our guide also shared some info with respect to plastic surgery in Buenos Aires ‚Äď some medical plans have one free plastic surgery every two years! Apparently, like the Brazilians, Argentines are very conscious about their bodies, especially the Porte√Īos¬†(citizens of Buenos Aires). According to our guide there occurs about ‚Äú100 boob jobs per day, uhm, that means 200 new boobies a day…?!‚ÄĚ. We did not see so many tattoos as in Brazil though. During our tour we also passed the most expensive hotel in Buenos Aires, namely the Alvear hotel, with a min of US$800 and max of US$10000 per night. Ouch. Buenos Aires has the face of a European city ‚Äď a lot of the buildings look like French / Italian / British buildings. Most of the Porte√Īos have a European background, and the rest of Argentina tend to call them snobs. We also visited the Malvinas memorial ‚Äď the Argentinians maintain that the British illegally occupies the Falkland Islands (which they call the Malvinas) and in a recent war in 1982¬†against Britain, they lost over 600 soldiers of which most were 18 year old boys serving their one year mandatory service.

Top, from left to right Рentrance to the Recoleta cemetary; the Franciscan church building at night (at the end of our city tour); one of the 100 aristocrat palaces. Bottom, from left to right Рlegend has it that if you drink from this fountain, you will return to Buenos Aires, Cobus was hopeful :-); the crazy art guy before he got naked; a soldier at the Malvinas memorial; the Portenos call this little Big Ben (?!), not sure what the British make of this!

The next day we went to visit the Recoleta cemetary. On our way we encountered some of the professional dogwalkers ‚Äď how in the world they manage to walk 10 dogs of different sizes at the same time is still a mystery to us!

The dogwalker with his dogs

The Recoleta cemetery is basicly the graveyard for the elite families in the history of Buenos Aires and includes the grave of the famous Evita. The mausoleums of the different families are more like artworks than anything else. Some of the statues are really amazing. But I must admit, we found it so strange, it‚Äôs as if they think too much of themselves ‚Äď not all of them were actually SO important and contributed to the country and it‚Äôs people in significant ways. The Evita mausoleum (Duarte family), on the other hand, was not so impressive as some of the others. But maybe it fits her legacy ‚Äď she maintained that she was there for the people, and not for the rich.

Mausoluems in the Recoleta cemetary. Bottom right – the grave of Eva Peron.

After wandering through all the graves, we went next door to the Franciscan church. It contained some interesting religious art and history. We also found one of the Gregorian music chant books inside РCool!

An original Gregorian chant music book

The next stop was one of the big parks in Buenos Aires for a picknick lunch. After lunch we visited the Evita Peron museum. Some of the quotations from her biography actually sounds like she was an amazing woman. There may be another side to the story as some Argentines maintain, but who will really know her true motives except she and her Creator. We especially liked the following quotations:

‚ÄúI am the wife of the president of the Argentine people, but presidencies expire and in the end history does not remember a simple marriage bond, but rather an unselfish heart and an upright conscience.‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Eva Peron, L.R.A Radio Nacional, Feb 24th 1947

‚Äú‚ĶI‚Äôve erected this institution for social welfare‚Äôs sake ‚Äď depriving it of any trace of charity ‚Äď in the hopes that it‚Äôd become a banner of social justice. The poor are not cared for out of mercy or commiseration, but because they are also Argentine citizens who find themselves in despair, but who are as much worthy of attention as the rest of the citizenry.‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Eva Peron, July 6th 1949

Evita museum. Left – this is a parrot, but it is not applicable.

On our way home, we found Geri in a park nearby the museum making some friends while playing his game ūüôā

Geri and his “non-imaginary” friends in the park

We returned to our hostel, relaxing the rest of the day and only went out to buy some food at the supermarket. At this point Cobus was rather sick with the flu, so we had to take it easy. We also decided to stay in a double room until he was better before moving to a dorm room.

We had a slow start the next morning and went to the city centre at around 12pm where we had our own ‚Äúwalking tour‚ÄĚ. In the subway, someone tried to pickpocket Cobus – luckily Cobus didn’t have anything in his pockets and he just stared at the guy. The pickpocket put on his sunglasses (weird in the subway) and got off together with his friend at the next stop. We think the sunglasses were some sort of sign, like “I’ve been caught out” or “a dud”. We saw the unimpressive Obelisco and the very impressive Teatro Colon (although we didn‚Äôt pay the ridiculous gringo fee to see the inside ‚Äď a ticket to an opera the following Sunday would have cost less, but unfortunately we left one day too early). We saw the famous Casa Rosada (meaning¬†Pink House) where Evita delivered some of her well known speeches (next to the Plaza 25 de Mayo). Around the plaza were several other historic buildings. We also stumbled across a fairly new museum next to Casa Rosada, with interesting facts about the political history of Argentina. Unfortunately everything was in Spanish, so we had a hard time making sense of it.

Top, from left to right РTeatro Colon; the Obelisk; the Congress building; Casa Rosada. Bottom, from left to right РPlaza 25 de Mayo (it seems like every town in Argentina has a Plaza 25 de Mayo); the Cathedral outside and inside.

We returned to our hostel later the afternoon in time for a quick shower before we went to La Viruta, a closeby milonga, for some tango lessons. The first tango lesson was at 7pm, and we were glad we went early since the group was small and it was easy to follow the instructions. We had a great time figuring out the most basic tango steps ‚Äď although my toes didn‚Äôt enjoy it so much!¬†The Argentines wake up from their siesta late in the afternoon and only go out after 9pm. The group was much bigger during the second tango lesson at around 10pm, and it was difficult to find ones way around the dance floor. We¬†also had¬†a salsa lesson which was¬†lots of fun. There was supposed to be a tango show later that night, however, at around 1am the Portenos were still on the dance floor enjoying themselves¬†while we, the gringos, were getting tired (their late night energy is probably thanks to their long afternoon siesta). We left before the show started and waited for a bus in the hostel‚Äôs direction. There were fewer¬†busses heading at that time of the night and we were freezing, so we decided to jump on a bus that¬†we thought were going in more or less the right direction. It turned out, however, that we were heading towards an area that, according to our hostel owner¬†are very dodgy late at night. We got off as soon as possible, and took the first taxi we saw back to our hostel.

The next morning started almost the same than the previous ‚Äď very late. The late night tango and Cobus‚Äôs flu was not a good combination. We only had a few objectives for the day, which included the Tango museum, the two famous landmarks¬†Puente de la Mujer¬†and Floralis Gen√©rica, and an Argentine steak for dinner. It turned out that the Tango museum was closed for¬†renovations, but next to the museum we found Caf√© Tortoni, one of the recommended places to visit in Buenos. Cobus had his first submarino (warm milk in which you desolve a chocolate bar) -yummee.

Cafe Tortoni – they also host tango shows during the evenings

Next on the list was Puente de la Mujer. On our way there, we bought our first Havanna Alfajores, a must try in Argentina. Havanna makes some of the best Alfajores, which is basically dulce de leche (similar to caramel treat) between two cookies covered with meringue or chocolate.

Alfajores – yummee!

When we arrived at Puente de la Mujer, we realised it doesn‚Äôt look so impressive during the day compared to the pictures we‚Äôve seen taken by night. Next on our list was the Floralis Gen√©rica. We managed to find a bus close to the Obelisco going in the direction of the flower. The flower is an impressive piece of art. It opens in the morning at sunrise and close at sundown, mimicking a real flower.¬† We concluded our last night in Buenos Aires with an Argentinian steak at La Doritas. We ordered the special 600g steak for two with salsa, papas fritas and salad. Although it was very tender and perfectly prepared, we were not overly impressed as the meat lacked flavour (maybe our expectation was too high). We‚Äôve had much more tasty steaks in South Africa, but it is possible that we ordered a less tasty cut – in Argentina they don‚Äôt have the same cuts than elsewhere. It is difficult to distinguish for example between sirloin and fillet. The bus journey home was less ‚Äúeventful‚ÄĚ than the previous night‚Äôs wild goose chase, and it was not long before we were safe and sound in bed.

Puente de la Mujer, Floralis Generica, and Cobus enjoying his steak.

Our last day in Buenos Aires was reserved for the two Buenos Aires suburbs San Telmo and La Boca. We only had until 4pm before we had to return to our hostel to pick up our luggage and head for the bus terminal. In San Telmo we quickly realised that nothing really happens there, except on Sundays when there is an antique market. We decided to go onwards to La Boca straight away and found it much more alive (with the sound of music, la la la la, hehe. No really, there was a lot of music). The bus dropped us off just in time to see the last part of a live Tango street performance. Cool! We spent some time walking through the open air museum and market, on the way buying a different brand of Alfajores which was almost as tasty as the Havanna brand. The tourist section of La Boca is definitely worth a visit ‚Äď colourful buildings, live music and tango, and in general a nice vibe. According to a small museum,¬† the sailor community¬†of La Boca¬†used¬†the left over paint of ships to paint their houses – usually one colour was not enough¬†for a whole building and therefore most houses were¬†covered¬†by two or three different colours.¬†Today¬†this custom is continued¬†to attract¬†tourists. Deeper¬†into La Boca it becomes more dangerous and even the touristic parts are not open at night. We left colourful La Boca after enjoying a little picnic at the docks (I have to admit that the bread/buns and viennas in Argentina¬†are not very tasty).

La Boca. Top left – the real tango. Top right – the fake tango.

We took a bus back to our hostel to pick up our bags, and then headed straight for the bus terminal. We managed to book an overnight cama bus to Tucuman with the Vosa company, who had a special going of AR$370 pp instead of the usual AR$500 pp. The Vosa bus was not as comfortable as the Via Bariloche bus, but is was still decent and the bus food was slightly better.

We arrived in Tucuman the next morning and decided to go onwards to Cafayate the same day (Tucuman did not seem like a very pretty town, but we only saw the older part of the town around the bus terminal). The semi-cama bus to Cafayate left at 2pm and Lonely Planet said it would only take 4 hours to our destination. It turned out to be an 8 hour drive up to Cafayate. At least the scenery along the way was beautiful!

I have to admit, our experience in Buenos Aires wasn’t so positive compared to Rio. With the exception of the tango experience, we felt like tourists in another big city that is great for shopping and¬†has some nice landmarks.¬†The CouchSurfing at Marcos and Ludmilla¬†made our stay in Rio much more special. It is amazing how people contribute to ones experience of a place (and I guess life as well).¬†It’s almost as if they let you see¬†the place (or life)¬†through different eyes. Buenos Aires and Rio, like most other cities, has¬†their own problems of poverty, crime and¬†polution. The atmosphere in Rio, however,¬†was different and more relaxed. Almost, if I may, like¬†Cape Town¬†compared to Johannesburg. We are so thankful that nothing bad happened to us in Buenos Aires compared to so many other tourists visiting the city.

Psalm 30:12

12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

Psalm 91:2

2 I will say of the Lord, ‚ÄúHe is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.‚ÄĚ

San Ignacio (15 April 2012)

The cheapest bus we could get to San Ignacio (AR$47 pp) left Puerto Iguazu at 15h30 (so we had to wait a few hours at the bus station). We arrived in San Ignacio 4 hours later and went in search of the Adventure Hostal (a more or less 1.5 km walk up and downhill with our backpacks Рnot too bad). We booked a dorm room, and luckily no one else shared the room with us.

We went in search of a place to eat or an open supermarket, however, San Ignacio is a typical small town where everything is closed after 5pm. Luckily we did find a small local restaurant, and ordered a Napolitana (pollo) Рwhich is a (very large) chicken fillet, covered with a (very large) piece of ham, tomato paste and cheese.

The biiig Napolitana

The next morning during breakfast (toast,cake, dulce de leche, coffee) a green Katydid decided to join us. The insect looks like a leaf!

A green katydid sharing our breakfast ūüôā

The¬†reason¬†for going to San Ignacio was obviously the San Ignacio Mini Jesuit mission (which we went to the next morning). It is one of the¬†best preserved missions in the Misiones province of Argentina (all the missions in this province were¬†destroyed in the years following¬†the expelsion of the Jesuits).¬†One of my favourite movies, “The Mission”, relates the story¬†of when Spain expelled¬†the Jesuits from the missions.¬†I was rather dissappointed to¬†learn that the only part of the movie filmed in the Misiones district of Argentina was at the Iguazu falls. The rest of the movie was apparently filmed in Colombia!

A model representation of the Jesuit mission

The San Ignacio ruines. Top left is the living quarters of the Guarani. The rest is from the church building. In the bottom middle Рthey first built the sceleton of the buildings with a very hard type of wood, afterwhich they filled it with stones.

One tree has grown around the remains of a pillar that was once part of the San Ignacio Mini mission. At the right, the pillar is just visible inside the tree.

I was impressed by what the Jesuits managed to do at the missions. They seemed to have a fairly modern approach in the way they integrated the two vastly different cultures. They respected Guarani culture, learning from them, learning their language, and taught them about Christianity in the Guarani context. They used different art forms (music, dance, sculpting, painting, etc) which the Guarani could relate to, since in the Guarani culture music and dance was also the way in which they communicated their history and religion. The Jesuits were also clever in maintaining that, since the Guarani were living in towns, they were Spanish citizens and could not be exploited as slaves. The missions were therefore also a safe haven for the Guarani people.

We enjoyed reading about the Guarani culture and beliefs. They were very respectful of the forest and animals, living by the rule of never taking more than they need (I wish more cultures were like that). We found an interesting story which sounded like a Guarani version of¬†Noah’s ark:

The Guarani version of Noah’s ark

The religious beliefs of the Guarani reminded of some texts in the Bible, and I think the Jesuits could easily have explained the Biblical story by comparison. For example the following two quotes from Guarani texts:

When the earth did not exist, amidst the ancient darkness, when nothing was known, He made the fundamental word open like flower, and, with Him, it divinely became Heaven; this Namandu did, the true father, the first one.

The Guarani knew he had to die and was not afraid of death, but his ideal was those people who, on reaching a certain level of perfection, without dying would pass straight onto that land without evil where plants grow abundantly and without needing attention and where feasting and dancing never cease, and no one gets tired…

We met a couple from Denmark at the missions, who shared their experiences in Argentina with us – it’s always helpful to talk to fellow travellers! They just came from Buenos Aires, where they stayed in the San Telmo district. They enjoyed staying in the lovely, old neighbourhood, however, they were mugged during the day, and lost their camera. They advised us to rather stay in the Palermo area, since they’ve heard of other travellers also being mugged in broad daylight in La Boca and San Telmo the past few months.

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the town, waiting for the 6pm overnight bus to Buenos Aires.

Old cars everywhere…Awesome!

It was nice to spend¬†some time in a small town again. As in so many small towns in South Africa, the people were warm and friendly.¬†We found the story of the mission both interesting, and sad. Sad to learn about how the Guarani were almost destroyed by the Spanish and Portugese. Sad to learn how something like the cross-cultural Jesuit missions had to suffer due to silly people in powerful positions feeling threatened by the mostly good relationship between the Jesuits¬†and the Guarani and the growth in power of the missions. We’re not sure if the Guarani texts were from after the missionaries or before, but¬†it reminded me of the following verses from Romans:

Romans 2:12-17

“12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ…”

Iguazu / Igua√ßu / Iguaz√ļ (12 April 2012)

We were rather glad that¬†we booked a flight to Foz do Igua√ßu, the city on the Brazillian side of¬†Igua√ßu Cataratas (Iguazu Waterfalls),¬†instead of going by bus. We arrived at our hostel¬†between¬†3 and 4pm. The hostel, Iguazu Guest House,¬† is a good, clean hostel which we would¬†recommend, except that it may be a bit noisy late at night. We stayed in Foz do Igua√ßu¬†for three nights. Although we did not look for a hostel in Puerto Iguaz√ļ (the town on the Argentinian side of the falls), it did seem to be a little bit nicer to reside in¬†compared to Foz.The day after our arrival we were on our way to the falls and decided to¬†visit¬†the Argentinian side first, although some people advised us to rather¬†see the Brazilian side first. According to them, the Argentinian side is more impressive and it is best to leave the best for last. Instead of going by taxi, we¬†took the cheaper public transport (bus) across the border. There are two main bus companies doing the trip across the border. The busses drop you off at the Brazilian border control and drive on. Once you managed to get a stamp on your passport, you have to wait for a bus from the same bus company to get to the Argentinian border control. We got tired of waiting and thought it won¬īt be to far to walk across to the Argentinian side. It turned out to be a more than 3 km hike (our bus company passed us 400 m from the border control).

Hiking in no man¬īs land, across the border

At the Argentinian side, after getting our passports stamped again, we took a bus from another company so had to pay the fee again. The bus dropped us off at the Puerto Iguaz√ļ bus terminal, from where you have to take another local bus to the Iguaz√ļ National Park. In total, the journey from our hostel to the entrance of the park took about 2 hours. If you opt for the hassle free option of going with an organised tour (R$50 pp), the journey time is between 30 and 45¬†minutes, since they wait for you at the border controls. If you want to save money, the bus journey is looonnng, but quite an experience… we had some nice conversations with fellow travellers from Germany, Peru, the United States and Britain.

Waiting for our bus again... at least we had some American/Brittish/German entertainment ūüôā

We¬†booked a Gran Adventure boat trip at the park, which includes a¬†sight seeing¬†trip through the forest before getting into the boat. The trip through the forest was interesting, but we thought the extra money we paid didn’t justify the trip. The boat¬†trip on the other hand was a lot of fun. They actually go so close to one of the waterfalls that you’re almost right underneath it.¬†Obviously, the resultant is super soaking wet passengers, especially for us sitting in the first row.

The Gran Adventure. In the bottom right picture you can see why everyone on the boat is soaking wet afterwards...

After the boat trip, we did some of the¬†hiking trails beneath, above and around the numerous waterfalls (they call it the lower and upper circuit routes), and then took the¬†Tren Ecol√≥gico de la Selva¬†(Rainforest Ecological Train)¬†up to the biggest waterfall, called Garganta del Diablo¬†(the Devil’s throat), which to me was the highlight of the day (the boat trip was to Cobus the¬†most exciting part¬†of the day). It was¬†an incredible experience standing there at the lookout point watching tons of water tumbling over the edge with the mist rising up to 150 metres. I¬†didn’t want to leave, but we had to catch the last train back to the entrance and¬†return to Foz by bus.

The Argentinian side of the falls

Wildlife spotted: Ring-tailed coati, a giraffe (?!), lizard, antelope and very curious weird bird.

Hundreds of beautiful butterfly species can be seen all over the park.

The following day was a bit cloudy, but we still decided to¬†visit the¬†Brazilian side of the falls. It turned out to be a good decision as we saw a lot¬†of things we didn’t see on the other side, including a¬†panoramic view¬†of the falls, some close up views of other waterfalls, and a wild¬†armidillo (which made Cobus’ day – its one of those things he always wanted to see).

The armadillo!

We were glad we did the Brazilian side second – it was definitely not less impressive than the Argentinian side. It was a nice progression from being close to the waterfalls on the Argentinian side and to then see¬†the grand overview in Brazil. On the Brazilian side there is a walkway along the canyon with an extension to the lower base of the Devil’s Throat. You get soaked by the spray when standing there.¬†Most people put on a rain coat on the Brazilian side of the Devil’s Throat, but we thought it much more fun¬†getting wet!

The Brazilian side of the falls

We also went to the Parque das Aves (Bird Park)¬†next to the¬†Igua√ßu National Park. We are not really fond of looking at animals in cages, however, we enjoyed visiting the bird park.¬†Rare and colourful birds are able to fly in huge aviaries which have been built to blend in with the humid subtropical forest. Visitors can enter some of these areas to enjoy the bird even more. The focus of the park is on environmental conservation, to reintroduce species into protected areas, and to promote the breeding of species in danger of extinction. The smaller cages are only used for the purposes of breeding and rehabilitation. We¬†were thrilled¬†watching the Parrots, Macaws and Toucans flying all around us.¬†We were so excited about seeing¬†so many different kinds of¬†Toucans –¬†our childhood days of eating fruitloops¬†only¬†fimiliarised us with one kind!

Different kinds of toucans. Top right: "Koppie krap"

Cobus looses a button

We concluded our day with a¬†“per kilo” buffet dinner at¬†a nearby restaurant.¬†Good value for money… it’s like eating¬†at the Neelsie in Stellenbosch (with some better variety and some better tasting food).

The next day we took up the border challenge again, but this time we were more informed and we even met some bewildered Peruvians who we could guide through the process. At Puerto Iguazu bus station we booked a bus to San Ignacio, a 4 hour journey south.

Smuggling a Peruvian family across the border (hehehe)

Sitting, waiting, wishing ...

One of my prayers is that God will continue to make Himself known to us in unexpected ways and places and in everyday throughout our lives journey.¬†A woman chanting “Cu√°n grande es √Čl”¬†in Spanish on our way back from the waterfalls was definitely one such moment which I cherish. I can’t think of a better way to conclude this post than with¬†the (English) lyrics of the amazing song:

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Refrain:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;

How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:

Refrain

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:

Refrain

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

Refrain

Rio de Janeiro (8 April 2012)

We arrived in Rio de Janeiro, in the dark and just after 18h¬†on the 8th of April. An English speaking¬†woman (yeah!) at the information desk helped us find the local bus to the Humaita¬†area for our first CouchSurfing experience.¬†Another person¬†on the bus helped¬†us to get off at the correct bus stop, just opposite¬†the building of our hosts, Marcos and Ludmilla.¬†Their home is on the 9th floor of a apartment building next to a very busy (Humaita) street, with a beautiful view¬†of the Corcovado¬†peak¬†and the¬†Christo Redentor statue.¬†At last we found a super clean bathroom and shower with warm water!! It was also great¬†to have our own room after the shared dorm¬†at¬†Che Lagarto. When we unpacked, we realised we forgot Cobus’s towel and my sarong at Ilha Grande, but¬†Ludmilla was kind enough to lend us a towel.¬†After a quick shower, Marcos and Ludmilla took us to a restaurant, called¬†Galeto mania, where they introduced us to¬†the Brazilian cuisine of “little chicken” (galeto) with typical Brazilian side dishes (polenta, farofa, salsa, etc).¬†We also had¬†our first Caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail, made¬† with cacha√ßa (sugar cane rum), sugar and lime (optionally with other fruit variations). We enjoyed the outing a lot! If not for them, we would probably have¬†ordered burgers and chips from the Portugese menu.

Marcos and Ludmilla at Galeto Mania

Our first night in Rio at "Galeto Mania" with a veeerrry small Christo Redentor in the background. Here they serve small chickens and gigantic beer towers.

Our first full day in Rio started rather late. Cobus and I were still trying to adapt to the new time zone and weather.¬†We also did some admin, laundry, unpacking our bags, try to figure out where we should go and how… At about¬†12h we went in search of the subway to see if we could find a map of the city. Luckily the subway¬†had a really nice map¬†which we studied the whole day.¬†We realised we were only a couple of blocks away from the famous Copacabana beach, and¬†went in that direction. The information desk at Copacabana had small lonely planet booklets of the city for free which proved to be very helpful during our stay in Rio. Copacabana is a beautiful long outstretched beach with¬†thick white sand and palm trees. Soccer posts, volleyball nets and other¬†exercising¬†stations¬†may be found all along the beach. It seems that most Brazillians¬†are very serious and conscious about their bodies. The high percentage¬†of Brazilians we’ve encountered having a tattoo is also witness to that.

Copacabana, and Cobus in the apartment in Humaita

On our way back we took the subway to Botafoga station near to the Humaita¬†area, and then took a stroll through the city to¬†the¬†apartment.¬†It’s always very interesting to experience¬†a city¬†on foot – one tends to get a better feeling of everyday life compared¬†to just sticking to the tourist hotspots. We stopped by¬†several supermarkets to buy some food supplies for the next couple of days. Just examples of the prices: cheddar cheese =¬†R94 per kg, 250g mushrooms…wait for it…R80…ouch.¬† Maybe it was a very special kind of mushroom…hmmm, magic mushrooms?? Our plans to go out again was interrupted by some heavy rainfall.¬† And then after that it was interrupted by Cobus sleeping. Marcos and Ludmilla got home just after 7pm. They took us to Copacabana and Ipanema beach for a drink – always nice to walk on the beach at night!

Marcos and Ludmilla showing us Copacabana and Ipanema beaches at night

Overcast and rainy¬†weather was forecasted for the next day. We decided to¬†leave¬†the Corcovado and Sugarloaf excursions for the following day for which warmer weather and clear skies were expected.¬†We took the subway to Cinelandia and got a bus to Santa Teresa to check out this historic¬†upper class borough.¬†As we didn’t know where to get off, we sat on the bus¬†all the way¬†through¬†Santa Teresa and¬†ended up¬†at the entrance to the Tijuca Forest National Park on Corcovado unexpectedly! The skies were blue¬†for a perfect view from the top and we decided to go see it.

View from the Corcovado mountain and Christo Redentor. See if you can spot "Cobus the viking".

Just as we were leaving the park, the clouds moved in again to obstruct¬†most of the view – again luck was on our side. At the bottom of the hill, we took a long walk to and¬†through the areas called Flamengo¬†to¬†Lapa. On our way we saw two historic palaces and¬†entered the old presidential (Catete)¬†palace, now the¬†Museu da Rep√ļblica. The interior decorations of the building is beautiful.¬†Unfortunately we could not understand a lot since everything was in Portugese.

At the edge of Lapa exist a beautiful set of world-famous steps, the Escadaria Selar√≥n. They are the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selar√≥n who claims it as his “tribute to the Brazilian people”. After a long day of flashing away, we managed to take one¬†photo before we ran out of¬†battery power – an insult to this¬†amazing work – and we decided to head back home.

Nelson Mandela is really quite famous... During our "city stroll" we also saw the Teatro Municipal, lots of favelas in the background on the hills, and lots of old cars with flat tires. The picture in the bottom left is my "Waar's Cobus?" version of "Where's Wally?".

Taking a stroll through the city. In the bottom row is the Museu de Republica and the Escadarion Selaron.

Marcos, Ludmilla and Marcos’ brother, Paulo, took us to another place where we were introduced to pasteles, another typical Latin American dish. The pasteles came with various fillings, including shrimp and cream cheese, beef and gorgonzola, and of course bon-bon and chocolate sauce. Very very nice!

Eating pasteles at the Adao bar in Botafoga with Paulo, Marcos and Ludmilla. Recommendable for sure! I had a strawberry caipirinha, but the traditional one with lime is better.

The plans for the last day in Rio were simple – the famous Sugarloaf mountain and Ipanema beach. In order to reach the top of Sugarloaf mountain, you need to take two cable cars. Unless you’re a rock climber, there is no other way to get to the top. The view from Sugarloaf is amazing!¬†It is from a totally different angle compared to¬†the view over Rio from the Corcovado. It’s hard to say which one to do if you had to choose!¬†We also saw lots of cute little Sagui (Tamarin monkeys) on Sugarloaf.

Sugarloaf mountain. A fantastic view. We wondered what Gulliver could have done with Sugarloaf - taking a bite, caressing it or using it as an arm rest?

After spending the morning on Sugarloaf, we decided to chill on Ipanema beach for the rest of the afternoon. The beach is also a long outstretched beach like Copacabana, although not so wide and with more waves. Apparently, the locals prefer Ipanema above Copacabana.

Ipanema beach

We had to go to the supermarket again in order to buy ingredients for the South African meal we promised to cook for Marcos and Ludmilla. Bobotie, sweet potatoes, banana salad and rice were on the menu.¬†I thought it was the best bobotie I’ve ever made –¬†thanks to my mother who sent us a recipe from the “Wenresepte” (we had to make a few adjustments as we couldn’t find the exact ingredients, for example chutney). They also seemed to enjoy it a lot. Ludmilla made some dessert – Brigadeiros, or chocolate fudge truffles, which¬†are what Brazilian kids expect to find at their birthday parties. The dessert is made from condensed milk, butter, and hot chocolate powder. Very delicious!

The next morning we took our first taxi ride to Rio International Airport for our flight to Foz do Iguacu. We arrived 2 hours before our flight and had time to drink some yummy hot chocolate!

My superman, and my super hot chocolate.

On the one hand Rio is just another busy, expensive city with people working and living in it. On the other hand there is something special about the city you won’t be able to find in another place. It’s¬†a beautiful city with proud, friendly and helpful citizens. We were also privileged to experience the¬†hospitality of a wonderful couple¬†who opened their home to us without knowing us or asking anything in return. We are¬†so thankful to Marcos and Ludmilla who made our stay in Rio more special than we could have hoped for.

Hebrews 13:2

2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.