Thursday, December 30, 2010

Last few weeks in South Africa before the trip

27 December 2010 to 2 January 2011

New years week and also this week was the first time where I had my “oh shit” moment, “what the hell am I doing”. I started reading some blogs from fellow riders and also from previous riders, and then you get an idea of the distances we will be doing. Not for the faint hearted. The first week in Egypt is something to the extent of D1 – 128km, D2 – 168km, D3 – 140km, D5 – “only” 98km and then D5 – 140 km. D6 will be a rest day (finally). These are serious distances and for someone that has not even cycled the 94.7 race (famous race hosted by radio station in South Africa where the race is 94.7 km long), this is a serious challenge! Especially for my butt. So aim for this week is that I need to do as much cycling now as possible over the last few days until next week Tuesday (4th Jan), because I am sending my bike to Cairo as unaccompanied luggage with Ubag. Stupid Egypt Air has no sporting goods allowance so I do not have much of a choice, unless I want to pay for overweight luggage, but then it will basically work out the same as another plain ticket. But the problem is that Ubag needs 5-7 working days to deliver it, so plan is to send my bike over a week in advance and hopefully when I arrive in Cairo, it will be there so that I can pick it up (keeping my fingers crossed).

I bought my final few things, so now I have all of my gear (finally and after many a Rand’s later I have to add!). Still wondering about getting that GPS, although it will cost me what half of my bike cost me. I think I am pretty covered in the medicine department and would give Doctor Quinn (the medicine woman on TV) a run for her money with all of my stuff. But I just think I did not have much of a choice. Stranded in the middle of Africa and getting sick is not funny, so rather safe than sound.

I also had a “dummy packing session”. TDA are very strict with the luggage and weight restrictions that we can take. All of the riders are allocated lockers, which they have given the specs to us in an email (50cm wide, 65 cm tall and 85 cm deep). We also have a 46 kg weight limit, which includes everything that you are bringing along like clothes, bike spares, medicine etc, except you bike, spare rims and spare tires (which they will put on the top of the support vehicles). But we also need to take into consideration that whenever you are cycling, all of the rest of your gear also has to fit into this locker. Nothing is allowed to lie around and if it does, or everything cannot fit into the locker, it has to be left behind. No excuses. So 46 kg may seem a lot, but when you start adding tents, sleeping bag, sleeping bag mantras, bike spare parts, loads of medicine to cover 4 months etc, it starts getting filled very quickly. And the other tricky part was also to determine which items, after everything was packed into the two duffel bags and it fitted, would need to be sent with my bike through Ubag, as Egypt Air has the 20kg weight allowance. So this pack was really important for me. I initially bought a 100l and 65; duffel bag at Cape Union Mart, but once I had laid out all of the parts and clothes etc on the bed, I realized that the 65l bag would be to small, so I had to go buy another 100l bag. But after this, the items fitted in quite nicely, with a little bit of space to spare in the bags – which is great, because TDA recommend to use smaller bags to sort the various items and making the use of the locker system easier. For example have a shelter bag, daily clothes bag, repair bag, office bag, electronics bag etc. It just makes using the lockers easier, as 50 riders need to access it each morning and night, so things have to be neatly packed and easy to get in and out.

It was also so nice to meet up with Henno, Liezl and Maya on Tuesday. It was the first time (and only time) that I will see them before the trip, as well as the first time that I had seen Maya – must say, she is SO cute and well behaved. I ended up baby sitting her for a few minutes when Liezl went for a routine scan for their second little baby (congrats on the boy by the why!), and I must admit, very nice (although I was a little scared at first).

Towards the end of the week I had 3 big cycling days! Did 83km on 31 Dec, then 96 km on 1 Jan and then 86 km again on 2 Jan. Man, that was tough going!!! Although physically and mentally a big step in the right direction for me. Due to the constant having to spend time on the bicycle (and the fact that none of my friends are in Pretoria), I did absolutely nothing on new years eve! I think I had about 3 beers with dinner and that was it. But after my cycling session in the morning, it was well worth it. Spending 4 hours cycling with too much booze from the night before does not work. The thing I enjoyed the most about new year was Stephanie sms’ing me as it was heading towards new year in Cayman and then later on I was getting a “live update” over the phone ever hour or so! So nice from her! And very sad that we could not spend new years together. But soon come…… I also received the news on Sunday that Marelie (SA girl riding the tour) was not going to use Ubag anymore (we were both going to send our things over together), so after making some sums and looking at the pros and cons of taking my bike with me on the plane and paying the overweight luggage, I also decided that it was probably better to take ti with me on the plane. A lot less stress and at least I know )of hopefully) the bike will arrive with me in Cairo and I do not have to go and pick it up later, pay agents fees, deal with customs etc…..

Also got my Egypt visa this week, so now all 3 of the visas that I needed to get up front has been sorted! Nice! And I have been in contact with a SA travel magazine, “die Weg”, who might be covering my story or I might do a like a web diary or something. So watch this space…..

3 January 2011 to 9 January 2011
First week of the new year, and no, it still feels the same as 2010 J Definitely feel that the trip is coming closer now, only 2 weeks to go. At least I bought myself some time with the decision to take my bike with me on the plane. I few extra days of exercising will come in very handy.

Had another bike class (ie Bike 102 class), which will be the last one before I head off. The lessons are definitely working, as I am feeling more and more confident about the bike. Not that I will classify myself as a bike expert, but at least I am feeling like I am coming to grips with the basics, which is all I wanted to achieve before I leave. The rest will probably be learn as we go along or just plainly “I don’t know, can anyone help please….”.

It was also our 8 month dating anniversary! Yay! Breaking grounds here J Sorry that I could not spent it with Stephanie, but hopefully many more to come!

Spend Thursday night with Adriaan and Andrea before they headed off to Cayman, and Friday was with Christo and Elmien for a farewell dinner. Also busy stuffing myself full of food that I think I will not be able to get for the next few months nor things that I have not had for a while, including Deboinnar’s pizza, peppermint crisp tart, braaivleis, Windhoek beer. Sunday evening was wonderful; Emile and Erin came over for dinner and mom made a fantastic dinner (Oxtailtail).

By the end of the week, I probably did not do as much exercising as I wanted to do, but I think hopefully all of the hills, training at altitude etc will help a little bit. But ultimately it is probably 70% a mind game and the 30% body (how your body deals with the sitting in a seat for 6 or 7 hours a day). Talking to some people and their consensus is that it is difficult to train for a journey like this, you basically train yourself while you are doing the race (or that is what I hope!).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Back in South Africa, first few weeks

26 November – 28 November
Part II of the holiday. I decided to take the first few days easy. Not worth jumping into everything straight away. I had lots to do, but with all of the traveling and just in general wanting to catch up with family and friends, I decided to leave all of the admin work till this coming Monday (which I knew there was quite a bit to do). Friday evening I just saw Hendri (very good mate) for a few beers before he headed out, I phoned a few people to let them know I was back, watched the Boks beat the Pomps on Satrudy in the rugby and then we had a barbecue at Hendri’s new girlfriend’s house. Very relaxed, but must say, so nice watching SA rugby in SA! Nothing better than the real thing! Sunday afternoon my boet and his wife to be, Erin, invited mom and dad and myself to have….. braai again! Not that I was complaining, the meat is just so much better on charcoal or wood. And already the meat I have had here was better than in Argentina.

29 November – 5 December
It is nuts! The amount of admin work I have to do is crazy! I knew it would be a lot, but I actually realized how I under estimated it. With the South American trip, I litterally had to stop with everything and just leave it until I got back. Now I was back, and there was loads to do! The fact that I still have to get a bike, spare parts, clothes etc is a little worrying. And then add to that I don’t know anything really about bikes, and add to that that I need a new passport and multiple visas, I need to get a cell phone (which is very tricky if you do not have a work), medical insurance etc. The list was just going on and on. I have just been drawing up “to do” list the whole week. I also do not have car, so dad and myself are doing this car pooling thing, which sometimes is fine, but can be annoying of you have lots of places to go to (but I know that is the only way around it). Mom and dad left for Cape Town for 2 weeks, so I have to look after the “kids” (dog and cat). Also met up with Adriaan and I had to go to his bachelors on Saturday night, which ended up being a little less worse than I thought it would be, but still tough and enough where I was man down on Sunday.

6 December – 12 December
At least making progess on this to do list. Medical stuff all sorted, I also decided on my bike and with whom I will buy it (finally). I had my doctor check up and very glad to rapport that there was nothing funny and everything was looking good thus far…... He also gave me a list of prescribed medicine to buy for various things that can occur on the trip (from stomach to cold to flu to skin sores to everything). Hoping that most if it I will not need J Adriaan’s wedding week, so still a few things I am helping him out with, and also still had to write his speech for the wedding. I was doing the best man speech but from a Cayman perspective. As part of the wedding, Ruaan and Christel flew down and they stayed over at my parent’s house for 2 nights. Good fun to see the “Cayman folks” again! Really missing Stephanie a lot now! And still a looong way to go, but at least we managed to sort out the SMS – yay! I was actually quite annoyed last week, as the main reason I got a cellphone was to sms her, but then it did not work for some funny reason (I could receive her sms, but she did not get mine), so I was not impressed with the whole thing. But alas, sorted and it is good being in regular contact with my “liefie”. I also received a gift from her that Francois brought over for me from Cayman. It was a diary of the whole trip for me to update this blog (dankie liefie!), but it had various pictures in of all my friends, all my favorite quotes, little messages, trip broken down into the various stages with pictures etc. When I opened it up at home, and I was alone, I actually started crying. I was just so blown away by her kind and thoughtful gesture, as I could see there was a LOT of love and effort put into this diary. Something I will forever cherish with me!! It was really a special moment for me and I knew someone was rooting for me!  Adriaan and Andrea’s wedding was very nice, and really fun to see the Cayman people (most of them ex) and then also some of the guys I met the previous week at the bachelors. Shame, Adrian was so nervous before and during the wedding. I think he only relaxed once the speech was over. I actually relaxed and enjoyed it as well when I finished with my speech. And I was very glad that I got some really good feedback on it! In all, a great wedding with great friends. I also saw Melanie, Thomas, Lize, Christo and Elmien for pizza on Thursday, so start to catch up with the old school friends a bit more. Ethipia visa also got sorted this week and passport now with Sudan. Put in my first First Ascent order, so things are moving along……. Still need that bike though, the bum needs to get hard (literally!).

13 December to 19 December
YAY, very ironic, on 15 December 2010, exactly one month to go before the journey (not race for me) starts, and I got my bike!!! Finally, must admit, I was getting a bit nervous there. Also ironic is that I got my First Ascent order with my cycling clothes on the same day, so things are going along nicely now. Only thing now is time and the amount that I have to spend on that damn saddle to literally get my bum as hard as nails! Choice of bike, and I think it is very nice, Giant XTC SE 2 2010 18’ White model with some nifty Conti Travel Contact 26 x 1.75 tires (2 sets) and one off road set – from the information I gathered, 75% of the journey will be on a paved road and the other 25% off rode. I also got my first “Bike 101” class from Hilgard at the bike shop (thanks!).

First training session was tricky (on the 16th, the Wednesday), as I am not used to the cleats, so I actually fell twice with my bike when I went out the first time! One just before I even got out of the gate (felt very stupid) and once 2 km’s later – so not a good start to my cycling adventure. But at least managed to have a cycling session everyday from Wednesday until Sunday (although still not sure how I managed that Saturday – met up with an old school friend, Rynou at lunch time on Friday and a few brandy and cokes with some shots later and I was felling like I was tap dancing in George Town! Very early in bed – forced - on Friday night). Butt feeling good under the circumstance. I was a little afraid on second day of training, as I could really feel it, and that was just after one day’s training! But after that it has been doing relatively good (keeping my fingers crossed…..), and I am using that shammy cream everytime!

We had a nice (and relaxed) barbecue at Christo’s house on Monday night (where I also saw Callie for the first time). Also a good lunch with Hendri on the Monday just talking about the typical nonsense. On the 16th, I did my next big shopping spree. Cape Union Mart for tents, cover sheets, sandals etc and bought most of my medicine. The trip is still in line with my budget, but not cheap! I was hoping that I could come under my budget, but for now, I think if I am on it, I will be happy! Also went to Rupesh and Asha’s wedding on Saturday, an Indian wedding, which was first for me. Both of them looked really good in their traditional Indian clothes. I am also really enjoying the great chatting to Stephanie on the phone, so nice to hear her voice and I am really enjoying the time that we can chat now (not sure how much we will be able to do this when I am starting to travel). It is also nice now, because I have more free time and I am a little more relaxed with the knowledge that things are moving along nicely now. I am really enjoying our Skype sessions on Sunday (which involves talking) or during the week (which is typing, because then she is at work, so difficult to talk). So nice when I get a sms from her on a Frday night, “it is not so much fun going out without you…..”.  Then I just read the sms and smiled, I am very lucky indeed!

20 December to 26 December
Christmas week! Yes!!!!!!! (Although that as exciting when I was little, still lots of excitement for me, as this will be my first Xmas back in South Africa in 7 years – I missed 5 being in Cayman and 1 in Detroit).

There was not much going on this week other than cycling and more cycling and more cycling!!! Starting to get into the cycling thing, although I am under no illusion that there are still lots more miles to be ridden! And time spent on that damn saddle. But I am getting there. I can also feel that I am getting slowly but surely bike fit, and that I am managing up hills a lot better – cycling in Waterkloof is not so easy, as most of the terrain is just hills – up and down the whole time – would prefer to do a nice long stretch of juts a flat road. Most (actually all of them) are away for holiday, so it is just me and the bicycle. Must admit, very spoilt at this stage living at home with mom and dad. They are doing most of the chores as well as cooking dinner, so I really appreciate that they are giving me this “off time”. Feels similar to when I was studying, they will provide an easy going environment and be supportive (to try and make it as easy for me),  I just need to put in the hard work with the cycling and sorting out all of the admin. I also received my Sudan visa this week, so just Egypt to go (already have Ethiopia as well). And I also received my second First Ascent order just the day before Xmas – man, there is some really cool gear that I now. Oh, and I also had my Hip B shot, so I have all of my injections now (feel like a junkie when I saw that list again of injections I have had since Cayman for this trip).

Xmas day was SO nice (except for the fact that Stephanie was not there). Emile and Erin came over, and like I said, this was the first time in 7 years that the family was together. So we were only 5 people for Xmas lunch, but it was great! We went to church in the morning and I heard those old Xmas songs that we used sing this time of the year. I know I had a tear in my eye when we started singing it. So many memories came back to me and I realized how long I have been gone. Had a great lunch and I had WAY too much to eat (after I went for my cycle the morning) – 3 plates of lunch, with lots if wine and beer, not a good combo especially after exercising. I was man down in the afternoon and actually slept for 2 hours. So glad I am not Emile and Erin, they had to go to Erin’s dad for Xmas dinner. If I had to eat anything more after that big lunch……

Big thing from cycling perspective is it is going well, but I need to up the distance (or time) on the bike. Saddest things about Xmas was that Stephanie was not here to celebrate it with me. But we did have a very cool conversation over the phone.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Buenos Aires ("BA") - last few days of holiday

19 November 2010
First day in BA and we had to try and figure out what we wanted to see, especially from Stephanie’s perspective, as she was only staying there for 3 more nights before her return flight. BA is not so well know like a Paris or Rio with so many well known sights, so it does take a bit of time reading up and see what we can and wanted to do. After reading though Mariska’s and Rob’s tips (thank’s guys) and then my Footprints, and with the help of a postcard with various sights of BA on it, we figured out what we would do. Plan was to do central BA first on the Friday, Saturday Palermo and Recoleta and then Sunday San Telmo and La Boca. City is pretty easy to navigate with a map and there are a few big landmarks, which help a lot getting your direction right.

Also Milhouse Hostel is located in a great spot! So we headed wets first to the Plaza del Congresso, which as the name implies, is where there Congress meets. Then we walked to the theatre, Colon (which is very famous and many stunning plays have been held there), and then to the Obelisk (like a giant needle) in the middle of the widest street in the world (Avenue 9 de Julio). Then off to Plaza da Mayo and all of the buildings that are in the plaza, including  the famous pink building where Evita’s balcony was – still trying to figure out what she actually did on that balcony (Casa del Gobierno). Then we walked to Peurto Madero, which is like the waterfront area in BA), where we had some lunch and ice cream. After lunch we headed for the shopping street, Avenue Florida, which has leather shops galore (both me and Stephanie bought ourselves a leather jacket). We walked all the way to the end of the street (at Plaza St Martin) and then turned around to look for dinner – where we discovered one of the restaurants of the trip regarding quality of food. We had the most divine Patagonian lamb stew, definitely one of the dishes of the holiday! All in all, a great first day spent well.

20 November 2010
Caught the Metro in the morning (very easy to use and cheap) to go to the Recoleta district to see the very famous Cemetary that they have there (all of the rich and famous of BA are buried there, and all of their graves are also above ground, in these stunning tombs that are carved out). Some fantastic grave stones and some of them were dating back to the 1800’s (Evita is buried here as well). There are quite a few things to see in that Cemetery area, so we decided to have some coffee at one of BA’s most renowned and famous, La Biela, which is also right next to a very old and large tree. It is a very touristy area, with lost of people selling different goods (like a flea market). It was very pleasant to walk around there and take some nice pictures. Then we headed towards Palermo with the metro, but first we walked along avenue Sante Fe, which is also a very large street with lost of shops). Initially we walked in the wrong direction when we got off the station (heading towards the Japanese botanical gardens), but after some deliberation, both Stephanie and myself decided we can skip it (not garden people) and rather head to the more trendy area with nice little funky shops and cafés t sit down and people watch.  Palermo is a place that is very hip and happening – a lot of small restaurants, bars and almost young designer shops.  There was a big party in the square there, with lost of street performers entertaining the crowds. We ended up sitting down at one of the cafees that overlooked all of this entertainment and just had a few beers. There was this band playing acid jazz type of music, which was very cool and appropriate for the moment – they were real crowd pleasers with their music. We then headed to La Cabreara, probably the most famous steakhouse in BA (in Palermo). Getting to the restaurant, it felt more like to trying to get into a club, which was crazy! We made no booking before hand (which is actually a big no-no for that place), so we were put on the waiting list, which because we were there so early, at elast we were more on the top of the list. We decided to wait at this restaurant across the street (I think which gets all of its clients from that place  because of people waiting) and then had to wait for 2 hours before we could get seater (again, we had some more beers). Eventually, after some small talk and “I am a tourist and this is my only chance that I can eat here”, we got a table (the place still felt at this stage like I was trying to get into a club). Steak we had was good (ribeye), but still it did not blow me away, and I do not think worth the queues etc. Probbaly with all of the hype, I was expecting this out of this world steak. The “best Argie” steak is still eluding me! We walked a very long road back in order to try and get to the station, only to be told that the metro was closed – dammit! If someone only could have told us this, it would have saved us some time! Still a great day.

21 November 2010
We headed to San Telmo area, which on Sundays are lined up full of street markets (especially along
Defensa street
and Derrengo Plaza). Loads of different goods that people were selling, but very nice to walk along the streets on a Sunday afternoon. We were advised not to go to La Boca (specifically to Carninito streets), because it is one of the more dangerous areas in BA, and with a football game being played that day (Boca Juniors football team), the locals will be out having a few drinks getting ready for the game (they have very passionate supporters). So we decided that we would go with the hostel to a Boca Juniors game (which was basically listed on all of the travel guides as a must to see – very cool atmosphere the crow creates and lost of singing). Took the bus and it dropped us off at a local Boca bar/club to “gets us in the mood for the football”, playing load Boca music and also providing beers! The game itself was  bit weird at first, because we though we were whatching the first team play, and the stadium was basically empty, but then after they left (they only play a half), the actual match started and the stadium was very full and noisy (so I could not understand at first why the people were coming to the game only at half time, mean time it was actually the start of the game!). Really good atmosphere and the crowd really get into the football, especially were we were sitting. Now I understood why seeing  a Boca game was a must! Boca Juniors is also Maradonna’s old club before he played in Europe, so they idolize him here! Really great experience (my first football match) and some of these fans will put the rugby supporters back him to shame with their passion and they just go on and on sigining and clapping for the full 90 minutes, and they stand all the time as well. They only time they sit is half time! Stephanie was leaving tomorrow, so at the end of the day, it was also sitting on both of our minds, the holiday was coming to an end and it will be very long before we see each other again….

22 November 2010
Woke up and feeling sad, but we knew it was coming, Stephanie’s holiday had come to an end unfortunately. Actually, both of us were sad, but we know it has to happen in order for this whole thing to move forward. I went with her to the airport (there was no way I was letting her go by herself). At the airport, both of us said our goodbyes (which I hate) and we had our moments on different occasions when we shed some tears. I also recall a good Nickleback song playing in the McDonalds which said, “if today was your last day……” – cant remember the whole songs words, but very cool and fitting for the moment. Took the shuttle bus back to the hostel, and I was feeling a bit lonely, but met a nice Swedish girl who had just traveled to BA to meet up with her friends, so she wanted to know lost of information about BA, which I could tell her, and it made my ride back less sad and a little easier. I decided to go to Colonia (Uruguy) tomorrow, and kept myself busy in the afternoon doing blog entries (which I was a lot more behind that I thought I was). Went for dinner that afternoon by myself, and just kept myself busy with more blog entries. The one thing I had noticed about traveling alone, it is fine traveling around alone, but having dinner alone sucks! At the end of the day, it still also did not sink in completely, but I was not going to see Stephanie for another 6 months, which is a long time.

23 November 2010
Last full day in BA and woke up early (and feeling weird being alone for the first time again) to go to pier to get the ferry from BA to Colonia for a day trip. (Fortunately) it did not work out, as I missed the quick boat that takes 1 hour to get there, so I would have to take the slow boat, which takes 3 hours to get there! And because of the time that I would have arrived there, I would have to take the slow one back again, which meant that I would have to travel for 6 hours in one day – and that felt like it would be a waste and that I had enough flying ahead of me. I also phoned Mariska and she advised me to rather leave it as well, it would not be worth it. So I decided to do the La Boca walking tip with the hostel, which includes visiting the Boca Juniors stadium and museum. There was a lot more people that did the trip in the end, and while I was waiting in the foyer, I met an American from LA, ________, and we started talking (his parents both from Egypt). He was at the beginning of his travels, and because he did not have a clear cut plan, he was bouncing  a lot of questions off me. The tour started at Boca Juniors Stadium, and then the museum (which was not that impressive). Then we were taken to one of the stands, which is a little different if the stadium is filled with people vs if it is just empty (like now). It is also defiantly Maradonna place this, everywhere pictures, posters, paintings of their hero. Then we walked to a rstaurent in la Boca where we had some lunch and I had my first parilada (basically a place of barbecued meat with almost everything on it – including some very weird stuff that no one on our table could get down their throats – if this was Fear Factor, we would loose badly!).The table I was on, was with 3 crazy Ozzie guys, and 3 Ozzie ladies, but they were traveling in different groups (half of the people in the hostel were from Oz). Again, we had a few very good laughs and I saw how easily I get along with them. After lunch, we walked to the famous
Caminito Street
in La Boca, where all of the houses and walls are these different colors (painted like in blocks of different colors). Loads of activity in this street, which was very touristy, almost too much. And I saw my only “live’ tango show in this street (which was still a bit cheesy). Walked around and took some pictures and then took the public bus back to the hostel. I picked up our leather jackets that we had bought and had to pre pack my backpack to see if it would fit in, otherwise I would need to go and buy and extra bag. In the evening, I basically did nothing, as I was all “tourist” out by this stage. Pretty excited that I was flying back, and that after 5 years working abroad, and 2 months traveling, I would be heading back home to SA!

24 November 2010
Woke up feeling very excited!! Really had very little to do, so I decided to go to Aerolineas head office close by and give them a piece of my mind and complain about their bad service and flight delays (I literally had the whole day to kill, as my flight was only leaving 11 at night). There was at least a helpful lady that listened to me and my complaints, but we will see if something is going to come from it. Checked out at the hostel (left my bags there) and then went to the most famous coffee shop in BA, Café Tortoni, which opened in 1858, so the interior of the place is very grand and the people literally queue outside to get it. The coffee shop is the oldest in the country and surrounded by wooden walls, and besides its oak and marble tables, some very famous politicians and businessman have wined and dined here. Had a brilliant lunch there, French sandwich, covered with ham, cheese and blue cheese meted over – great way to end the last lunch in BA! After lunch I wanted to do the city tour, but because it was all booked out till about 3pm, I decided that I would walk around St Martin plaza, which was very pleasant (and hot). After that went to the internet just to get the time over. When we finally had t go to the airport, I was like a little kid, SO excited! Met a very nice British lady that lives in Cape Town in the que, and very interesting lady that had some great stories and we got along really well. So well, the queing felt that it actually wnet by very quickly! I had my last stint and lost it with Areolineas (again) when I went to do a claim at their offices at the airport, but by that time I just had enough of them and wanted to forget about them. Much rather looking forward to the flight back home!

And so it was, holiday Part I coming to an end, now for Part II………….
25 November 2010
Plane was pretty empty, so we had enough space that I could lie down (flew with Air Malaysia). With the help of two sleeping pills, had a very solid sleep on the plane, which I normally struggle with. Arrived in SA, Cape Town and it felt pretty surreal. Back after so long! Immigration went very quickly and then I was onboard to get my flight to Johannesburg.
Just before we landed in JHB, I had my moment and shed a tear of joy, so nice being back. I also found it fitting to play a song from my Itouch when the captain said we were preparing to land. I thought “Eye of the Tiger”, one of my favorite songs, was very appropriate for this moment. And I had a huge smile as we were landing. So nice to see mom and dad!!!!

Wow, after 1.5 months traveling, it was a blast. So glad about the twp portions of the trip, the one traveling by myself, which put me out of my comfort zone, which was great and something that I needed, especially for the trip that was coming up in Africa, and then the other part traveling with Stephanie, which was so nice spending 3 weeks together and getting to know here even better. We had some fantastic moments and saw some breathtaking things! I am truly very lucky and blessed! Now, where is that bicycle???

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bariloche and El Calafate (Argentina)

13 November 2010
Got up at the house and we took it extremely easy. The flight was at 2pm, so plan was to have lunch at the airport and use our food voucher. Stephanie also phoned Adriaan to get an internet sight so we could whatch the first half of the Bok test against Wales (not too exciting stuff). Arrival at airport and booking in went surprisngly easy and there were no hickups. We managed to get a stunning view of the Andes as we started to ascend and it kept going for quite a while. There was one very high one, which I believe was probably Anconcugua. All in all, a really nice flight with a clear sky and stunning view of mountain tops covered with snow. Bariloche is a stunning litte town on the edge of a lake and has one of the best ski resorts in South America (so even more annoyed that we missed the one day there). It reminds me a lot to a Swiss Alps ski town, lost of houses with a unique stone and wood architecture, chocolate shops etc. We arrived in the afternoon, so we immediatly booked our excursion for the next day and then tried to see as much of the town as possible on foot. We stayed at the TangoInn, which was a very nice hostel and we ended up with a great view on the lake and hight up against the mountain on the lake. While walking around town, you do get the impression that in ski season the place will be extremely busy. We had a very nice Swiss cheese fondue for dinner and for dinner, jip, more chocolates (and you are allowed a samle when you walk into the shops as well).

14 November 2010
Went to the Nahuel Huapi National Park for our day excursion. The place is filled with beautiful landscapes, composing of lakes forests and snow capped peaks (oldest park in Argentina). We were in a bus driving around and looking at the landscape. Also some interesting people on the bus and our tour also included a hike up to a waterfall. The afternoon we stopped at Cerro Trenedor, the highest mountain in the area (3478m). It was named this, becasue of the thounderous sounds made by the chunks of ice falling off the glacier (which I saw and heard and yes, it does sound like thunder). In all, a very nice day and we went back to the same restaurant as the night before but this time we both had some trout, which was also extremely good (and I ended up with a big bowl of ice cream for desert at one of the local ice cream shops - the ice cream here is also devine!). Mental note, visit Bariloche in ski season, it should be brilliant!

15 November 2010
We hoped that Aerolineas could deliver on our first fligth that would work out according to the booking (and yes, it did! Could not believe it). El Calafate is a smaller town than Bariloche, but it definately has more trekking activities than Bariloche. There is just one main street, but the town is expensive for Argentina standards and "tourist" prices are applied to everything. We are staying till Thursday afternoon, so we have the most time of all the cities, except in BA. Tried to book soemthing in the afternoon, but there are not a lot of half day excursions. Most of it is for full days. But in the end, we booked a trip to El Chalten the next day, and then a BigIce trip to Perito Moreno glacier and then a half day 4x4 trip.  So we spent the afternoon just exploring the town and walking about. The sun only goes down here at 10pm, so activities can be done till late and dinner normally only starts at 9pm. I booked a dinner through the hostel, 55 pesos, and it was a eat all you can barbecue with side dishes. It also tasted very good and this was the first proper barbecue I have had until now (cant believe it took so long). Just before dinner, we also took a walk down to the flamengo lagoon and we managed to get some great pictures. Met very nice guy from Morocco, Medhi, who was also travelling by himself. Medhi was also going to El Chaltan in the evening, so we decided that we would do the walks etc together for the day.

16 November 2010
Got up early and to take the 3 hour bus ride to El Chalten (smaller town than El Calafate). The town is in the park Los Glaciers (yes, you guessed it, there are numerous glaciers in the park). The bus ride there and back for a day bascially gives you 6 hours to do whatever trekking you please. All of the passes are well marked (or so they say, although the initial to get to the starting point is not) and you can do your own walking, just keeping track of time. Medhi was also doing the day trip, so he walked with us. We decided that we would do the Fitz Roy viw point trek first and if time permitted it, do the Cerro Torre (the two mountain ranges), although everyone said that it will not be possible in 6 hours. First we got lost in town and actually ended up taking the wrong route (like I said, not everything was well marked....). Then we started walking to the view point of Fitz Roy, which one way according to the locals should take 2 hours. It is a lovely walk with nice scenery, and we ended up getting there after 1 hour. I think we were keeping a good pase and we also had the beenfit that we did not have big back packs (which make a big difference). Unfortunately the view to the Fitz Roy mountain was a bit overcast which made it difficult for good sightseeing. We then walked back and decided that we would attempt Cerro Terro as well, giving ourselves a cut off time. The map said 1.5 hours to reach, but I thought that based on our previous walk, we could beat it. We started walking at decided that on this route, no matter where we are, we have to turn around 4.30 pm, which would give us 1 hour to get back and then half hour to get bus back at 6pm. We made the walk in 45 minutes! But again, the view was a bit dissapointing, as it was very foggy, although it did clear up a bit later. All 3 of us were quite tired at the end of the day, and we covered a lot of ground in little time. Bus ride back and we decided to try the famous Patagonian lamb, which ended up being a big dissapointment (again the meat!). The meat was very rough and difficult to chew, and this was suppose to be at one of the better restaurants in town! I was getting desperate for that elusive Argentina steak!

17 November 2010
Big, big day for us! We were going to the Perito Moreno glacier! This has to be one of the most famous sites in Argie, and one of the more famous glaciers in the world! The pictures we have seen are stunning and the stories of people that have been there were even better, with many people describing it as the highlight of their trip. The weather was looking good, so the trip was on and both me and Stephanie quite excited about the trip. It worked it better that we did the El Chalten trip first, as it gets your legs used to the walking that we will be doing. It was a 1.5 hours drive from town to the park with the bus. We were getting very excited in the bus ride, and I have to admit, I just love this Patagonia area (with Torres del Paine in Chile). We were going to do the Big Ice trip, which would entail walking along the glacier on steps (most of the tourist do this), from one side to the other (only the front part of the glacier, as it stretches for km`s in), then take ferry ride to island which is also basically next to the glacier, and then do some good old fashioned ice walking/trekking on the glacier to the centre spot of it (will be for around 3 hours walking on top of the glacier with crampons on). The first sight we had from the glacier was with the bus ride, and it was amazing! What a sight and one of my highlights of the trip and ranks right up there with Iguazu Falls! You will not find anything like this in Africa! It is just an endless stretch of gigantic ice with the occasional thunderous sounds of ice breaking off and falling into the lake. We did the walk along the path for about an hour, getting various great view of the glacier from the side, and then the ferry ride was also a good experience, with different views again. Once we arrived on the island, we had to take another hike for about an hour effectively next to or along the glacier, as we walked to get to a point where we could start walking on the glacier itself in order to get to the middle spot to have our lunch. It was very weird at first to put crampons on and walk on it, but as I realized later on, those are essential if you want to do some trekking on the ice. Saying that, once you do a bit of walking and the guides show you some technique, you get the hang of it (sort of). Our group was split into 2, so we had 2 tour guides per group. I am still a bit puzzled about how they actually navigate on the ice, because I could not figure out where we were. But the whole ice walking was pretty surreal and very special, not something a boytjie from Africa or the Caribbean to on a daily basis! It is one of the most dramatic and beautiful sights that I have ever seen in my life. The way you see the ice just for km’s ahead, and then how the scenery changes in front of you as well. And you can also take the coolest pictures as well. All I can say is WOW!!!!! We walked to the centre of the glacier and then turned around and walked a different route back (which at times was quite difficult places to walk on). The lunch in the middle was also great! It was also very nice to take the crampons off our shoes at the end, and suddenly our feet felt so much lighter! We hiked back to the base camp on the islands, and then had the traditional shot of whiskey on the boat heading back to the mainland park and bus. Wow, what a fantastic day and something I would recommend to anybody. I have been pretty lucky with the scenery that I have seen on this trip, but this one was right up there!

18 November 2010
We decided to do the half day trip, just because of the way that our flight worked out and also to keep ourselves busy in the morning (so basically a “time filler”). In the end, the trip turned out to be a bit snorny, but met a nice couple from Brazil and also saw Lake Argentina, which gets a lot of its water from the Perito Morino area. Surprise, surprise, when we got back after the trip, our flight was cancelled (again). Later on it was put back on, but only flying later in the evening, so we actually could have done a whole day trip instead of a half day trip. So the stupid airlines caused us delay again! And to add further insult, our direct flight from El Calafate to BA was late and also flew first toUshuaia (most southern city in the world) and then only to BA. So we got there at 4:30 am in the morning, and then went to bed at 5 am! (man, I hate this airline!!!). The hostel we are staying in, Hostel Milhouse however looks great and the rooms super nice and spacious!

Mendoza (Argentina)

10 November 2010
Arrived something like 3 in the morning (thank you supid Aerolineas) and we sayed in the Monkey Inn Hostel (where I had a little inceden with the toilet and managed to block it). Because we arrived so late, we could not book any excursions the day before, or at least the excursions hat start early in the morning, so a "walking around day and getting to know the city day it would be"! We will leave the wine tasing for tomorrow....The town reminds me a lot about Stellenbosch, student town in SA, where wine is king as well. The place is also a lot bigger than I was expecting it to be. Stopped over at a nice coffee shop (Havana Cafe) for a great cookie and fabolous coffee. Stephanie was looking around for clothes, and I was walking in and out of the hiking shops getting information on Aconcugua (highest mountain in South America). I was really just a chill out day. Biggest dissapointment of the day was he steak a ordered in the evening for dinner, which was terrible. Big let down!

11 November 2010
It was wine tasing day today! We decided on Mr Hughes wine tasting, as this was the recommendation that I go from Richard. The bus to Mr Hugo was a real pain in the back side and took a lot longer than I had anticipated, meaning we would have less time to get through all of our vinyards and tasting. The wine area was very weird, and completely not what I was expecting. It is also located ouside of town, but in a very what seems to be a dirty and poor area. The wine tasting basiclaly works that you rent a bike and then bike to the various vinayrds and slurp away on the wine. Cycling around on he rode was a bit dodgy, as the roads are very small and there was a constant stream of trucks and cars driving bye pretty quick, so not the best area to be cycling (let alone with wine in your system as well). The smart move is to cycle to the furthest vinyard and then make your way back to Mr Hughes. First time on the trip with Stephanie that we met some South Africans at the wine tasting, which we had a very nice chat to. Our trip started around 2pm, and the vinayards close it 6pm, and in the end, we could only visit 3 (our plan was to do 5). When we finsihed at Mr Hugo´s, ge have us some really cheap red wine which later really hit me for a 6. Also trying to go out for meat and wine in the evening afer a wine tasting is not a god idea and would not recommend! In general, the wine quality was very good and cheap. I also blocked the toilet (again)..... I am however still looking for the perfect Argentina steak.....

12 November 2010
Because of all of the mess with our flighs, I headed to the Aerolineas office in town to confirm our flights. Surprise, surprise, the fligh from BA to Bariloche was cancelled (we were travelling to BA and then to Bariloche the same day). So the lady could at leats give us a direct flight from mendoza to Bariloche, but it meant we had to saty another day in mendoza and loose out on a day in Bariloche (which both of us were not happy about, as there is no much else to do in Mendoza other than drink wine, which we have had more han enough at this stage). We got some free vouchers for dinner and accomodation that night. The owner of the hostel put us up at his bb in town, which was nice becasue it had a pool, nice nig bed, kicthen etc... There was not much to do this day as we bascially already saw and did everything we waned, so we ended up having another chil day (which was good afer the heavy day of wine drinking the day before). I just collcted the laundry in town and then we headed for a few casual beers at 6. Ended up staying a lot later than planned and only left around 12 ish (at least having a better steak this time). Amazing to see how late people go to dinner here in Argie, where people will still come sit down at 11pm to have dinner (normally the time I am in bed!). And the other weird thing mnetioning, is the siesta in Mendoza. Everything shuts down from 11 to about 3 or  in the afternoon, as people are taking their sleep (apperently the weather is too hot to work during his time - please, do not come to Cayman!)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Iguazu Falls (Argentina)

7 November 2010
After great dinner the nigth before at this excellent buffet restaurant, we headed to the airport with high hopes. But when we got to the airport, it was a bit chaotic - the domestic airport was closed for construction, so we had to go to the interntaion airport. Becasue of the stupid book in procedures they have (tahnk you Aerolineas), we missed our flight for the morning and had to get another fligth in the afternoon, which was cutting into our Iguazu time. Again, not ideal, but not much you can do at that stage. At least we got some more vouchers for lunch :) Arrived late in the afternoon at Hostel Inn, which was a very nice hostel, but more like a mini hotel (not that we were complaining after the Rio accomodation). We took the bus to town (hostel is just outisdeof it) so we could get some much needed cash. Not much to do except chill for evening and then come up with a plan on how to maximize our time at the Falls and try and see both sides (our time was cut down from having two full days to see the Falls, to now just a day and 3 hours).

8 November 2010
Off to the Brazil side of the Falls. We though this would be the best, as our flight was the lunch time the next day, so if there were any delays etc, then it should rather be on the Argie side than on Brazil side. Took a bus to the Falls at Brazil side, having to stop to get our passport stamped out of Argie and in Brazil. Met a nice german couple that was also going to visit our side. Argies side is known to be better, but the way that it worked out, it was a good choice to do the Brazil side first. Once gets a more general overview of the falls, not so much in detail, but a nice perspective, and then the Argie side is more detail. But both sides offer different views and I would certainly recommend to see both sides, you will not waste your time or moeny. The Brazil sides view almost reminded me of the Sugarloaf view, as it gives you this total perspective, which is what I prefer more. Because of time contrainsts, we cut down on all of the other excursions available (like speed boat, trekking etc) and just went for the main thing, the water falls. The view of the Falls was stunning, and is really something to look at. I feel quite privellaged that I have also been able to see the other great waterfall in South America, Angel Falls. Aslo the funny thing was that everyone was willing to take photos of me and Stephanie (a couples worst thing, because most photos only have one of us in, diffcult to get both of us in or in general the people we ask just take crap pictures) - and the pics came out very nice. The Falls have been shortlisted on the Natural Seven Wonders of the World, and I am sure after seeing it, it will either be among them or come very close.

Then took bus back at 13:00 to go to the Argie side, or a section of it (because of our time constraints). We decided that we would do Devils Throat, which is the main thing on the Argie side, and you need to use a tram to get to it. Met a very nice Bristish brother and sister traveling, Ricarhd, who has been travelling for a year, and then his siste, Isla, who is just stated with her travels. Both Stephanie and myself were a bit sceptical of the view from the Argie side at first, just becasuse we saw the Brazil side, but we were both very revlieved that the view was completely different, and again, stunning!!! A great day of sightseeing were we were just so luckly to see this (I compare it to similiar to the Rio day when we saw the Christ statue and Sugarloaf). Wow.

9 November 2010
Pretty tight morning with just a 3 hours to see the rest of the Argie side of Falls and then get our flight back to BA onwards to Mendoza. There is definately more waling routes available on the Argie side, but we just decided to stick ot the basics again, and do the routes with the falls in (there are also jungle ruites etc).  The view again was stunning, but unfortunately after the first upper section, the rain started coming down (the day before was perfect waether, today was very overcast). We decided to leave the other route we had planned to do, as this one takes you to the bottom portion of the falls (our previous on was a view from the top), and we believed that we saw the best sectiosn of the Falls. After some mishaps with the stupid train in the park, (we only realised afterwards that you actually have to get off at one station on the track and get onto another train to go to the main exit gates) we arrived at the gate, ran our butts off to catch the 11:15 bus so we could make it to the hostel in time and catch a taxi at 12 to the airport (well worked out). Stephanie had this weird feeling the whole time that the flights or one of them would be cancelled ro delayed. Unfortuantley she was right! Our flight to Mendoza was cancelled and instead of flying at 19:30, we would now be flying at 22:30. Vouchers here we come again! Not a good track reecord thus far with Aerolenias, 3 flights, all 3 a mess! Hopefully some better luck from here on it with the flights! At least now I have some time to update this blog :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rio da Janeiro and Parati (Brazil)

30 October 2010
Met a very nice guy from Chile and his girlfriend that were on their way to Ri for the long weekend. he gave me some helpful hints about Rio and also some safety tips and also some quick Portugese lessons. However, when I arrived at the hostel, what a shocker! Crummy little place and a misundertsanding on hostel world website, I thought I had booked for 2 people, but they gave me a one bed room, which was more like a prison. And my shared bathroom was also not that high tech. Litterally the shower was same place as the toilet..... So needless to say I was not going to sit up with this accomodation and it was a problem for 2 people to stay there.  So I sat up till 3am that morning trying to look for new accomdoation until Thursday, when we would be going to Parati. This hostel room costs 85 real per nigth (so it is approx 60USD per nigth) and I can honestly say this was the worst place that i have ever slept in for that price. But I had to do it for one night.

Woke up at 6 in the morning, as the kitchen is basiclaly next to my "room". But very excited, as Stephanie was only a few hours away (I was like a little kid waiting to open his present). I unfortunatley had to take a shower in the toilet, while some people was eating in the kicthen, not cool! I was feeling very negative at that stage, as I was not happy with the hostel and I was struggling to find a place to stay at a reasonable price (everything was booked for that weekend). I managed to find accomodation in Copacana at Hotel Atlantico, which was in total only 85 USD more expensive over 3 nights that the hostel stay would have worked out, but the comparison in quality between the two could not be more different (like a Porsche and old skedonk - honestly)! But I had to wait for Stephanie to get to Rio before I could make the booking. What seemed like hours from the time that she told me she would land (it was only 1 hour and 20 minutes later) she arrived! Finally!!!! Wow, it was such a nice feeling and I was so glad to see her again after this long. I showed her the room, she had a good laucgh, and then we made the booking.

We just walked around on the stunning beaches of Copacabana and worked out our plans of sights to see and things to do in Rio (which there are quite a few). Topped off the evening by having a great dinner at a Brazilian steakhouse, which is basically all you can eat meat! The meat was off very good quaility and we both had quite a bit to eat. One thing to note thought that we very quickly realized, Rio is expensive!

31 October 2010
Woke up in hotel (lot better than the night before) and had a great breakfast (best one thus far on the trip). And yes, I was extremely happy with our update that we made!  We decided on doing the Chist the Redeemer statue in the morning, and then head off to Flamengo Park and then to Sugarloaf Mountain (similiar to Table Mountain in Cape Town). Took a taxi to the base on the statue in the morning, and made use of the busses uop to the top (you can als use this railway vehicle). First stop was at a heli pad, which was a nice appetizr for the view that was about to come. Both of us were really looking forward to this, as both of us thought this would be one of the highlights of the trip! And I can honestly say that it was, the view from the statue is amazing and just the statue itself is also very nice. It is really one of those things that you just have to try and see if you possible can. Stunning!!!! One tricky thing was that it was quite difficult to get in a clear picture of the statue and yourself, without having other people in it!. It was also just nice to observe the view and take in the moment, so we styaed for a while (the statue probably had the best view possible if I can think of a few around the world). After that off to Flamengo Park, where we walked along the beach front to Sugarloaf, which ended up being a VERY long walk. It was however very nice, as you get a different view from Sugarloaf, which reminded me more and more about Table Mountain as we got closer and you can see the cable cars to the top. It takes 2 cars to get to teh top, but once there, again, the view is spectacular. The thing i enjoyed was that it gives you a very good indictaion of how Rio looks, as you get a view from the sea in towards the land area.We wanted to saty for sunset, but unfortauntey the weather did not play along. We did however see the city light up, as we satyed there at the top form 4 to 7 pm, and had a great beer at the top (with great company!). It was truley a fantastic day and one that i will remember for a very, very long time. And it was so nice to spend it with great company!

1 November 2010
We had the hanglgiding booked for 11 the morning, but the waether did not look very good. And later our fears were confirmed, as the hang glidign was cancelled for the day (and it is acually a pain, as we only heard the news very late, so we alreayd missed a whole morning). So we decided to do a Vavela tour instead, which is basically the slums of Rio (see the movie City of God, very good and you get a good idea of how live is in the Vavela). Still great having Stephanie with me, and I did not really mind the trips not working out as planned (or hoped). The Vavela tour in the afternoon was very interesting, as it reminded me a lot of back to home in South Africa (where you have this big devide between rich and poor). There was a number of similiarities between these here and those back home (although I do think the people here are better off than back home - not proud of it though!). We had a very good and informative guide, and we were also not allowed to pictures that were we wished (the people selling drugs think you are taking pictures of them). The tour included going to a good and bad Vavela. Some intertsing things that we were told, some being that people in the Vavela do nto have an adress, so the are quite imagantive in getting their post, their is a law in Brazil that states that if you live in a place for 5 years, soemone cannot kick you off that property, so you get living rights, but still not property rights. Afterwards we had some beers at one of the many seaside cafes in Copa that sell beer (although there was not a lot of poeple there because of the waether).

2 November 2010
Woke up early to pack for Parati and also so that we could do the hang gliding in the morning. Again, the waether did not look to good, but this time it was a go ahead. The guy collected us at 10am sharp, and then off to the top of the mountain.... (apperantly the wind direction was perfect for hang gliding in the morning, but because it was quite cloudy and a bit of fog, the view not that great). But this our last chance to do it, so we were not left with much of a choice. We aslo wanted to go to Centro afterwards (centre of the city), but because itr was a public holiday, we were advised not to go (street kids smoke crack and get very high and agressive). The jump was great! Stephanie went first and I was second. I had a very good instructor which was one of those crazy guys (he had been in SA surfing the garden route). The initial view from the ramp where you take off was very foggy, and unfortunately not good, but once you clear that, it was stunning! I could see the whole beach line. Probably sounds stupid, but yes, I felt like a bird! I think my instructor was better than Stephanie°s, because mine was a lot more focussed on getting good pcitures while we were hang gliding, where as Stephanie ended up with very very few pictures (and she was not happy about that). The only thing that was not that good was the price, which ended up with pics and video at 390 real - ouch! We had the bus trip in the afternoon to Parati, with Stephanie almost sleeping the whole way. Arrived at nice hostel, Che Lagarto, and ended up going to a very nice restaurant the evening and having a very good pizza (which would serve as lunch for the next day as well).

3 November 2010
Parati is a town on the coast of Brazil, west of Rio (about 4 hours with the bus and very nice scenic route along the coast). We decided that we would just have a chill day, and not do any excursions, but rather just walk around and see the old part of the city, which has been coppled stone streets (reminds me a lot about Antigua in Gautemala). We were basically just walking around the town trying to take some pictures and now and then have the occsional beer (why not, we are on holdiay!). We also brought some nice souvenirs.It was also a very special day for the two of us, as we have now been going out for 6 months! Yay!!!!!!!! We ended up going to a restaurant, and went for the slightly cheaper option for food, just becasue Rio really put us back a bit, but in the end, the dinner was actually ddissapoitning (soemtimes you do get what you pay for when tryin gto go down a slighly cheaper route). In all, it is a pleasant town and you only need one full day to see everything (exlcluding doing any excursions).

4 November 2010
Took the bus back to Rio in the morning, and we actually realised the busses on Rio run on a very strict timeframe (we were a few minutes late, and the bus was actually on time, so we missed our bus and had to wait for the next one, although when it arrived, we thought it was stil our initial bus!). Lesson learnt in Brazil and busses. Arrived back in Rio in aftrenoon and tyhis time we stayed in Ipanema beach (hostel Karisma). We spent the afternoon just wlaking around the beach, with more people being on it because of the nice waether. Walked to the edge of Copa and Ipanema, which is like a corner, where there was quite a few people that was looking at the sunset (which was fanstastic). It felt very nice being back in the city again and Ipanema definately has more restaurants and bars than Copa does. We had some cold ones at one of the beach shops and whached some people play volleyball. Also had a very nice and cheaper dinner that evening, baby chicken in a garlic sauce. We were also luckly because we got an upgrade at our hostel, because of a leak in the floor, we were put in a 4 bed room, but only the two of us were staying in it (so it is bigger - nice!).

 5 November 2010
Last full day in Rio. Decided we would go to Centro (middle of city) for a walk around town. We used the metro, which was very easy, cheap and convenient to use. It is a pretty new metro.We also went to the supermarket the previous evening and made a nice lunch for ourselve. We actually got off at the wrong station (bioth of us were not concentrating were to get off), so we ended up having to do quite a bit of wlaking to get to the pleces where we wanted to start off at. There were some old buildings in the city, but nothing really that stood out for us. But you do get the feeling walking through the city that it is not a place to walk around after dark. Also wnet to Santa Theresa (section of Rio), which is best viewed from a little tram (ala San Francisco) that you take. Going up on the tram does offer some very nice views and luckily there was also a French guide witha tour group that helped us a bit as well (she knew exactly were we were going, were to get off etc). The tram could not go all the way to the end, because of some electricity problems. We also had a littel mini breakdown, and if it was not for that lady, both of us would not have known what was going on. She was kind enough to show us the get off stop for the famous stairs in Rio, Escadaria Selaron. Long line of steps with tiles of various forms and patterns on, and it makes for some really pretty photos. Afterwards we headed back to Ipanema, as boit of us wanted to spend more time on the beach again.

We walked to Lebon in the afternoon, and both of us had some great frozen yogart. Walked in the streets looking at some shops (Stepahnei bought some earbells etc at one of the shops), and the along the beach back (this time in the water, wanted to get a feel for the temperature of the sea water). What amazed us both was the number of people on the beach, all locals, on a Friday, but around 4pm. Does nobody work around here? And it is very apparent that Brazillians love games involving balls, as all along the beach, you would see people with balls (football, volleyball, bat and ball etc). You can also see why they are so good in football if I look at some of the people skills.... We whatched the beach for a few hours, and it is very nice to see how tailored the beaches are fro sport, with playing facilities being provided all over (nets etc). The people of Rio live a very healty lifestyle. The evening we spent going to a great Mexican restaurant, and we decided that we would not go to the locals hotspot, Lapa, becasue of the time that the bus would go there and also having to make our flight the next day. We also had to move back to ourt first room ,which was very small.

6 November 2010
Our flight to BA was delayed  from the morning to the afternoon, and our Iguazu Falls flight for the same day cancelled. So we would have to stay overnigth in BA, and then fly the Sundaty from BA to Iguazu. Not great, but at least our travel dates allowed us a little flexibility and also we got some very nice vouchers from the airline, Aerolienas Arhentinas. Free buffet lunch (great!) and free accomodation in BA for the night, with transport and dinner paid for as well! But Rio was great, and a fanstastic city to visit. One can easily see why it is the most visited city in the Southern Hemisphere! It does have the wow factor!