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Jodes and Tay escape to SA
JodesAndTay's Travel Blog

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Starbucks me up a big one

Lima, Peru

This is going to be a mini-entry because Lima was pretty much just a city and our visit was fairly tame, so for once you won´t have to trawl through loads of waffle, hilaaaarious anecdotes or toilet chat. Obviously our geography isn´t up to scratch because we were pleasantly surprised to find that Lima is in fact on the coast and we were staying in Barranco a trendy little district on the clifftop overlooking the sea. We headed straight to Mireflores to the mall which has been built into the cliff face and is full to the brim of expats and backpackers who flock there for one reason, and one reason only. Starbucks. Sweet delicious frappucino, vanilla soy latte, chai and white mocha filled Starbucks. We know it is the ultimate in unoriginal and a fair few travelly wavelly hippie types would tell us that hitting up a Starbucks in Peru is soooooo tragic, but when the frappucinos are that good, who gives a shit? Three months without a proper coffee hit had really taken its toll and so we drank our mocha/latte fixes in a bit of a delirious frenzy. Just as good as we remember.

It was at this Starbucks that we met back up with our favourite aussie girl, Cill and started planning our next steps. She was heading to the Galapagos, but considering we aren´t exactly matching Victoria Beckham´s bank balance we were well and truly dashing all secret hopes to also visit the Galapagos and instead planned to get a flight to Colombia asap. This wasn´t as easy as it sounded because the website kept crashing and the flight agency was a million miles away in the business district which is locked in by a maze of huge disgustingly busy motorways. Bar the coastal areas of Mireflores and Barranco Lima is NOT an attractive city. Anyway, the flight booking ballache all over and done with we relaxed on our final day in Lima by heading to the central plaza and having a nosey round. We found a book fair going down outside the Government building and so went to top up our reading materials. This is where we ran into an admiring hoard of school children who literally stood next to us and stared and giggled for about 20 long awkward minutes. Jodie looked away for two minutes to study a book in closer detail and when she turned back, Tay was standing in the middle of the school children having her photo taken. God, a little bit of attention from some 8 year old Peruvian kids and she thinks she´s Heidi Klum or something. Tay also managed to score a couple of kisses on the cheek from a couple of the pluckier members of the group and one declaration of love. Result. After being trailed by the kids for ten minutes round the book fair and feeling a little bit like Lindsay Lohan trying to escape a knicker-shot from the paparazzi we left the Government building and headed back to the plaza where we ran into some Policemen all holding quite frankly, mahusive machine guns. They insisted on having a photo taken with us, you have to love how official South American police are, you really do.

We celebrated our last day in Lima with a seafood feast of paella, calamari and mussels. It was so tasty and we snaffled it down in record time...unfortunately something didn´t agree with Tay because she had to get up in the middle of the night to vomit it all up. It was days before she could even look at a calamari ring after that experience.

Next stop....Colombia baby!


permalink written by  JodesAndTay on May 4, 2010 from Lima, Peru
from the travel blog: Jodes and Tay escape to SA
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After the physically exhausting train to Machu Picchu, the only thing left to do is...get an hour long, full body massage

Arequipa, Peru

We arrived in Arequipa our first stop in Peru, without any expectations at all. So were delighted to find ourselves in a really chic, cosmopolitan city with trendy bars,restaurants and a lovely central plaza. Jack one of the boys we were travelling with from Lake Titicaca spoke Spanish and so found us a sweet deal at a nice little guest house right in the centre...and most importantly, on the same road as said bars and restaurants. The next six days were absolute bliss...they passed in a whirwind of amazing food, frozen lemonades, fruit smoothies, lounging by a nearby hotel pool, and sleeping for hours and hours on end.

There were three restaurants by our hotel which we frequented so many times the staff would probably know what our starsigns are and as children what we wanted to be when we grew up. We celebrated our first night in Arequipa by dragging Steve out with us to Deja Vu, a local bar and then hitting the next bar down which (completely against our will, obviously) the bar staff encouraged us to get up and dance on the bar to an audience of admiring locals...who said white people can't dance? It is here that we should probably note that the local men from Arequipa were definately the most outrageously pervy that we had encountered on our whole trip. Just walking down the street it felt as though they hadn't seen a Western person before and they were cat calling and wolf whistling all over the show. Far from an ego boost it got so annoying that on one night when we went for drinks without the boys with us we had to cut and run early because they would feel it acceptable to come and sit with us and ask us a string of annoying questions. While we politely told them to go away, we cooked up a plan. Instead of English we would pretend we were Swedish so there could be no common ground for conversation. We put this plan into action with a rather amorous young man who had plonked himself down next to us and started chatting away in his broken English. We stared at him and then firmly just said "Swedish" really loudly expecting that to be the end of the awkward one sided exchange. Of course it being us, he piped up with "Ahhh I studied in Stokholm for a year..." and then proceeded to speak Swedish to us with a massive excited grin on his face. The only Peruvian in Arequipa who has studied in Stockholm for a year and speaks the language fluently?? Probably. An extremely awkward few minutes followed where we decided it was too late to come clean and so completely blanked him until he went away. Cringe.

On the third day we decided to drag our chubby over-indulged asses to the Santa Catalina Monastery where we spent a couple of hours in near total silence....a first for the trip. The monastery is huge and was built entirely from sillar, which is a volcanic stone. The buildings themselves are really pretty, styled with colonial architecture, even though the Nuns who originally lived there slept in very basic quarters. The whole place radiated tranquility....well, it did until a group of balshy German tourists descended and started talking really loudly and pointing their camcorders in our faces. Bar that interruption, we left the Monastery feeling calm and peaceful, but definately glad we aren't nuns.

We said goodbye to Steve, Jack and Ned as they headed to Colca Canyon and we stayed in Arequipa. On the fourth day we booked a bus and had planned to leave under no circumstances (even though deep down neither or us wanted felt ready to say goodbye)...until a lucky twist of fate saw Tay fall victim to Peru Belly and that made the prospect of 9 hours on a boiling hot bus with no toilet something of an impossibility. We say that Tay's Peru Belly had been a lucky twist of fate, but if truth be told we had been feeling a little dodgy for the whole time in Arequipa and had both secretly known the real cause behind the upset stomachs....frozen lemonades. A delectable iced drink made almost entirely of local tap water. We are ashamed to admit that despite the negative effect it had on our bellies, we had at least one and sometimes two of the heavenly beverages a day and just pretended to be ignorant to the fact that tap water was most definately the bum trigger. Plus they bought us two more days in Arequipa. Happy days.

People kept telling us that it was dangerous to travel by night on the buses in Peru so we opted for a butt-numbing 9 hour trip by day to Cusco from Arequipa to avoid the overnight travel. To say it was the sweatiest, most uncomfortable 11 hours we have ever experienced on a bus, is an understatement. There was absolutely no air, the bus was crammed with people who at most times had to sit in the aisles and to top this off....they played what can only be described as mildly pornographic Peruvian films at full volume as the rides entertainment. Muchos awkward. However it was all worthwhile when we finally arrived at the Loki Hostel in Cusco. Ahhhh the beds were amazing, the building itself was like a Shakesperian theatre complete with wooden beams and courtyards and the shower was the best we have experienced on the whole trip to date. We went to meet Cilla in the Plaza de Armas, and by chance caught sight of Steve loping past on the opposite side of the square. Queue embarrassing public display of excitement and shrieks of "Steve! Steve! Stephen, over here!" as we ran across the plaza to jump on him. Turns out they had done Colca Canyon and were now also staying in Loki, so we felt it neccessary to join them that night at Mythology, one of the many back-packer friendly clubs off the main plaza.

Cusco is absolutely full to the brim of backpackers....imagine the one place where everybody visits in South America, without exception. It provides the base for day trips and treks to the infamous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu and so is a must-visit destination on the Gringo Trail. This means that the hostel was lovely and had a really raucously fun bar and clientele, but also that there are really good restaurants and cafes aimed at making tourists part with their money. However, apart from its loveliness, the large amount of backpackers that pass through Cusco, means a HUGE number of street hawkers who every two seconds will appear from nowhere to offer you some hideous sunglasses, horrifically bad paintings, or in most cases, a massage to help you recover from your trek. We spent four days just chilling out in Cusco, visiting a couple of museums (more Inca pottery than you can shake a stick at) and enjoying the amazing food at backpacker haunt Jack's Cafe. It was time for us to make a decision...the Inca Trail was an impossibility because the trek was fully booked, and the alternative treks can be particularly tough (we weren´t loving the sound of 'tough' at altitudes of 4000 plus metres) and can take up to 6 days. So we're afraid we took the lazy option and decided on a day trip instead, so handed over the eye-wateringly overpriced 200 US Dollars and booked ourselves a train ticket.

It was an early start with a 5 am pick up, and a fairly hair-raising bus ride to the train station, but we got up to Machu Picchu in one piece at about 10am. Luckily for us, it was an absolutely gorgeous day, blue skies and no clouds meaning our first view of the 'Lost City' took our breath away. We've since seen photos from friends who trekked it and were smug to discover that their photos are covered in mist and fog, so despite not having trekked, we managed a better view of the site. We had a two hour tour round the site from a suspicious looking guy called Jose who didn´t deem it entirely inappropriate to take calls on his mobile during the tour. We´re pretty sure they were personal calls too, and not even business related. "Hi honey, yeah, yeah, I know. I´ll be home at 5, can you pop a chicken kiev and potato waffle in the oven for me? Ta love." You know, that sort of thing.

Once the tour was over we thankfully wandered off on our own and felt like we appreciated it so much more having time to ourselves to nose around, climb all over it and finally, take a mini power nap on the quiet side, next to the most amazing view over the valley. We´ve since learnt that the patch of grass we napped on was prohibited, but considering we got eaten alive by sandflies, we feel karma has already had its justice. The views you get from the city are absolutely amazing, and the ruins themselves are equally as impressive. The only downer is that they looked more ´manicured´than we had expected...we kind of had an Indiana Jones theme in mind with wild vines hanging everywhere, but in reality the lawns are well kept and the ruins are so well maintained they almost look new. After rounghly five ours of lost city action we got the bus back down to the slightly grubby little town of Aguas Calientes, had an average overpriced dinner and then headed back to the train station. When we disembarked from the train we looked for our guide who should have been holding up a sign with our names on to lead us back to the bus. Jodie managed to spy the name ´Helon Pailor´ on one of the sheets. Tay managed to overlook the similarity to her own name and decided that definately couldn´t be related to them. That was until she saw Helon Pailor´s companion happened to be called ´Jade Kooter´. Too much of a coincidence. What a hilaaaarious misunderstanding. We arrived back at 2am, absolutely exhausted, although probably not as exhausted as we would have been had we trekked for four days. Ha!

We were really sad to leave Cusco, but luckily on the last night there managed to bump into Aiden and Tom our two favourite Bristolian boys from Puerto Madryn who accompanied us on our final hurrah of Cusco´s nightlife. We love you Cusco!


permalink written by  JodesAndTay on April 27, 2010 from Arequipa, Peru
from the travel blog: Jodes and Tay escape to SA
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We`re on a boat, we`re on a boat.

La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz is a crazy, colourful city which is cramped, crowded and spread all over very steep roads. It also smells really`interesting`, and not in a good way. Our stay in La Paz set the scene for further upset bowels amongst the group as we again took it in turns having disabling bouts of Bolivian Belly.We spent the first two days in private rooms in a quiet little hostel (for recovery purposes) and had a little walk around, visited the markets and generally took it easy. We`d like to say that we really looked after our health by starving out the stomach bug, but instead we became slightly addicted to a chain called Alexander Coffee where the smoothies and muffins were to dddiiiiiee for. We visited the stinky witches market which was definately eclectic, and if you`re ever in need of a dried up llama foetus or animal skull this is the place to go. Mmmmmm. Apparently it`s good luck in Bolivian culture to have a llama foetus at your place of work, so if any of you fancy one for your desks, let us know.

Once we had tapped Alexander coffee an embarrassing amount of times in two days and had started to feel slightly better we checked into the Loki Hostel. For those who have never been to s America, the Loki Hostels are renowned amongst backpackers as being the `party hostels`, which would have been nice....except it was election weekend in the city so all bars and clubs were closed and there was a countrywide ban on alcohol. So instead we decided to do the ONE thing our parents told us not to....to cycle down Death Road.

The Death Road links La Paz to Coroico and is notorious for killing many locals and backpackers over the years due to its shoddy, narrow roads and sheer cliff face drops which on average at least one bus a week would hurtle down killing everyone inside.

Before coming away there was a Top Gear Special where Jeremy Clarkson got in a huge Landrover, put it to the test on Death Road and hammed up just how deadly it was causing panic among the parents who insisted we didn`t go anywhere near it. However, it is also the main adrenalin rush backpackers seek out when they come to La Paz, and who are we to resist peer pressure? So we donned protective clothing, helmets and got on board our mountain bikes which had absolutely no suspension and every piece of gravel we hit made our asses and chins wobble everywhere. The first 22km was a downhill breeze and the only concentration we needed was to just sit on the brakes the whole way and try not to be last in line (this was in vain, and we were pretty much bringing up the rear the whole day). Then after the new, respectable section of road was over we hit......THE DEATH ROAD da da daaaaaaah. Which was actually a slight anticlimax because although you were allowed to race down as quickly as you liked with no restrictions on speed, it never really felt that dangerous. Maybe we`re just exceptional bikers, but we always felt fully in control (apart from the occassional moment when a back wheel hit a large rock and there was some skidding and `woah woah woooooah` style exclamations) The views were literally breath taking, but despite the amazing views, the day is tinged with sadness as you ride past roadside memorial after roadside memorial and realise that so many people have died on the road in the past. In some parts it is almost so narrow its hard to imagine even Noddy getting his little car round the corners, let alone a large obnoxious Bolivian bus travelling at full pelt, idiot driver at the wheel.

Despite literally being part of the `slow group` we felt that we did the ride justice and went as fast as we could without face planting arse over wheel. We finished the ride drenched in sweat, covered in dust and completely jelly legged, not to mention nailed by sand fly bites too, bastards. So we got driven to a nearby pool, had some lunch and a dip then made our way back to La Paz. We went for a few drinks in the Loki Bar where we happily ran into Tom and Aiden the bristolian boys from Puerto Madryn and celebrated beating Death Road.

The next day was a momentous one...we said goodbye to Cilla and Kylie and for the first time on the trip we were setting off on our own. Just Jodes and Tay. Mandy Dingle and Vanessa Feltz off on an adventure. Next stop was Copacabana, which sounds like an exotic, pina colada fuelled funtime beach resort, but in reality is a pretty little town on Lake Titicaca, the Bolivian side. We had heard whispers in Loki about a crowd of 15000 people planning to descend on Copacabana for Easter weekend and so we thought perhaps we should book accommodation ahead. The first place in the book had room and we (in terrible Spanglish) booked ourselves in for two nights and boarded a bus, smug in the knowledge that we had acommodation and had booked it alllll on our own with no Roberto and his Spanish lingo to help us. However after a rather confusing bus ride where we had to disembark for half an hour and watch our bus be plonked onto a raft thingy and slowly dragged across a stretch of lake, we arrived in Copacabana.

Unfortunately the smugness wore off when we saw where we were staying....way out of town in a completely deserted hotel which had what seemed like hundreds of rooms and absolutely no guests. Feeling a sense of dread we headed into town and luckily bumped into four hobbits (or just Kiwi guys who happened to look a bit like hobbits) who let us know where they were staying and so we hauled ass out of the sinister Hotel Murder and checked into the lakefront bargain hotel the boys were at. From there a fairly intoxicated evening ensued with a greasy Mexican meal, some awful red wine, some Kahlua, some drinking games and then the piece de resistance....a fairly illegal borrowing of some swan headed pedalo boats on Lake Titicaca in the middle of the night. We`re on a boat! We`re on a boat!

The next day we hit up a day trip to the Isla del Sol which was really pretty even though it involved a little too much hill walking for our liking. The Inca ruins were right at the top of the North part of the island and provided amazing views of the lake. There we met three English boys Ned, Jack and Stephen who we ended up spending the day with and then travelling on to Arequipa with after one more night in Copacabana.


permalink written by  JodesAndTay on April 17, 2010 from La Paz, Bolivia
from the travel blog: Jodes and Tay escape to SA
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Hell on Earth

Potosi, Bolivia

It`s really hard to breathe in Potosi, the highest city in the world. Standing tall at 4100m, Potosi is famous not just for its ability to get you struggling for breath just from taking a shower, but also for its silver mines which most of the male population of the town work in. After hearing horror stories about fake taxi drivers robbing tourists, when we arrived in Potosi we were extra careful about picking a genu-wine taxi and not getting into a dodgy Honda with a random sketchy Bolivian man at the wheel. We were more than happy to discover that the genu-wine taxi cabs were marked with a batman sticker on the windshield. Holy Guacamole Batman!

We need it to be known that the events that ocurred Potosi are memories almost too painful for Tay to relive, and writing this entry hasn`t been easy. This is because against our better judgement we enrolled on the Potosi mine tour even though the Lonely Planet has an entire section dedicated to a warning about how harrowing an experience it is and how there are many risks and dangers involved. However, when in Rome.....

The tour began at the warehouse where we were kitted out in MC Hammer style trousers, wellies, dust protective jackets and the piece de resistance...proper miner head torches and helmets. Holy Potosi-moley Batman! We were then taken to the miners market where we had to buy coca leaves and cigarettes as presents for the miners, along with some dynamite which the guide was going to explode right in front of us after the tour had finished. Honestly, those Bolivians are such sticklers for their health and safety requirements.

The miners survives 24 hour shifts down the mines by chewing rank coca leaves to suppress their appetites and combat altitude headaches. This means they don`t eat a single thing while they`re down there and only drink the occassional shot of 96% alcohol. Which for the record, is essentially a sinister, heavily concentrated version of Tesco Value vodka and the taste lingers for hours after. Erik, a Swedish guy on our tour greedily downed an entire shot of the potent liquid BEFORE being told by the guide that it was 96% proof. As you can imagine, that strength of alcohol combined with the altitude meant that for the next ten minutes he just got increasingly drunk until he was a quivering mess and kept saying "don`t laugh! It`s not funny! I`m soooo f**king drunk right now!" before scuttling off to buy some empanadas to sober him up.

We had a brief tour around the factory where the minerals are all separated and learnt more about the conditions that the miners are subjected to. We couldn`t believe how horrific their jobs were and how much it made us feel like idiots for ever complaining about our standard 9-5s back home. The miners rarely live past 50 because at some point they will all develop silicosis of the lungs which is caused by dust inhalation and makes them cough up bloody mucus. There are are also frequent cave-ins, runaway trolleys squashing people to death and no real way for the miners to protect themselves against falling rocks. Worst of all the Bolivian Government gets a 16% cut of their wages but doesnt do anything to improve their lives. Most shocking of all though is the fact that kids as young as 12 work in these conditions knowing that in 20 years or so they will start coughing up blood and then will undoubtedly die young.

Faced with these cheerful facts we headed over to the mines, if kiddlywinks as young as 12 can face the horrors of these mines every day then surely we could grow a pair, suck it up and survive for just over an hour? Oh how wrong we were. Nothing could have prepared us for the conditions.....firstly the air is so thin and full of dust that its almost impossible to catch your breath, the passages are so small in parts that you have to crawl over jagged rocks on your hands and knees or slide on your bum grabbing at the walls for support. All this combined with the physical exertion in 45 degree heat and lots of layers. To be fair, if we hadn`t eaten so many bloody empanadas and so much ice cream in Argentina we might have been able to slip through a little easier. Another little treat was that after 20 minutes of us grappling at the walls with our hands and poking at all the rocks, our guide helpfully pointed out that we shouldn`t touch our mouths and eyes with our hands because "the walls are covered in arsenic.....and asbestos". Health and Safety anyone?

Tay didn`t know she was a bit claustrophobic until she found herself sliding inch by inch on her belly completely out of breath, and it soon all got a bit much and she had to admit defeat. The guide had rushed ahead and on getting no response to the standard "are we nearly there yet?" question, she decided to take matters into her own hand and asked the second guide to go back to the surface with her. Not however, before an embarrassing episode which involved her bottom lip going and some fairly pathetic girlie tears. Wuss.

Jodes was brave and stuck the tour out to the bitter end. Must be the South Wales blood in her veins. She met a miner who was 54 and had been working in the mines for 35 years. As she was speaking to him he coughed up hunks of bloody phlegm, the early signs of silicosis. This was the final straw for Jodes who at this point also hit the tears and on the way back to the surface fell apart. Luckily for her Erik the Swedish guy was quite sensitive to her hormonal state and coaxed her up with words of encouragement. The experience left us completely shocked and a bit shaken up, Tay maintains (even three weeks after) that it is probably one of the least enjoyable hours of her whole life. Jodie takes a more noble approach to the tour and maintains it was a real-eye opener. But at the end of the day neither of us would repeat the experience, probably not even for a snuggle with George Clooney. Feeling really sick and exhausted, we were perked up immediately by the dynamite explosion which you would think would only be exciting for a 12 year old boy, but it was in fact really fun and we each got a turn to hold the dynamite after the fuse had been lit. Explosions, yeah!

That day we headed to Sucre, which was a really pretty town but couldn`t really be enjoyed because everyone bar Robbi (and his iron gut) had come down with Bolivia Belly and took it in turns vomiting into hostel room bins, toilets, plastic bags or whatever vessel was closest. We did manage a group trip to the cliff face where dinosaur footprints have been preserved in the stone. It was really incredible, and way more exciting than the disappointing fossil place in San Juan, Argentina. It felt like Jurassic Park and they`d even gone to the trouble of playing dinosaur noises over the speakers.

With Sucre came a sad turn of events when Roberto Rausa flew the nest and headed off the Galapagos Islands on his own.

Then there were two.


permalink written by  JodesAndTay on April 15, 2010 from Potosi, Bolivia
from the travel blog: Jodes and Tay escape to SA
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Uyuni, Bolivia

So, we set off on our 3 day jeep tour from San Pedro de Atacama in North Chile through the Salt Flats to our final destination of Uyuni, Bolivia. The group was made up of the three amigos, Cilla and Kylie and new recruit Olivier who we affectionately called `French Guy` and who became the official Dad of the trip, dancing fairly comically in the front seat of the jeep and getting his camcorder out at every opportunity. Daaaaaaad, you`re sooooo embarrassing.

DAY 1:
The trip started in an elegant fashion when Tay had to wee at Bolivian border control in almost full view of approaching jeeps behind a burnt out bus. Start as you mean to go on ey? The Bolivian border control was a hilariously unofficial looking little shack with a single flag marking its purpose. Welcome to Bolivia! Robbi managed to lower the tone within the first half an hour of the trip by stripping down to his leggings and thermal top creating what can only be described as a `unitard` effect leaving his manhood in plain view of everyone. Needless to say it was hard to keep breakfast down with that kind of distraction involved. The altitude of 4500m meant despite brilliant sunshine we were absolutely bloody freezing so when we arrived at our first stop, the natural thermal springs, we pretty much made a run for it. Natures own jacuzzi did exactly what it said on the tin and we were soon toasty warm and wallowing in the super hot water murmuring cliches such as `aaahhh this is the life isn`t it`. To be fair, it really is. Getting changed afterwards we had a run in with our first Bolivian toilet, which was ropey at best. However the Bolivians know how to make you laugh with their translations and had charmingly drawn arrows in the toilet bowl directing you where to aim your `stuff` ie, one arrow was marked `caca` and the other `piss`. We stopped shortly after at a lagoon which was at a whopping 4900m, which has a real affect on your breathing. We couldn`t walk ten steps without wheezing like Rik Waller attempting a marathon. At the lagoon we got to see Flamingos in their wild habitat. To be fair they`re fairly boring creatures just standing around on one leg and not doing all that much, but the salmon colour of their feathers against the bright red of the lake made the landscape look really vibrant and impressive. There was some real excitement when they took flight....it caused quite a stir amongst the group and cameras were flashing all over the shop. We were then dropped off at our hostel (if you can call it that) in the middle of the desert. It was essentially a long thin brick building with a corrugated iron roof secured by a smattering of boulders. The fact that we appeared to be the only people staying there combined with how ridiculously remote and cut off from civilisation it was, made it the perfect setting for a horror film. `6 Backpackers go into the desert, where noone can hear them scream.....` you know the type of film we mean. Luckily for us, other people started to arrive which made it seem a bit livelier and less scary, however the electricity curfew and lack of heating meant that by 9.30pm we were in pitch black, in bed, and shivering in the 10 degree cold with only a couple of manky blankets for warmth. Needless to say we slept terribly (grabbing a few hours at best) and it was such a miserable night that even the sight of Cilla in a headtorch cursing about needing to get up for a midnight wee in the pitch black didn`t crack a smile.

DAY 2:
The next day was a bit of the same, more incredible lagoons, amazing desert landscapes and.........a petrified tree that looked like a mushroom. That petrified mushroom tree was a real time-filler if ever we`ve seen one. Luckily for us we had a really lovely guide who had some ultra cheesy songs on his Ipod so the driving in between each site was hilaaarious in itself as we sang along embarrassingly loudly and gave Olivier even more footage for his camcorder. `Daaaad stop it, turn it offfffff`. The most amazing scenery was undoubtedly the multi coloured rock mountains which we stopped for a photo in front of (not for long though because it was seriously cold and windy) and also a live smoking volcano in the distance. We stopped off in front of the volcano, cranked up the volume from the jeep and had an impromptu rave on top of the rocks much to our guide`s amusement. Moves like that are probably illegal in Bolivia. Our hostel that night was in a small charming little town where we had HOT SHOWERS and much nicer beds. Not that we could enjoy the beds for long however because we had to be up at 04.30 of the AM to leave for the Salt Flats the next day.

Day 3:
Altitude plus early morning equals freezing cold and fairly unhappy campers. We set off at 05.00am to catch the sun rise over the Salt Flats. We soon cheered up on the drive as we did some window star-gazing and listened to Jodie`s chilled playlist. Desert driving at dawn is actually a really lovely experience and we felt all warm and fuzzy inside by the time we reached the Salt Flats. The sunrise was equally as lovely and we soon forgot about the horrendously early start. Once we reached the breakfast point which is where we had to pay for entrance to the Salt Flats, we were ready to stretch our legs. Unfortunately the walk up to the view point past towering phallic cacti was a bit of a steep climb and we soon regretted our choice of footwear. Ballet pumps do not hold up well on gravel FYI. On the way back down a cruel twist of fate lead Tay straight to the toilet...the first case of Bolivia Belly, of which the rest of the group would soon fall victim to. Doubling up on Immodium, Tay was almost as good as new, although couldn`t face the lama omlettes they served up for lunch. To be fair this still would have been the case if Bolivia Belly hadn`t taken her out, lama meat has no place in an omlette we`re sure you`ll agree. As the rest of the group ate the delicious pancake breakfast and Tay became a quivering ball in the back of the jeep, Robbi had set his sights on a manly activity to pass the time. The guides set up a football game with some of the boys from other groups. Robbi watched them on the side-lines for a while, like the unathletic geek at school that was always picked last in sport. He then managed to get himself an invite into the game, and started running and sweating (well, more sweating than running) seemingly forgetting about the lack of oxygen. He returned to the jeep, mentally rejuvinated but physically exhausted, bright red and prespiring an alarming amount. Next stop was the Salt Flat for the photos that every backpacker who has been there knows and loves. Because of the mass of white salt and no physical interruptions in the landscape its possible to mess around with the perspectives of a photo and use props to create hilaaaaarious results. Please see below for some examples..... The tour ended by a quick look at Uyuni`s locomotive cemetery which really is as weird as it sounds. Just a bunch of abandoned locomotive trains which have rusted and decayed against the elements. As we drove into Uyuni we were absolutely horrified by the SEA of rubbish surrounding the town. Apparently they have no system where rubbish is removed from the city and so people literally use the surrounding miles of desert as their own personal dustbin. It was absolutely disgusting to see rubbish as far as the eye can see, and there seems to be no solution for it. To reiterate how disgusting the surrounding area was, we saw someone unashamedly making `toilet` in the middle of one particularly sizeable rubbish pile. Uyuni wasn`t a particularly nice town, but it did have a great pizzeria which we visited for dinner before planning our escape to Potosi for the next day.

We realise this entry has had a lot of toilet talk, for which we can only apologise, but Bolivia has not been kind to our tummies. Not kind at all.


permalink written by  JodesAndTay on April 4, 2010 from Uyuni, Bolivia
from the travel blog: Jodes and Tay escape to SA
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Ready Salted

Salta, Argentina

Considering Salta is smack bang in the middle of the North Argentinian desert, we weren`t expecting it to be so ridiculously green and pretty and lush. The main sight backpackers swarm there to see is this huge quarry thing of blood red rocks which are meant to be daaamnn impressive at sunset. But of course, it wouldn`t be true to form if there wasn`t some kind of hitch preventing us from seeing this life-changing, not-to-be-missed piece of scenery as so far in the trip we have been plagued by a `South America Natural Disaster Curse`(i.e. mudslides at Macchu Picchu, earthquakes in Chile ) which reared its ugly head once more in Salta causing huge mudslides at the quarry and closing it to visitors. Mudslides, schmudslides. Luckily for us Salta was a tasty little crumpet of a town where it was really easy to spend a day not seeing any quarries. So we headed into the centre and hit the two museums on offer. The first was a bit average apart from some amusing pottery and an interesting toilet.

However, the second was incredible and we really geeked it up in there, soaking up the knowledge like little sponges. The exhibition featured information about three inca children who were left 6700m up a volcano as sacrifices to the Gods roughly 500 years ago. They were excavated in 1990 and had been almost perfectly preserved by the freezing conditions. There were two young girls and a little boy all found in the same site, but to keep them properly preserved only one of the children is on display at any one time. We had been expecting to see a decayed mummiefied skeleton of a child, but instead it was really eerie to see the small pefectly preserved body of a young boy huddled up with his skin, hair and clothes intact. Its weird to think that he had died 500 years ago and was still in almost the same condition. Those Incas definately took their virginal sacrifices a little too seriously.

Feeling very brainy and smug with the new facts we`d learnt, we skipped through town and headed to the cable car, which seemed a good idea until we started our ascent of the mountain and a huge roar of thunder shook the car on its wire. We`d like to say we were brave and nonplussed by the impending thunderstorm, but in reality we spent the whole time playing the `what would happen if the car got struck by lightning?`game. We came to the conclusion that as long as we kept our feet on the floor of the car, the rubber of our flips flops would save our lives. This is probably incredibly inaccurate, but it made us feel slightly better anyway. The mountain at the top of the cable ride was really beautiful, with carefully manicured lawns, bright exotic flowers and a breathtaking view of the valley. However, the views showed us just how quickly the aggressive lightning storm was approaching so we made a hasty retreat back down to safe ground.

When we got back to our hostel, Cilla and a fellow Aussie called Kylie (not Minogue unfortunately) had arrived and we all went out to dinner in search of some local cuisine. We found a restaurant where the staff were dressed as matadors and the food was authentic North Argentinian fare. We ordered a variety of corn and veal based stews and some hot tamales for starters. The meals were really tasty and had a good level of spiciness, and the meat tamales were sexy little bundles of corny goodness.

The bus to San Pedro the next day was a bit of a shock due to the altitude. As we climbed higher and higher through the Andes the air got thinner and thinner and we were soon struggling for breath like a group of old ladies after their aqua aerobics class. San Pedro de Atacama is a desolate little town in the very North of Chile, completely surrounded by desert and you can`t help but feel completely cut off from the rest of the world when you`re there. The purpose of our visit was that San Pedro provides the jumping base for a three day jeep tour through to Bolivia and the Salt Flats. Our hacienda was a charming little place to stay which had loads of cacti in the yard, one of those oversized paddling pools, and most importantly, not one, not two, but three tiny kittens. Tay got overly obsessed with a little female kitten called Luna and even though Tay left the window to the room open every night in hope that Luna would come in for a midnight snuggle, every morning she woke up with the mangey fully grown ginger cat from next door getting cosy at the end of her bed, cleaning its bum. Such a disappointment. However, kitten karma came full circle when on the last day, Tay caught Luna suckling milk from her mum and very nearly broke down in tears right there. An added bonus to the array of kittens running around the yard was the shaggy dog called Pompom who resembled Dougal from the Magic Roundabout and who Jodie fell in love with and referred to as Dog Marley because of his dreaded fur.

San Pedro was a tiny, tiny little place and basically consisted of mini shops and high end restaurants to cater for the tourists. We used the two days there wisely by booking ourselves on to the jeep tour and buying loads of coca sweets (to combat altitude sickness) water and other handy supplies for three days in the wilderness. And by handy supplies we mean an array of different biscuits and a shit load of toilet roll.

Next stop. Bolivia Baby!


permalink written by  JodesAndTay on March 30, 2010 from Salta, Argentina
from the travel blog: Jodes and Tay escape to SA
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Who let the dogs out?

Cordoba, Argentina

So, from Mendoza one fairly average Argentinian city, we headed to Cordoba, another fairly average Argentinian city. The guidebook boasted lots of things to see and do, but we managed to nail all the sights (a Jesuit Missionary, an art gallery and a couple of cathedrals) in a Challenge Anneka style fashion, completing the sightseeing relay in no less than 45 minutes. So, we were left twiddling our thumbs until a lucky twist of fate came in the form of Tay´s flip flop breaking leaving us with no other option than to head to the mall to pick up a new pair of Havaianas (it should be noted that Tay had to walk for 20 perilous minutes with one bare foot through dog poo riddled streets). The mall did not disappoint and we manged to get some good snacks from the food court and then amuse ourselves in the arcade for half an hour or so.

Now fellow backpackers will definately agree that its the simple things that remind you of home that can cause massive excitement, so when we were cruising the upper levels of the mall and spotted a cinema showing films in English, its fair to say we nearly wet ourselves. The evening ahead was a done deal, and we spent it watching Shutter Island subtitled in Spanish and eating our own body weight in peanut M&Ms. Not exactly a cultural experience, but definately a great way to spend an evening for three chubby little snackers. Apart from that Cordoba was a bit of a wash out, mainly to do with the ridiculous amount of rain that fell when we were there, but also because it just wasn`t that good.

Next place on the itinerary was Rosario, another town in Central Argentina which is only 5 hours from BA. It´s a pretty little town on the Parana Delta River where Che Guevara grew up and was instantly more likeable than Cordoba. When we arrived at our hostel we were happy as larry to be given the Disco room which was decked out with disco balls, music note lampshades and a life size John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever painted on the wall. Intimidated by the huge raucous gang of Israelis who had dominated the communal area, we escaped the hostel and treated ourselves to a romantic dinner for three at a lovely little restaurant on the river where we had grilled fresh river fish and chips.

The next day we did a bit of sightseeing in Rosario which included looking at Che Guevaras house. We say looking AT and not IN, because the house where he grew up has been renovated into a block of flats which look modern and make it difficult to appreciate it as a tourist attraction. Luckily we got some alternative Che action from a small park area where someone has painted his face onto a brick wall. The city monument along the river was really pretty and we had to try really hard to resist doing a Rocky style run and air punch up the huge steps.

The main attraction in Rosario is getting a ferry to some of the small islands in the middle of the river, but unfortunately due to the huge amounts of rain that the city had had recently the ferries weren´t running. We sought out an alternative activity which involved river and sun and headed to the private beach 8km north of the city with Ed and Charlie, two really sweet (and permanently drunk) 18 year olds from Bristol that we had met in our hostel.

The beach was really pretty but the boys had brought with them a picnic of bread, pate, ham and cheese which attracted what can only be described as a ´gang´of manky stray dogs to our lounging area. This wasn´t the first time we had run into trouble involving a pack of stray dogs. In San Augustin the fun had begun when some really mangey specimens had trailed us round the square nearly causing Robbi to burst into tears (he is even more afraid of dogs than we are). On the beach the dogs got so alarmingly amarous with the pate that we started regretting our decision to not get a rabies jab before we came. We rounded off our time in Rosario by drinking with Ed and Charlie and watching in horror as they attempted half-cut backflips on the concrete patio. We really worry for those boys´ safety.

Cilla and Annie the two Aussie girls we met briefly in Bariloche and then spent more time with in Mendoza, twisted our arm and convinced us to head back to BA to celebrate Annie´s birthday with them. We were more than happy to oblige as BA had been a real dreamboat the first time round so we booked into the same hostel as them and jumped on a bus. When we arrived the girls had the most amazing presents for us....in Mendoza we had talked about our communal love for Bariloche (the place where dreams come true) and it had become a running joke that Bariloche was our meccha and we couldn´t imagine a more perfect place in the world ever existing. Our obsession with the place reached fever pitch as we said goodbye to the girls in Mendoza and watched with jealousy as they left to return to Bariloche for another five days. So anyway, we digress (which happens a lot when Bariloche is the subject of conversation).. the girls had got us all t shirts made which have ´I love Bazza´ written across the front. Surely the best present imagineable, apart from being bought a house there of course.

For Annie´s birthday we took a picnic to the park and stuffed our faces with cake before heading out to El Desnivel, a renowned steak house in the city where we were joined by more of Annie´s friends. As the birthday coincided with St Patrick´s day we felt obliged to go to an Irish pub and have a green pint. As you can imagine the pub was rammed with Irish backpackers and we were soon real Sweaty Bettys, so after downing our green pints we made a bee line for a club in Palermo the trendy wendy district of BA. There was some fairly comical dancing all round which included Robbi doing a limbo contest with himself using the beam from one of the burly security guards lazer pointers. The music was really random and cheesy, which was fine until the DJ dropped a bit of Will Smith ´Miami´ and we realised it was time to make a quick exit.

So, we bid farewell to Annie who was heading back to London and hopped on a bus to Salta in North Chile, where we had heard there were some really big red rocks or something like that....


permalink written by  JodesAndTay on March 28, 2010 from Cordoba, Argentina
from the travel blog: Jodes and Tay escape to SA
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Ty-Juan-asaurus Rex

San Juan, Argentina

Jurassic Park was undoubtedly a classic moment in film from the 1990`s. What could be better than watching a film where an eccentric old scientist brings dinosaurs back from extinction and opens a theme park where the public can come and see them in an elaborate `dino zoo`, only for them to slyly reproduce and break free of their electric fences, devouring the scientist`s colleagues and friends along the way? Well, perhaps seeing real life dinosaur bones and fossils in a huge canyon full of dead dinosaur bodies in the flesh perhaps? This is what we were expecting from our trip to Valle de la Luna (The Valley of the Moon) from San Juan, north of Mendoza.

After reading up on the Ischiguialasto National Park with its hundred of dinosaur fossils and valley of rocks and craters that resemble the moons surface, we were truly excited about visiting the real life Jurassic Park the next day. Tay got so excited she nearly transported herself back to 1993 to pick ùp the Jurassic Park cycling shorts she wore as a child.

However, when we arrived there was no cuddly Richard Attenborough limping along with his little mosquito walking stick, no annoying child actors, no Jeff Goldblum, no big fat guy with glasses getting stung in the eyes with poisonous dinosaur spit.....and there was definately no tour guides who spoke English. The tour turned out to be severely lacking in any sort of dinosaur information and the first fossil everyone was elbowing each other out of the way to catch a glimpse of, was in fact...a leaf. Not a huge T Rex skull, but a teeny tiny little leaf. We realised we had got a bit carried away and accepted that the tour was going to be very `rock` and `sediment` focussed. Well, the tour guide only spoke in Spanish, so we only have it on Robbi`s authority that that`s what was being explained.

No dinosaurs aside, the views of the valley were really amazing and it did genuinely look like the surface of the moon. So much so that we felt it neccessary to take a `look at us being astronauts` photo, I think you will agree it is VERY convincing. For all you science fans out there, we thought we should hit you with some facts. Firstly, the park contains fossils from plantlife and mammals from the late Triassic period (roughly 230 million years ago) and according to the internet, is the `only place in the world where nearly all of the Triassic is represented in an undisturbed sequence of rock deposits`. If only we had been able to understand the tour guide we might have been able to give you more information, but unfortunately our Spanish vocabularies still only include counting from 1-100 and various conversational phrases.

One great thing about having Robbi with us is that he is a complete Teacher`s Pet and on every day trip you will be sure to find him chatting up the tour guide at least once to ask all his little questions. This really pays off because we essentially end up with a mediator who can `dumb down`the real information and make it more manageable for us. This is how we learnt that a patch of perfectly round boulders which looked as though they had been specially arranged into a pattern, were in fact random small pieces of petrified wood and leaves which had then over time accumulated layers of calcium, creating round stones. The main sight to see at the park is the rock which we thought looked a LOT like ET...please see photo for ET likeness.

The museum at the end had a raptor skeleton, so in the end we did get a bit of dinosaur action which was nice. Overall, a really interesting day trip with incredible views.

permalink written by  JodesAndTay on March 20, 2010 from San Juan, Argentina
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Red red wiiiiiine....goes to my heeeaad

Mendoza, Argentina

The wine festival that everyone had been so excited about turned out to be a let down before it had even begun as we arrived in Mendoza and were informed it was more of a beauty pageant/ informative wine lecture hybrid; not quite the wine version of Oktoberfest that we had imagined. So we went elsewhere for our vino fix the next day and hit the vineyards by bicycle. At first we thought we had made a huge mistake, as the first 12 kilometers were extremely hard in the midday heat and we all got a little cranky. Well, we say a little, but Jodie had had more than enough and at one point screamed, "this isn`t a f**king holiday!". But as the wine flowed the cycling got much easier, if not a little unbalanced.

Our first vineyard was a liquer, chocolate and olive oil tasting session, which we really milked much to the distate of the lady leading the tasting. The stingy witch even tried to make us share one olive between the three of us, surely an olive each is a basic human right? Things reached a low when we had to share one crouton between us to sample the olive and garlic paste with. Robbi lost out after we took generous bites and he was left with soggy naked crouton. You snoooooze, you loooose my friend.

We stopped for what turned out to be a rather disappointing lunch where Jodes caused a hoo-ha by getting locked in the toilet. A German girl came to her rescue by shouting across the otherwise quiet restaurant, " Excuze me, someone is locked in ze toilet!" What an embarrassment. The next tasting session was a bit lethal and we were soon very tipsy and grinning like idiots. After a bit too much red wine suddenly everything was absolutely hilaaaarious and we amused ourselves by pretending to be wine conoissuers, sniffing the glasses and then using sleazy voices to describe its ´leathery but yet, smokey` flavours. This was followed up with Beavis and Butthead style snickering, soooo immature.

We got back on the bikes a little worse for wear and passed the time between vineyards by singing at the top of our voices. The theme was ´songs from your heritage` so Jodie treated us to some lovely Welsh folk songs, Robbi went hell for leather with some Lenozze Di Figarro opera and Tay, confused by the concept bust out a souful yet passionate version of Chris De Burgh´s Lady in Red.

That evening we attempted to head to a club with the crew from the hostel but unfortunately drinking vodka on top of the red wine and cycling exertions proved too much and we flaked out instead. Slightly fragile, we took it easy the next day by playing pool volleyball with the hostel crew, Australian Sheilas Cilla and Annie, and Dallas & Sylvia. We followed this up with a group meal out which absolutely bombed as the food was truly hideous. We hadn`t imagined that Argentina would allow itself to serve up a bad steak, but the establishment in question proved us wrong and we were presented with lumps of leathery gristle covered in a sinister cheese sauce. Dallas probably got the worst deal when he found a stone and two sticks in his burger. When he showed the stone to the waiter he laughed and told him it was a souvenir and that it must have just dropped out of the sky...yes, because teeny tiny meteors are constantly falling from the sky and wedging themselves into peoples hamburgers. Only Robbi and his iron gut managed to clean his plate and enjoy it, in fact he washed it down with everyone elses left overs.

On the whole Mendoza was a lot of fun, but not a particularly nice city so we weren`t too sad to leave.


permalink written by  JodesAndTay on March 12, 2010 from Mendoza, Argentina
from the travel blog: Jodes and Tay escape to SA
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Bariloche, we like it a lo-che

San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina

While we are loyal to England – the beautiful country that we live in, we have to admit that Argentina´s Lake District kicks our Lake District to the curb. We spent four days in Bariloche marvelling at the green foresty mountains and sparkly lakes.

Our first hostel turned out to be a little bit too `dreadlock friendly` for us and we felt too shaved, un-pierced and un-inked to be staying there. However, they did have a huge St Bernard dog called Otto who we fell in love with. Jodie became so besotted with the big bear-like honey monster that she plans to go back, break him free and bring him home in her backpack.

We moved hostels after one night to one in the centre of town which was much more “us” and we began our three days of hardcore Bear Grylls style activities. The proceedings kicked off with a very hilly 25km cycle ride through the Circuito Chico lake circuit. In cool weather on flat terrain we´re sure 25km wouldn`t feel like such a bum-blaster but in the 28 degree heat and constant uphill-downhill gradients, my word we were aching, especially in the groin area.

Tay was proud to be the only one of the three who didn`t have to get off her bike once to walk up any hills - even if that meant travelling up one particularly steep slope at the pace of a heavily tranquilised snail. While Tay has always acknowledged that she has thigh muscles that would put Roger Federer to shame, she was a little put out when Robbi charmingly put her achievement down to her "amazonian thighs" - surely a comment worthy of any ´top ten things never to say to your girlfriend´list. The view of the lakes when we reached the highest point was unbelievable and fairly surreal. When we reached the top we came over all emotional although we`re not sure if this was down to the incredible view or relief that the physical excursion was over and our bottoms could relax.

Options for the next day were either kayaking or horse-riding and considering the ache in our nether regions we opted for the former. What we hadn`t considered however was the effect of going with Roberto aka the man who sucks the fun out of all remotely competitive physical activities. With it being a really windy day we were given various cautions about not heading to far into the exposed middle part of the lake, which we of course ignored. We spent the whole time laughing uncontrollably as we drifted helplessly against the wind, and Robbi spent the whole time being generally angry and Italian and shouting at us to "stop tickling the water!" with our oars. Outdoorsy activity numero dos? Done.

Next in line was a mountain-based horse ride. We arrived at Tom Wesley´s riding school expecting full instructions and a helmet. In fact we got neither, mounting our horses in short shorts, flip flops, and looking nervously over at the untouched helmet rack. Our guide, an Argentinean Frankie Detori, lead us out of the stables and onto the track where we were a little alarmed as our horses started cantering in opposite directions towards the gates. After the intital panic and some mutterings of "not sure i`m comfortable with this" the horses settled down and it became a really enjoyable, mellow trot through the mountains.
Robbi, fancying himself as a bit of a John Wayne tough guy picked up a stick to hit his horse with but the stick was a bit too weedy and he ended up looking like he could have beaten Jake Gyllenhall to his role in Broke Back Mountain.

As if we hadn`t loved Bariloche enough we ended our visit there on a food related high to really seal the deal on our love for the town. We met an English couple, Hannah and Martin, who were also upset on having missed out on Pancake Day, so we joined forces to put on a pancake making marathon at the Hostel. We made a selection of both savoury and sweet pancakes and washed them down with a bottle of rum. The only thing better than pancakes is definately slightly drunk pancakes.

Reluctantly we peeled ourselves away from the lovely Bariloche and boarded a bus to Mendoza for the annual wine festival

DISCLAIMER: A notice to all parents and siblings...we are NOT, we repeat NOT going to Chile, so no need to worry!


permalink written by  JodesAndTay on March 8, 2010 from San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina
from the travel blog: Jodes and Tay escape to SA
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