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Spectecular São Paulo~part two

Yesterday’s gallery tour took a lot of energy. With the help of a few caipirinhas, a very hot, hot shower, I managed to recover enough to go on the free city walking tour. Although I didn’t manage to do the WHOLE tour, which is over four and a half hours. I still wanted to find and visit Batman Alley as well. The tour met at the metro entrance on Republican square. A lovely tourist office was there as well. I was a tad early so I had to wait. There was a local craft market and it was a pleasure just to look and walk around.

São Paulo is home to 21 million people! It has more sky scrapers than could be counted! The building on this photograph has its own postcode!! You can imagine that three days is absolutely nothing, it doesn’t even scratch the surface!!

The walking tour visited the Theatro Municipal, although we didn’t go inside. This building was begun in 1903 in the style of Paris’Palais Garnier. It’s facade is heavily ornamented, combining every style possible!

It would have been awesome to also visit the theatre on the inside! I just have to go back one day! We walked on to the cathedral Se. I know it took an enormous amount of time to finish this cathedral. I was shocked by the contrast between the elaborate cathedral, that cost billions, and the enormous amount of homeless, old people living in tents, surrounding this building! It was very in your face, unexpected, and very, very hard to deal with. The tour guide just skipped over this, like it wasn’t that important!

We did enter the cathedral, where the ” benches” were divided into ” chairs” so homeless people couldn’t stretch out on them, or God forbid, sleep on them! By now I had a hard time dealing with these destitute people. Most of them elderly and a majority of them black. It makes me feel that organised religion seems to miss the point that Jesus tried to make , love ” your neighbour” like you love yourself!!

The tour went on, I was tired, cold and quite shocked by what I had just seen. We all went to the oldest cake shop in São Paulo, but somehow I had lost my appetite.  My knee was giving me grief, and I was feeling miserable. I said a polite good bye and caught the metro back to Vila Madelana, the artistic quarter, where my hostel was. I had had my map with me and this time I managed to find Batman Alley!

An area full of little boutiques, cafes, art and an enormous amount of murals. I walked for about an hour, visited two galleries and one shop. Then the rain started and I was back to being cold, wet and miserable! I had a hot chocolate. Did some drawing, and when the rain eased of a bit, walked back to the hotel. It was time to pack, sort and prepare myself for my flight to Santiago tomorrow. Then home! Another great trip has come to an end! I am ready! My body has had enough! Time to go home, relax and plan my next trip! Bon voyage!

 

 

Spectacular São Paulo~ part one

( for some unknown reason, I lost my essay on São Paulo TWICE! Why?? How do I know? I don’t understand any of this stuff!, but this is the LAST time, believe me!)

After a restful bus ride, I arrived early in the morning at the HUGE bus station in São Paulo. I was very fortunate that the tourist office was open, two friendly young people, who spoke excellent English, gave me instructions on how to catch the metro to Vila Madalena wher my hostel is situated! I am catching metros as if I do this daily!! Easy peasy!

Fresh produce.

I had to hang around at the hostel as the room was not yet ready they had good wifi, friendly staff and free coffee! Travellers heaven! The private rooms were booked full so another bunk bed in a dormitory. I am so used to them now, they don’t even bother me any more!

Seafood counter.

All good. I worked out the things I wanted to see in the here days I was going to be here! After I settled into my bunk, I went for a big walk, first to the local markets, then looking for Batman Alley, a place not to be missed!

Of course I managed to miss this “Alley”! Because when I wander, and wonder, I miss everything that is important. It started to rain, cold and miserable I returned to the hostel. A free welcome drink, caipirinha of course, was drunk, and I slept like a babe until early morn.

Touristy day today! I had to walk to the nearest bus stop. Dear Marina, the receptionist at the hostel gave me excellent directions! There is this amazing BIG park, Ibirapuera, where the Museum of modern art, the African Brasilian museum and the museum of contemporary art are situated! It is just HUGE!

The museum of African-Brasilian art was my favourite! There was the story of the slavery, integration in Brasilian way of life, and the people who became famous. One of them was Pele, the Brasilian football player, whose poster used to be on my wall when I was a kid! There was art, sculpture and  photography. I was fascinated by it all. Most photographs I took on my camera as the tablet keeps telling me there is NO storage space!

Wood carvings, with horns and painted.

The museum of Modern Art was disappointing, I didn’t see much that inspired me, although there were some interesting wood carved sculptures. After two musea, I decided to stop have coffee and cake before walking on to the next place! I didn’t have my reading glasses on me, and when I got the bill I nearly had an heart attack on the spot!! Unbelievably expensive! Ah, well, this cake, which was stale by the way, was to be my dinner!! Onwards to the last museum of the day, the museum of Contemporary Art.  It was across a scary walk way, and this young man, Vitor, walked with me. His big dream was to come to Australia and work as an architect here.  This museum was huge! Eight floors of art, plus a magnificent view from the top. It was exhausting. But incredibly interesting!  Catching the bus home was quite an adventure as I couldn’t remember how to get to the bus stop!! With a bit of help of very friendly people, I managed to return just before it was completely dark!!

View from the top of the Contemporary Art Museum. Shame it wasn’t sunny!

 

Marvellous Magic Macae

Getting up, shower, breakfast and saying good bye. Always very hard to do. This family has embraced me, looked after me and locked me into their hearts. Their incredible hospitality was overwhelming. Never to be forgotten. Saying good bye to Jayme at the bus station, a big lump in my throat and I had to hold back my tears. It is without a doubt the hardest part of travelling. Meeting beautiful people and then saying good bye, over and over again! The bus trip to Macae wasn’t too bad. I fell asleep as soon as the bus left, woke up for lunch four hours later, only to sleep a further four hours!

 

Gina and Maria came onto the platform just as I arrived! Gina and I had met eight years ago, when I looked for accommodation in Rio de Janeiro, not realising that this was a province as well as a town! It was like we only met yesterday! We went to Maria Eduarda’s flat. Dumped my luggage and hit the town! The foreshore was amazing! Lots of restaurants, pizza places and bars. We shared some drinks, ate some food and were home by eleven. The next day we caught an Uber to the foreshore, walked along the beach and the lake. Our waiter told us that tonight there would be life music. Of course! There is life music EVERY night! Ah, Brasil! How I will miss you!

Later that afternoon Maria cooked a wonderful lunch and her friend Daniela, came over as well. We went for a long walk along the foreshore, where we encountered a snake eating a gecko! This woman wanted somebody to stop the snake doing this! Eh?? Only its tail was just hanging out. The photos is on my camera. This is animal love taken too far. It is life. It is nature.

We all went to watch an amazing sunset, over the lake! There was an empty derelict hotel across the road and Gina and I fantasised bringing it back to its former glory! We then joined the party on the foreshore. My favourite song was played, “Let it Be” and “imagine”, and lots of Brasilian music afterwards! I even got up to dance! Later that night we all snuggled in the lounge to watch “Rocketman”, another magic day had passed. In the morning Maria Eduarda and Daniela needed to go to work, while Gina and I caught the bus to Barra de Sana. The bus took about an hour to Casimiro de Arbeu. Beautiful scenery, mountains, rivers and sunshine!

Daniela and I enjoying our evening.

Coming back after eight years to Gina and Luiz Miguel’s hostel, was like coming home. We had a marvellous lunch and spend the afternoon in the garden. Gina is a painter too, so I looked at her art work, we shared a bottle of wine and talked! Boy, did we talk! I am always amazed when I meet people again after a long time, that a connection is still there. This is not a given! We shared another lovely meal, and after a shower it was time for bed. These last days are flying by.

My last day on the island. Gina and I sat in the garden, watching. Humming birds and finches in the huge Hibiscus tree. Then Gina went to work, and I went kayaking. Letting myself drift along, enjoying the bird song and the sunshine!

Gina and I talked about a lot of things, as Gina is a painter as well, also she told me about the Hawaiian meditation of Ho’Oponopono. “I love you, I am sorry and I forgive you, THANK YOU! “I had never heard of this before, but since then I have googled and read about this meditation. It is a better form of what I have been doing for years. Some people come into your life just to change your life! Gina is my guide, my inspiration, I think it works both ways, but I will certainly look into a course I can do in Oz!

Luiz contemplating what to cook for lunch!

The island hostel is one of the most magic places I have ever visited! It is so peaceful and quiet, with the bird life just around you. A woodpecker playing his kind of music on a tree. Bright red birds, yellow ones, and lots and lots of humming birds. Luiz made lunch, I did some washing, and together we watched a horror movie about a Toxic Shark!! Lots of blood, guts and very bad acting! My bus to São Paulo is at nine o’ clock at night, but the last bus from Barra de Sana left at six thirty. Lots of time to sit at the cute bus station watching people and the world go by!

I WILL BE BACK,!!

Ouro Preto in pictures

Ouro Preto

Fabulous museum.

Cobble stone streets.

Inside the church of Francis of Assisi.

Stunning ceiling in the church.

K

St Francis of Assisi. Stunningly beautiful stone carvings, painted ceiling! Awesome church. 1700 something!

Leaving Belo Horizonte. Hard to say good bye! I will be back! One day! ❤️❤️❤️

Belo Horizonte in pictures.

I bought shoelaces from this man , to fix my back pack!

My gorgeous hotel

.the old station gallery. It was closed for the public! Only for teachers and student groups!

…the old station gallery.

Beautiful Belo Horizonte

The packing of my bag didn’t take very long! Discarded a lot of my ” rubbish”! I am allowed ten kilos of hand luggage on this flight, and I am determined to manage this!! The wonderful cleaner and cook at the hostel seemed very pleased with her bag of ” goodies”! Dear Amadeu had promised me on Friday a free ride to the airport! He also has very, very good wifi in his agency. So of the historic town I went! I have no idea WHY I thought it is ” incredibly” far! It all seems so close now!

The lovely driver, who took me on the weekend tour, also dropped me off at the airport! He spoke a bit of Spanish, and slowly in Portuguese, so we chatted all the way! I had been able to reduce my backpack to seven kilos! Very impressed!
This was also the first time, that I received a ” full body search”! It must have been the dread locks!! But no, it was my knee brace setting of all the alarms! Oops!

I paid an extra couple of dollars to have a roomy window seat, it is only a three hour flight, but I saved a lot on the taxi, so there you go! Who would walk on board but Raoul and Mauro? This is so exiting! I had just published the story about him missing the boat! Oops! Plus I put his photo, that I took, on line as well! I normally DO ask people if they mind! But I didn’t have their contact details, so couldn’t!

The flight went quick. All movies are dubbed over in Portuguese so I picked the Life of Pi, which I have seen many times, so I know what is going on. Before the movie finished we were ready to land. I took a bus from the air port and arrived at the bus station an hour later. The first thing I noticed was how incredibly clean this town was compared to Manaus and Belem. I didn’t see any rubbish until I got to the bus station itself. Then a taxi to the hotel and check in.

The room was simple. Single bed, which is very unusual. Hot, hot water in the shower! After sending loads of messages to Vitor, his family and Nina’s friends, I finally went to bed at eleven at night! Slept like a babe, another very hot shower and an amazingly good breakfast buffet, one of the best so far! Vitor’s dad, Jayme, was coming to pick me up! I was invited to stay with them! A room had been prepared for me! I didn’t expect this at all. I thought may be a meal together or a few drinks one night, instead the Brasilian hospitality showed itself in full force!

Jayme and Liane took me out for a buffet lunch with all the special foods from the province of Minas Gerais. After my huge breakfast I overdid the lunch, as it all looked very delicious! In the evening we went to a pub to drink some local beer from the area. That night my stomach let me know that this was NOT the way to live anymore and I paid for it all with terrible stomach cramps all night! Bummer!!

On Wednesday I had planned to go to Inhotim, the largest out door gallery space in the world! Jayme dropped me off in the morning and I spend the whole day in artist heaven!! It was totally impossible to see it all. There are over twenty galleries. Each with their own exhibitions. My most favourite was the black and white photography from Claudia Andujar. A Swiss born artist ( Claudine Haas) who lived with the Yanomami, in the village of Maturaca (Amazonia) for over seven years. Her photos were just awesome! I took photos on my camera of the black and white photos, I spend a lot of time in this gallery and it was by far my favourite.

A lot of the art were video installations, in the dark, I felt I was living in the dark as most of it I didn’t understand! The complex is so incredibly huge that in the end it was my legs that decided where I would go to! Several of the pavilions were closed due to exhibition changes. Some of the galleries had long queues waiting to enter. These I skipped altogether, as I had only limited time. I have learned in my life that it is humanly impossible to see all that life has to offer us, one needs to make choices all the time! Although I do my best to see as much as I can, I am aware of my personal limitations.

The grounds of Inhotim are also impressive. Many artificial lakes reflect the pavilions into the water. Creating spectacular images for photographs. I wish I had taken more notes, but by the end it became a survival of slowly going from one to the next with the least amount of pain! There were small tourists carts driving around, but I should have bought my ticket at the entrance, which is interesting as there was nobody at the entrance when I arrived! All together it was an amazing day spend in fabulous surroundings, seeing so much creativity made me one to go home and draw and paint again!

The next day I had planned to go to Ouro Preto, but as I had a late start Liane and I decided to spend the day at Liberty square. What an amazing place that is! In the centre of the town is a huge park, with all old, and new, buildings surrounding a square. Each building has a museum or a gallery. We spend hours in the museum and afterwards we found out that there was a retrospective exhibition of Paul Klee in one of the galleries. As he is one of my favourite artists, I thoroughly enjoyed spending time looking, studying and enjoying these beautiful works.

Afterwards we went out and had lunch, I was in desperate need for a strong coffee, to keep the body moving. In the afternoon we went to the Fiat exhibition, were I saw my very first car on show, a Fiat 500, except mine had the door handle at the other side! I also took a photo of a sculpture and was told off, no photos! Interesting as the Paul Klee had no such restrictions except that you were not allowed to take “selfies” at the exhibition! Go and figure!

Exhausted, wanting to go home, but being close to the ninety year old market, we pushed on. The market was amazing! Lots of products, especially from Minas Gerais, were avaiLable for tasting. Lots of sweets, cheese and alcohol to taste. Some good, some bad and some down right ugly! After so much fun it was time to ” vamos toma uma ” to go and have a drink!! Liane and I shared a cold beer at the bar! Another fabulous day had passed!!

I am so enjoying this town. And Brasil, it will be hard to leave next week!! My last day I had planned to go and visit the old colonial town of Ouro Preto. A small town two hours away. Still the same way as over three hundred years ago. Jayme and I had gotten up early journey would take two hours by bus. Jayme asked if I had my passport on me, to buy the ticket. Hey? You need a passport for that! I had a copy and I know the number, that should do it. Except when I came to the busstation at 6.30 am and my copy was nowhere to be found ( it was in my other note book, I had bought a new one!!) and without photo ID one can NOT travel in Brasil. You live and learn every day.

It took awhile but I managed to catch a bus back to the family s home, pick up my passport and Jayme returned me to the bus station! Feeling incredibly stupid, exhausted and grumpy I was in the colonial town at twelve thirty. It was worth it! The little town was an absolute gem. Lots of restored old buildings, little churches every where. Two art galleries, museum and lots of old cobble stone streets. Ouro Preto is famous for its sandstone sculptures, and there was a huge market selling lots of sand stone products.

All much too heavy, must keep my backpack under ten kilos, so I didn’t buy anything. However it was wonderful watching the stone carvers at work! Wandering up and down the uneven cobble stone streets was enjoyable only for a few hours! After five hours it was exhausting. I caught the six o clock bus back to BH. Caught a taxi home and spend a wonderful evening with the family. Tomorrow I am catching a bus to Macae, where I will meet my friend Gina. The sad part being that Vitor is coming home tomorrow, and again I will miss him to say good bye!
This is a hard part of travel, you make new friends, only to move on again, never knowing if we see each other again!!

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Lencois Maranhensen, a desert adventure.

This park consists of 1500 sq kilometres of rolling white dunes. Rain water forms crystal clear lakes between the sandy hills. The main town is Barreirinhas’ on a bend of the river Preguicas.

It took four hours the next morning to pick up all the people, and drive to Barreirinhas. El jefe, Amadeu, had told me that there were four foreigners on the tour! It was a German/ Brasilian family. Carla, the Brasilian/ German woman also spoke some English, which was great, as I had no idea what was going on most of the time! We were dropped off at our hotel in Barreirinhas, by the name of Belo Horizonte, and were free till two o’ clock. A walk into town, one street, a beer and hot chips, I found out that there was a jazz concert that night in the square. Fabulous! Life music!

At two o’clock there was lots of confusion of who should go where. In the end instead of sitting on the top of the truck I sat inside with Carla and her eldest daughter, Ellen. The 4×4 needed to be loaded onto a ferry, which was then pushed by a little boat to the other side! Fabulous. Our car played up at one stage, lots of rattling and screeching noises, nothing a lot of water in the radiator couldn’t fix! As soon as the radiator was filled up we went on our merry way! Slipping and sliding.

When we arrived at the desert we had to climb this enormous sand dune! So much for not having to walk with my crook knee! Quite steep! The view was amazing! Just a shame there were hundreds of other people doing the same thing on a Saturday afternoon! My Italian friends went for a four day hike, with a guide! How magical that would have been! Although walking in the sand dunes was certainly not easy. This sand dune desert is unusual as it has lakes every where.

Walter, Carla’s husband, explained that it was underground waters that filtered through into the desert. It was most certainly impressive. I sat down and swam for awhile, waiting for the big mob of people to disperse. Then I wandered of in a different direction, where it was possible to sit, watch and take photos. I was making large abstract paintings in my head, it was not easy tuning out other people, but I am practising silence in the market place, and I am getting quite good at it!

We watched the sunset from the top of the first hill and hundreds of people stood with their backs to this spectacular sight, just to get the perfect selfie, or social media shot. I left my iPad in my bag. I locked the picture in my head, and smiled at the antics of my most favourite “animal” on this earth, humans! (Human behaviour interests me enormous, and I should have gone on to do a Master’s in Social Science!) and lately I am more and more baffled, but still humoured, by some strange behaviours! First their backs to the sunset for the “perfect” shot, than the rest of the time is spend “watching these perfect shots”, meanwhile nature gives a free show of gigantic proportions, witnessed by a few die hards!!

Time to return in our wild west fourwheel drive! Wheelies on the way! By the time we arrived by the river, there was a huge traffic jam of tour vehicles needing to cross, so we were all let out, just in front of, yes, you guessed it! Souvenir shops, bottle shops and people selling food!! Ah, a cold beer! One of the people who crossed through the water to the boat, was bitten by a snake! There was a lot of screaming, while her guide told her it was not a poisonous snake! How could het Ell in the dark? The woman showed us the bite and her very swollen foot! According to her it was a cobra. I would have shat myself, but every body around me was rather blase about the whole thing! Another fabulous day! Mind you, I realise now that it would have been smarter to go on a longer, smaller, more private tour, but time and (by now) money, constrains made me choose a ” tourists packed tour”. These tour I normally avoid at all costs, but………..ah, choices!

Somehow I fell asleep after my wonderful, hot, shower! First one in a long, long time. My back has been giving me grief on top of the knee! It took me awhile to realise that this must be due to the fall I had two days ago! Shit, this body is getting old! Can’t even fall flat on my face without consequences! (No, I had NOT been drinking!) The back injury from Tanzania, flared up big time! Sigh. Luckily I had some Ibrufen left over. Two pills, a hot, hot shower, and NO jazz! ( which was a shame)

Cashew fruit. Didn’t know these nuts were a fruit!

Something had caused a black out during the night. I woke up, pitch black, couldn’t find my bag, which had my headlight, stubbed my toe, swore a lot, and figured that something must have happened as even the aircon was no longer working. It was stinking hot in the room. Three o’clock in the morning, wide awake! Also noticed my gadget had not charged either. Great! Now what? This is when I take notes for my blobs, no working wifi, but I could take notes.

At seven it was breakfast time. I put the iPad on the charger, asked Carla to tell the owner about the ” black out” which only happened in my room! Ah, the Power of ONE! I enjoyed one of the bests breakfast yet! Lots of different fruits, fruit juices without sugar, fresh crispy bread rolls, eggs, cheese and ham. It was a magnificent spread. Four different types of cakes that needed trying! I ate too much, but as I only eat once a day again, it should keep me going till tomorrow’s brekky!

At 8.30 am there was our boat pick up. Fast and crazy ride along the Preguicas river. Lovely and early, first stop more sandy desert with lots of lakes. Here there were wind mills generating energy. It was like watching a silent ballet! I had learned from yesterday, to walk away as fast as I could! Along the shore of the river I walked fast to the furthest away sand dune! Climbed up and was rewarded with spectacular views across the desert! Without any people!! By now I have been working on a series of abstracts in my head, and I took photos with these compositions in my mind. Hope I can hang on to these images for another four weeks when I am able to paint again!

There was a bit of confusion, trying to find ” my” boat amongst the enormous quantity of moored boats!! They all looked alike! I should have taken notice of the name ” India”, but I didn’t! Last one on board. We went of to a little fishing village,a light house, and souvenir shops!! Lighthouse was not open, so no climbing up to see the view. There was a lot of alcohol for sale made out of cashew fruit! I regret not trying any of it! There is another interesting drink, no idea what it is called, but it is strong and has crabs or lobsters inside of the bottles! This baffled me, until I was told that the bottle is cut, animal preserved inside, bottle glued back together, decorative rope over the cut and voila! Delicious interesting drink, which I didn’t try either!

The third stop was Cabure beach along the Atlantic ocean.
I walked away from the crowd, who all went for lunch, walked to the beach, ordered a beer and enjoyed the scenery. By now my back was killing me, ibrofen not working fast enough, and a terrible headache. I seldom get headaches, so a shady spot, a hammock and quiet time, listening to the roaring waves. I met a lovely girl, Adriana, from São Paulo, now living in Belo Horizonte. We talked for quite awhile, as her English was excellent. Then going back early to find the boat, plenty of time, fell asleep waiting!

Another hot, hot shower, scrubbing all the sand of my body. My hair is a different matter! Dreadlocks are an enormous amount of work! Who would have thought?? Sand and water needs to be washed out, re rolled, let them dry, which I didn’t have time for! So wet and sandy hair, fell asleep in the bus on the way home. Ah, life it is just so amazing! I arrived back at my hostel just after ten o ‘clock and found a man in my bed! Oops! Prayers answered? There was NO staff on duty, until eleven o’clock that night! Shower, sleep until I was woken up by two screeching cats in the dormitory! The red tomcat was willing and able, the grey one wouldn’t have a bar of him. Great! Was having a marvellous dream. Michelle, my daughter, and I at a party in El Viajero! Colombian! Welcome to my life!

São Luis, the next adventure!

Nico and I

The bus ride was comfortable, long and very, very cold. There could be a reason WHY the drivers turn the buses into freezers, but I have yet to discover what this can be! It was the same at the Belem hostel, the temperature for the dorm was set at seventeen! You just freeze at that, twenty five or twenty three is more than enough. Nico and I shared a cab to the hostel, which is way out of the old city. What a shame. We caught up with Soren, the German guy, who spends most of his time on his apple laptop, so I am assuming he works while travelling! That would be just ideal!! Kate, the girl from New Zealand was there too. They had not yet booked their trip, but they’re going to catch the four o’clock bus to Barreirinhas.

Thanks, but no thanks. I am not getting up at four after just spending over thirteen hours on a bus! Plus I have decided that it is better to do a one day tour. The hostel is way out of the old town. In the afternoon Nico, Kate and I caught the local bus to the historical centre. (Soren had to work!) The old town is not large, but fascinating. We walked around, visited some souvenir shops, and the others needed to go back much too soon for my liking! Before we reached the hostel, the bus stopped and we were sort of kicked of, onto another bus, the trip back took incredibly long. Kate went on and on complaining about this, and everything else what is wrong with South America.

I get this, when one travel a long time, one can get tired, this means you need to move on. But Nico had just arrived from France after three weeks on a cargo boat and everything delighted and fascinated him. (If Kate said one more time ” oh, but you just got here, give it time” , I swear I was going to slug her one!) That evening we all walked to the beach to watch the sunset. For one reason or other I tripped over and fell smack bang flat on my face! I had forgotten to put on my shoes and was wearing my thongs! ( flip flops for the foreigners reading this!) Beside a few dents to the ego, no damage was done, (I thought.)

Rasta mseum

We all had a few beers, watched the sunset, the others had something to eat. I am cutting back as I am going back onto a strict KETO lifestyle, when I get back home. The first step, cut out the lovely Brasilian white, crispy bread rolls. I don’t eat them a lot, but still too often for my liking! My right hand has become my KETO indicator! When ever I over indulge, (and YES I do, I AM on holidays you know, cake for breakfast, my favourite!) The right hand starts to play up, closing it causes pain. I fix this with a twenty four hour fast and get back on track. Of course the daily beers don’t help either, but I am back to one a day!)

The next morning the bus picked the young ones up at eight! So much for an early start! After a leisurely breakfast it was too overcast to go to the beach. I caught the bus into the historical centre. Oh, what a delight, to wander by myself, into little alley ways, climb the stairways, walk into galleries, shops and musea at my own speed. It was an immense pleasure. Finally I came back to the tourist information centre, where the only person speaking English or Spanish was very busy. (I can understand Portuguese, but I can’t speak it, only Spanglish comes out of my mouth).

Beer time, while waiting for this woman to find time. I passed an hour watching people go to and fro, only to find out that the tourist information woman now had gone for lunch! I had hoped to discuss a few tour options. As luck would have it there was a travel agency right next door. Due to the very poor wifi at the hostel, I had not gotten very far in my search for flights south, and the main one, a flight to Santiago de Chile, for my return home! The wonderful owner, Amadeu, spoke awesome English, and before I knew it, I had booked and paid for my flight to Chile, and a flight to Belo Horizonte ( five times more expensive!)

It is possible, in Australia, to get a flight pass for Brasil. The problem here is that you need to know your days and cities that you want to visit, more than six months in advance! I find this impossible, and I find it hard enough, when a flight is booked, that I NEED to be there, and miss out on other things on the way. Anyway, two flights all done and dusted in fifteen minutes!

Just before I left I asked if he did know of an agency that would do tours to the desert. Of course his agency did!! Except, oops, four people had not shown up, and there was nobody for a day tour! ( minimum of four people required, always) Ah, well, you can’t win them all. It was obviously not meant to be. So be it! Life goes on. I walked to the palace of the lions, where a delightful young woman, Julia, guided me through the five rooms with excellent English! All musea, galleries are free! This impresses me greatly! Also the tour was free. She showed me a tapestry, made by a Moroccan/ Brasilian woman, which was stunning! ( I wrote down her name somewhere! Can’t find it!)

Later that wonderful day I caught the bus back. I wanted to go for a long beach walk. I snoozed on the bus, suddenly woke up, thought I recognised the gourmet supermarket behind our hostel, and got off the bus! Of course, there are more then just ONE gourmet supermarket and this wasn’t the one remotely near my hostel. Oops! Now what? Trying to ask people where the hostel’s street was, was a waste of energy. It gets dark here rather fast. As soon as the sun sets, the dark rolls in. Great. I am somewhere, it is getting dark and I have NO idea where the hell I am! Welcome to my world!

Suddenly there was a car beeping! As I looked up, this man is waving at me madly! Great! Now I am lost in the dark with a lunatic on the loose! Until he called my name! It was the owner of the travel agency! All exited! As I hopped into his car, he told me he had been thinking of me all afternoon! ( yeah, I know, I have this effect on people! Poor man!) he had found four people for a two day tour, but as I had left NO phone number, nor contact details, nor my hotel’s address, he had NO WAY of letting me know! He was beside himself! He had recognised my dress at the bus stop where I was asking people where I should go!! Now to me this is Serendipity, a meaningful coincidence! (Happens to me! A LOT!!!)

So as he is dropping my off, we are arranging the tour for tomorrow. Great, need to pack and store my bag! All very exiting! So the adventures continue! Ah, I just LOVE my LIFE!

Beautiful Belem.

The boat arrived very early on Sunday morning. The hostel that Vitor booked was within walking distance of the port. Just opposite the main square, where on Sunday all the craft and food sellers have their stalls. We dumped our gear, showered and changed, and explored the various foods of the region. The others all went to the markets afterwards, I had a snooze, and explored more of the gorgeous old buildings around the square.

There was an incredible theatre, which was closed. The old buildings in Belem are amazing. The city is big, dirty, full of homeless people, but fascinating and interesting. The old market is stunning. The open air market is the biggest in South America. So much to see and do. I just wandered. Visited the cathedral, musea, and any gallery that was open. The large Contemporary Art gallery was closed for another month, as they were changing their alarm system.

Just wandering and wondering. Having a beer and watch all the people, my favourite past time. The market just fascinated me. As you sit down, the world comes to you. An old man on a bike, with an enormous boom box on the front, playing extremely loud music, he was selling something but I never found out what exactly. Old, poor, homeless, sellers of gadgets, cords, cards and interesting looking stuff, that people could or could not need was being sold, without me moving an inch.

On a very rainy Monday night I met up with two young people, Daniela and Gabriel, friends of my friend Nina. They took Luiz and me to the foreshore, Estacao Das Docas, where they have turned the old dock into a trendy area, full of amazing restaurants and boutique little shops, beyond my normal budget. We had a fabulous meal, fish, rice and the necessary Farinha, a mashed up manioc/ yukka plant with different spices. This is one of the mains staples of EVERY meal. It comes in different crushings, fine, medium or rough. You put it on your watery soup meal to thickening it up. I thought of it as over sized breadcrumbs! On the first boat I mistook it for Parmesan cheese, and loaded it onto my pasta meal. Ever since then I am rather careful with my application. I prefer the finer Farinha, as the rough one gets into my broken tooth and hurts.

Delicious ice Cream!

It was a delightful evening which came to an end much too soon. The one thing needed before we went, was going to the best ice cream shop in Belem, were they had so many different sorts of ice cream, it was impossible to choose! The young man gave me a taste of many different colours and flavours, but then I needed to remember which one was better than the others. Too hard. I am a libra, making choices is not necessarily my strongest point! In the end I choose Brazilian nuts ice cream, which was delicious.

I have learned to say that “I don’t speak Portuguese”, in Portuguese, which confuses the sellers. “Thank you” is another word which comes in very handy and I use all the time. On the last day Luiz and I walked to the old jail, which has been turned into a gem stone museum and lots of boutique gem stone jewellery shops. Way out of my budget. There was a wonderful courtyard with huge crystal boulders, surrounded by a moat full of different coloured crystals! Also a lot of security cameras, so Jenny, I didn’t get one for you!!

After the impressive jail we walked to the Mangal Das Garcas, a fascinating park with a butterfly enclosure, maritime museum, a look out tower and beautiful parklands. Entry was free, unless you wanted to go into enclosures and museum. As I am over sixty, everything was free for me!! I wasn’t even asked for photo identification!! Shame! I reckon people should just ask to make us oldies feel better about ourselves!

There were flamingoes, but not the brightly coloured ones I saw in Colombia. Lots of bright red little birds, I have no idea what they are called, but they were stunningly beautiful. Lots of turtles in the water, and iguanas on land. The maritime museum was fascinating. It started of explaining how the Brasilian navy was formed. When the Navy first started, they would not allow Portuguese men to join. Their loyalties would be divided between Portugal and their new country, Brasil.

So they hired English sailors! Very clever idea, which showed lots of foresight, as there was going to be a war with Portugal, for their independence! The other fact that I found fascinating was that the Portuguese ships were suitable for the oceans, but totally useless for Brasilian waterways. So the navy sought advice of local indigenous people on how to build ships, suitable for the Amazonian waterways!

After spending a couple of hours in the park we took an uber to the market, were we had a wonderful lunch. It was lovely to spend the last day in Belem with Luiz. A very interesting young man, with an interesting outlook on life. He is now my adopted Brasilian son, and so my family grows. Vitor, my adopted Brasilian grand son, was still on the great island. I have decided not to wait but to move on to São Luis tonight, as time is starting to run out for me.

Beautiful old metal staircase in the market.

It is always hard to say good bye, to let go of the known to move into the unknown. As Luiz was calling an uber for the bus station, this young French man, Nico, asked where I was going, well, here you go we are both going to São Luis! He is meeting up with Soren, the German guy who was also in our hostel. They are going on a tour into the desert, with a jeep, rather than walking, great, I will join them and this makes everything cheaper for all. And so the adventures continue. Onwards to São Luis!

Vitor, my fireman Brasilian adopted grandson being “cheeky” to his old granny!

Luiz and Vitor. Good Bye dear friends.

 

Santarem to Belem, by ” sardine” boat!

The fiesta lasted till 2.00 am in the morning! When a Brasilian says “let’s have a last one”, it means let’s keep on drinking!! You learn something new every day!! Five in the morning the alarms went off! Great! Three hours sleep! Just what my body craves, not! Caught the bus to Santarem. We had brekky at the market, with the greatest coffee yet! Then we watched the pink river dolphins. There were a big mob. This man tied a fish on a rope and played with a dolphin. Vitor got a great video of this. Then the dolphin ate the fish and the guy, of course, wanted money! Since non of us asked for this display, we didn’t pay! It is much better to ASK tourists first! I was very happy to see so many pink dolphins, though. Their noses are much lager and thinner than the regular dolphins. They are also fatter and more square. The nose has evolved so they can look for food when the river floods the mangroves, so the dolphins have adapted themselves.

The boat was much, much smaller than the last one! By the time we bought our tickets and came on board, the deck was chocker block filled up! We tried going to the top deck, but this was NOT allowed! How Vitor found three hooks is beyond me! But he did and for the time being we are practising to be sardines! Silently I apologised to the old lady, who I THOUGHT was in my face on the first boat! She wasn’t even CLOSE!! This is what Travelling is all about! Extending your comfort zone, at all times! This time however, I was too tired to extend anything, I crawled into my hammock and promptly fell asleep! I must be honest, I was glad that Vitor and Luiz had decided to come on the same boat! There were very, very few foreign tourists. A handful of Italians, two Spanish women, and a German couple, who managed to close themselves off completely!

My adopted Brasilian son Luiz and grandson Vitor ready to party, AGAIN,!

What a shame though! Brasilians just LOVE to party, and by the time I felt human again the party was in full swing! Brasilian people are kind, generous and an enormous amount of fun to hang out with! The boat stopped several times, to let more people on board! I managed to stop one woman hanging her hammock just above Vitor and mine! I claimed his hammock and I told the woman he was my son, and to move! Mind you, there REALLY was NO room!!

The second day, people one by one, started to move their hammocks to the top deck! So we did too! It was colder up here, but so much more comfortable! At one stage Raoul and Luiz left the boat to buy, cheaper, booze at the shore! The boat left without them!! You have to understand that, when a Brasilian says thirty minutes, it can mean anything up to an hour!! Luiz hauled a boat, and the guy started ROWING!! Well, Luiz nearly shat himself! So he rowed while the owner turned on the motor!! There was a bit of a scary spot, when Raoul panicked, ( he is a city boy), and rocked the little boat! The small boat could have easily be run over by the large river boat, thank god Luiz is an experience sailor, he managed to calm Raoul and get them both safely on board without any damage to any vessels or to the two men!

Raoul exhausted after his adventure!

What a great you tube video this would have made! Of course I missed the whole keystone cops kaboedel! Shame! I would have so enjoyed it! I made them tell the story many times, while every time I would crack up all over again! ” Tell me again!” I would ask. Especially Vitor, who was safely on the river boat, could tell the story better and better, the more drinks, the more dramatic the story became! Just thinking about it puts a BIG grin on my face!!

The scenery on this part of the river was very different again. First of all we were on a side river, much closer to the shore. Also the last part we were sailing near the Large Island, with its gorgeous beaches! Ilha Se Marajo. This island is larger than seventy of the world’s countries! Most of the island’s interior, however, is inaccessible. The island is notable for its friendly and hospitable people,( aren’t ALL Brasilians like that??) and the Carimbo, the colourful dance that I had seen in Alter do Chao. Most of the “boat people” went to this island, known for its beautiful beaches! But I was ready for some culture and less drinking and partying! The mind and heart are willing and able, but the body is starting to show signs of its age, and I needed some desperate resting time!

First view of Belem!

 

Alter do Chao, Amazonian Paradise

The toilet block

Waking up in our jungle abode was just amazing. Listening to the monkeys, birds and some kind of animal in the undergrowth, while waking up was amazing. First things first, there was washing to be done. Even on holidays domestic chores are a necessity! Then a need to find wifi, as I need to check to see if the embassy from Suriname has answered my e mails. A need to check flights, prices and basically organise my next step.

Wine, holding up Kim!

There was no wifi in town, and after a long search we found wifi at the hotel Mirante del Ilha. Kim explained that it was desperately needed to do our research. Wifi was for the guests only! The barman was kind enough to give it to Wine, who asked ever so friendly! No Brasilian male is going to refuse a twenty something woman, anything at all!! People are incredibly helpful and friendly. Towards the elderly, people with young children, and of course gorgeous young women!

We spend the rest of the afternoon catching up on e mails, face book and business. The Suriname embassy still hasn’t responded! I have to go on line during their office hours. In the mean time I did my research into flight to French Guyana, expensive, get my visa there and then fly to Paramaribo. Also expensive! I was wondering WHY the flies had gone up so high, when Wine suggested it was school holidays in the Netherlands, and a lot of people from Suriname will return there. Flights from Paramaribo to anywhere else in South America were more expensive than my flight from Oz to Souh America!!

Tree house, completely self contained!

I decided to let it all go and enjoy my time here. There is a fiesta nearly every night! The Brasilians sure love to have fun! Dancing the night away, people watching, drinking too much, all are past times that are enjoyed by all! I was still sluggish from last night dancing, I could do with a few quiet days. So much for my week of fasting that I had planned for this lovely abode! I had this fantasy, of being in the jungle, drinking healthy juices and fasting to get me back on my KETO track!

Ah, well, was it John Lennon who said that life happens when you are busy making or plans? It is hot here, humid, and life just slows down. There is lots to do, but I have found my perfect spot, the hotel’s swimming pool!  Cold beer available! Watching the world go by! On the Monday I had my dreads fixed by Fredson, husband of Audrey, two lovely people , whom I had met on the first night during the fiesta.In the afternoon I managed to get in touch with the Suriname embassy , who told me there was NO problem with their website! Well, obviously there is, as I can’t get in, and I have been trying for over three weeks!

Love Island

I worked out the cost of going to Suriname for only two weeks and I couldn’t justify that! I had spend my extra month in Colombia instead, ah, well, such is life, but I am not going to spend over three thousand dollars to spend two weeks in their country! So HURRAY!! I get to spend more time in Brasil! Isn’t life just great?? Where to next? Oh, let’s just take it easy, I am in Alter do Chao! Love island needs a visit!

My frog prince!

I want to go kayaking on the Amazon river. May be tomorrow! Well, I DID go to Love Island, but the water was so choppy, I didn’t kayak! Didn’t find any Love! But a tiny little frog kept jumping up on my I pad, bag and table! Dive in the water and come back again!! Oops! Could have been my prince!! Didn’t kiss it though! Was too tiny, and could have been poisonous!

Vitor, my Brasilian grandson, playing dare devil on top of the mountain!

The mob got up really early, swam to the island, hiked up the hill and watched the sunrise! The photos were fantastic, and I enjoyed their stories, but I have no interest in doing anything remotely sounding like hard work!! ( my knee giving me a lot of grief)  I am happy to walk every morning into town, about fifteen minutes, and back in the afternoon. Tasting all the different foods that are sold on the square.

Luiz and our meal in Casa Saulo. Fabulous!

I love the slow pace here in Alter do Chao. It is too hot to do anything, sitting under the shade of the big tree, and letting the world pass by. On the last day Luiz asked if I wanted to go to a restaurant between Alter do Chao and Santarem, to have a meal and watch the sunset. I had actually planned to go to Santarem, as the boat to Belem leaves early the next morning. But this restaurant sounded too great, so yeah let’s go! As I was supposedly leaving with Vitor, we send him a message that I would be home later. Of we went! I had to keep pinching myself, here I am in the middle of the Amazonian jungle, on a fabulous motor bike, driven by a handsome young man, having another adventure!

It was just magic, absolute magic. Very romantic setting, fabulous meal and conversation and an amazing sunset. Unbelievably beautiful. Life is just magical! How absolutely fabulous it is to be ALIVE!! I will never be able to take it for granted, I am just incredibly grateful. When we got back about eight o ‘clock, we found out that there was a special fiesta going on, the Quinti dos Mestres, the Thursday of the Masters, with the special kind of music called Carimbo. Ah, another fiesta!! Dancing the night away! Eh, tomorrow morning we need to be on the boat to Belem! Hm! Let’s get our priorities right! First a FIESTA!!

 

Slow boat from Manaus to Santarem

It was quick and easy to board this new boat. The Ana Beatriz. As I was stringing up my hammock I noticed two very young people, a Dutch couple, Kim and Wine, we started chatting, and soon a very, very tall young man from Germany, Silvio, joined us. Somehow we all ended up on the top deck, joined by Luiz from Brasil, but who lives and works in Barcelona, and Tomas, from Brasil. Vitor, from Brasil. There was a bar on board, with the prices the same as on land! Probably because most of the passengers are Brasilians! A pleasant afternoon was had by all. I crawled in my hammock at five and slept till three in the morning!! Must have needed it!

There are a lot of travel blogs out there that emphasise the ” dangers” of Amazonian boat travel! You MUST lock your bags to a post, you MUST have a mosquito net, you MUST take malaria tablets. All this I found untrue. There are NO mosquitoes while on the water! There is a fresh breeze blowing at all times. People are to busy with their own stuff to be interested in my bag full of dirty underwear! And malaria tablets I have only taken on my very first trip ,ever, and never since!!

I watched the comings and goings of new passengers arriving from Parintins. There was one more stop, which brought the police on board! Checking bags! Silvio, the tall German, was concerned about his stash of weed! He asked me if the police were looking for drug Smuggling? How the hell would I know?? I only have had my dreads for four weeks!! ( and I don’t do drugs!)  The suggestion was made that he could hide it on the top deck, behind the gazebo’s plastic roof!

 

Vitor, asleep.

Luckily the cops weren’t really interested, and certainly didn’t bring any sniffer dogs. It was the highlight of the day. Like life entertainments! I had only brought some bananas with me to counter act all the carbs from the last week. I would have liked to go to the supermarket on the shore, but was told we would leave in ten minutes! (Unbeknown to me there was a restaurant on board!) the boat stopped much longer than ten minutes, but I didn’t dare to risk it. When we arrived in Santarem, one night, two days, I was feeling rather lightheaded. Due to the heat and the pushing and shuffling, and probably due to the lack of food, I nearly passed out on the stairway! Nothing that sitting down with my head between my knees couldn’t solve, but the care and kindness was overwhelming!

Finally we arrived in Santarem. As a big mob of us were all going to Alter de Chao, it made sense to get to the bus together. On the way we passed an ATM, which didn’t give any of us any money! Hm! Interesting! When the first bus to Alter arrived it was chokker block full. All the French people pushed themselves in. The two guys from Queensland and the German lad were going to take a taxi. I joined them. Apparently I am NOT an Australian, but a foreigner, according to the large Aussie. Well, they were Queenslanders, anybody who votes for Pauline Hanson, isn’t necessarily the sharpest knife in the drawer!

Our bathroom.

Luiz, who had his own motorbike on the boat, had arrived long before us at the hostel. The taxi had trouble finding the place, and in the dark the whole “town” of Alter do Chao seemed huge! Finally we arrived, just as all the young people got of the bus, the two Queenslanders took one look at this jungle rustic hostel, and politely declined. They insisted that the taxi took them back to to the ” centre of town”. They tried to convince me I didn’t want to stay at this “dump”, as the fat one called it. Well, I did! The six of us strung up our hammocks, and headed into “town”. On the way here we had noticed a fiesta and we wanted to check it out!

We took another turn and there it was! Not even the centre of town! Life music, people dancing the salsa in the street, what a wonderful place this is! I was exhausted, but as I would never ever been able to find my jungle hostel again, I had to stay until the muchachos, or at least one of the young ones, got tired and wanted to go back! The big Queensland bloke found us again and sat next to me for awhile, discussing the terrible problems of getting older! How boring! After politely listening to him and his ailments, I told him I needed to find my mob. Look, getting older happens to all of us, unless you are unfortunate and die young. However, discussing it and your ailments when there is a life band playing salsa, in the middle of the Amazonian jungle,  is completely and utterly boring to me! He went of to find another audience! (Thank god!)

In the small hours of the mornings few of us returned to our humble abode. I slept like a babe in my, by now cosy hammock. Couldn’t wait to see the place by day light! It was every thing I had expected and more! There are two tree houses, a ceremonial house (in which we slept for the first night) a large kitchen space, and a huge sleeping area. It is rustic, cosy and very, very arty farty! For less than ten dollars a night, we are in a touristy place in the middle of the Amazonian jungle! I have to keep pinching me, to know that I am NOT dreaming!

Amazing Amazonian Adventure III

The Amazonian tour started at nine o’ clock. Pick up, drop back pack at the office and a drive to the other harbour. I was in the car with three older people from Austria. They asked where I was from, Australia, we had a laugh about the fact that people always confuse Austria and Australia! Then asked asked how long I was travelling and after that never spoke another word to me again! Oops! Is it the dreadlocks?? Weird!

We had to take a boat ride. This boat stopped at the meeting of the waters! This is where the two rivers, rio Negro and rio Soliminos. There is a distinct line. The Rio Negro, the black river, is much warmer, much slower and the water has a different density.for these reasons the two rivers don’t immediately mix. So for kilometres the rivers run along side of each other, before their waters mix and become the Amazon river. In English we call the whole river the Amazon, which has to be so, if they want to claim that it is the longest river in the world!! Due to the fact that it was cloudy, the line was difficult to see.

After the boat ride we went on to a bus!! Unbelievable! I had NO idea that there were ROADS and a BUS service in the jungle!! I am aware how terribly ignorant I am! I am learning new things daily! When we finally arrived, I have no idea how long it took as I promptly fell asleep! We were all given a most delicious lunch. All together we were ten people in the group. Four young people from Italy, a young couple from Spain, the three Austrians and myself. So much for never more than EIGHT!

Stefano and Tigre.

As the boat arrived at the jungle camp, this man called out my name! Eh?? Who knows that I am ME? It was the cricket man from Manaus, James, who works for Gero tours! What a small world we have! After lunch we sorted out our beds in a very full dormitory, the Austrians had a private room. Then a boat trip down the large river. I was beside myself when I saw my first two pink dolphins!! My guide told me they were grey! But as he had his back to them, and I saw them ever so clearly, I disputed his ” sighting”! Luckily we saw two more, an awesome sight! They are much different from grey Dolphins. Their fins have developed in a different way to deal with looking for food in mangroves when the river overflows. Also their top fin is much smaller.

A couple of us had a swim in the Amazon! I can’t tell you how incredibly exciting it was to have a swim in the Amazon!! I have now swum in the Nile, Zambezi river and the Amazon!! Hm! Might see if I can swim in the five major rivers! Afterwards we went to a jungle bar. Amazingly the price of the beer was the same as the price at the Manaus hostel! On the way back we stopped for the sunset! And what a sunset it was! Unbelievably stunning. Another great day was finished!

That evening we all went to the camp’s bar. It was time to have my first caipirinha. The bar man, Toucanero, was a recently widowed elderly man , who has fourteen children! No television in the jungle I reckon! Since he was in my age group he took a shine to me, and my caipirinha although lovely, totally floored me! My father always told me to lead a balanced life, so I had a second one, one for each leg!! Marina, the Italian girl and Tiziano, played the guitar and started singing! Then one of the young guides, Sarmento, joined in. Stunningly beautiful voices. How unbelievably beautiful. Here I am in the middle of the Amazonian jungle listen to live music of total professionals. How blessed I am. How incredibly blessed!

I was up at five am the next morning, walked to the boat ramp. James and four people in his group were already there. In what should have been a beautiful quiet morning was disturbed by angry voices. His group was meant to go on a boat for a sunrise tour, but their boat driver didn’t show up. So lots of yelling, angry voices, no dolphins no monkeys, the man kept saying, but they also missed all the birds waking up. Poor James kept saying “why are you yelling at me?I am HERE!” The woman wanted him to ring the driver, except there is no reception out in the Amazonian jungle!! In the end there was NO sunrise as it was too cloudy! But all four people had missed the Here and Now of another beautiful morning.

Tiziano, Stefano, Tigre and Marina , the four Italians.

We had a gorgeous jungle walk, saw monkeys, stunningly beautiful butterflies, a tarantula’s nest, (the spider refused to come out!) Marina and I were the only two willing to try a white worm! Like a witchity grub, but smaller, it tasted like peanut butter. Tiziano tried one after he saw we didn’t drop dead on the spot! There was so much to see and take in. It was supposedly a two hour jungle walk, but we took much longer. My knee gave me an enormous amount of grief. I am starting to get utterly fed up with this knee! It is the same age as my other one, so why be such a pain? I might have to go bed and see a specialist when I get back! Sigh. Such a boring drag!!

When we came back from the walk after four hours of walking it was lunch time. People got terribly upset that I wanted to miss lunch!! Couldn’t make them understand that normally I only eat once a day!! My stomach is upset again, which has a lot to do with the two caipirinhas last night! James fussed over me like, I was going to say an old woman, but since I never fuss over anybody, I can’t use this expressions! So he fussed, a lot! Made me lemon grass tea. This did help, but since it was self inflicted, I didn’t want ANY fuss whatsoever!! An afternoon nap, and I declined to go Pirahna fishing. I had already done this before. Three hours on a boat without a toilet nearby didn’t seem such a good idea!

Instead I sat at the boat ramp, solitary, silence, meditation, and nature just came to me!! Canaries flew in sat nearby. Bright yellow, orange and birds that were mixed. I took photos with the camera, but didn’t want to disturb this precious moment with getting the iPad out of my bag! It was just like Henry Theroux wrote in Walden Pond. All you need to do is sit still , be quiet and nature will roll at your feet in pure ecstasy. It is just so silent, boats puttering along, staff going home, and me taking it all in, to be alone for a couple hourswas pure, undiluted bliss!

One of the guides, who was waiting for his boat ride, heard monkeys nearby. We went in search of them, and right there, not ten meters away, was a group of Capuchin monkeys in a nearby tree. Ismael grabbed some bananas from the kitchen and we watched the action. Ismael tried capturing the action on my camera, but I had not set it on the movement setting. I just watched in awe! Then the group returned with nine Pirahnas. It was dinner time! Pirahna is not my favourite fish to eat! Too many bones, too small, although utterly delicious, a lot of work for a few mouthfuls.

That night, after eating the Pirahnas, we went caiman hunting. This was a bit of a farce. Gillman caught a baby caiman, we got to hold it, several photos were taken,( non on the iPad) and back we went. Mosquitos, the size of helicopters, had been biting me through my travel trousers, on my bottom! Great, now I walk around all day scratching my backside!

Then next morning I was back on the jetty, for another attempt to see a spectacular sunrise on the foreshore. This time it was Sarmento with the four Chinese people. He asked if I wanted to join them for a river sunrise. I believe whole heartedly that one should never, ever say NO to unexpected offers. So of I went, on the boat, waiting for a new day to begin. The Chinese man played one video over and over, the sound effects getting on my nerves. A beautiful quiet morning, constant chatter of the two Chinese girls, the video making its intrusive noises, while birds flew over our heads, starting their new day with a spot of morning fishing!

The next day we visited a native house! We knew this as the sign on the wall said so! We had a look around, didn’t buy anything, walked through the garden and returned to camp! Another great day!!

The sunrise was beautiful, it all happened very fast, one minute waiting and waiting and suddenly the new day has arrived.We walked amongst butterflies to the dinning area. One huge blue one, like we have in Queensland. After breakfast, it was time to pack, a morning boat trip and getting ready to return to Manaus. The trip back was so much faster then the getting here. David and Jennifer, from Barcelona, had to get to the airport, but not until much later that night. We agreed to meet each other in my new hotel’s lobby. Ah, a hot shower, change of clothing, and I felt like a new woman. Tomorrow I am catching the slow boat to Santarem. Another adventure awaits.

Mysterious Manaus

The boat arrived at four o’clock in the afternoon. There was no police check on arrival. Laureano led the way, I followed. Finally we stood outside the port buildings. I realised I should have e mailed the hostel, asking how much a taxi would be from the harbour to the place I was staying. As it was the driver over charged me, but since it was in reals, it didn’t bother me too much. Manaus Hostel is fabulous. Lots of wood carved animals, which are painted. A jungle in the courtyard! Lovely friendly staff. I settled in to my bottom bunk in the all female dormitory. Showered and changed. When I got back to the lobby to check my e mails and log in on Facebook, I found that Briyan, from the boat was staying at the same hostel! We arranged that we would go for a bite to eat, and may be have a beer as well! He walked to the hostel and it took him less then fifteen minutes, with all his luggage. He is also just twenty two years old!

We found a decent enough place. Both had a large plate of soup. Shared a beer, and walked back to the hostel. I normally don’t go out at night, so quite a novel experience for me! ( normally I am just too tired, after wanderings during the
day!) The next morning, I did my washing, had a lovely breakfast, and went in search of the main square. It was the hostel’s only disadvantage, too far from the centre! Yesterday I had spoken to the young man from the travel agency, Amazon Travel, which is situated inside the hostel. The Lonely Planet writes that it is slightly more expensive than other travel agencies! By sheer fluke, I ended up in the street of Gero’s travel agency, I hopped into the office and found out that their jungle trip, offering everything the same, except I get a bed, rather than a hammock, was HALF the price! I booked there and then, paid and went on my merry way.

The main square was fascinating. A young woman was just opening a museum. As I was in need of a toilet, I ordered a coffee and used their loo. My stomach is rather upset and I am wondering if it can have anything to do with all the carbs I have been eating for four days. I walked around the square and found the Theatre Amazonas. A magnificent building, build in the rubber boom era. I went in, received a half price old farts discount, and waited for an English tour to start. I was in awe. It was just stunning. There were just two of us on the tour, an unfriendly fellow from Queensland and me. The whole tour lasted less than half an hour, and soon I was to be on my way again.

I decided to look for Hotel Manaus, which is supposedly around this square somewhere. A man, speaking excellent English, asked if he could help me, and I told him what I was looking for. He told me he used to play cricket against Australia, in the Ian Chappell days. So we talked about cricket, of which I no nothing about, just being honest here! Anyway, I reached the hotel, he said good bye and I booked a room for when I get back from my tour on Wednesday. It is central, close to the harbour. When I get back from the tour I need to buy water, fruit etc. so a central place is what I need.

From the hotel I wandered to the harbour, where I booked and paid for my boat trip to Santarem. I met a lovely young man from Suriname, so we ended up sitting in his office talking Dutch! I have been trying to apply, unsuccessfully, to apply for an e visa so I can visit his country. There are problems with the website. As he had to get back to work, and I wanted to see more of this city, I left. Who would I bump into outside? Laureano, from Argentina. He had trouble contacting his couch surfing host, and for some reason or other, his phone wouldn’t work. We went back inside, I introduced Laureano to Stephen, from Suriname, who promptly let him use his phone! We then shared a beer, and both realised that we probably would see each other again in Santarem! This is one of the fun parts of travelling, bumping into people who you have met before!

I wandered back to the hostel, totally exhausted. My knee is still giving me too much grief for my liking, and although I had planned to go to a performance at the Theatre Amazonas, I was too exhausted to do anything else. Manaus is very hot, and humid. I can’t say it is a pretty city. The main square has been beautified, but the city could really benefit from a total overhaul. Here, too, all the buildings are just tagged. A lot of the amazing old buildings are derelict and falling apart, which is such a shame. I walked around fantasising of repairing and restoring these stunningly beautiful places, and bring the city back to its heyday splendour. This kept me amused!

Part of the deal with the tour company is that I need closed shoes to do a jungle walk. Unlike the tour company in Leticia, they do NOT provide boots! So shopping I had to do. I went to the huge market, which is housed in an incredibly beautiful building, but only sold souvenirs and fruit and vegetables. What I had not realised is that it was Sunday and all the cheap stalls were closed! Oops! Luckily I found a shop open with cheap canvas shoes! Just for one day! Hmmm! Wasteful!

On the way to the shops a lovely old man, from Colombia, selling something, called me over and asked where I was from. He was lovely, eighty years old, looking sixty. We talked about the state of affairs of the world, fixed all the problems of what we thought was wrong with it! He lives high in the mountains a week away and was in town to organise some paperwork for the government. He invited me over to his place, while pouring me some concoction, as my stomach is really giving me a lot of grief right now. Since he was drinking the same stuff, made from plants, I figured it couldn’t do any harm. It helped!

He was a shaman, from the mountains in Colombia, who has lived in Brasil for over forty years. A Pachamama worshipper ( Mother Earth) he proceeded to tell me the mythical believes of his native tribe. Since this always fascinates me enormous I sat down and listened for quite a while. My Spanish is getting so much better as I understood nearly everything! I did ask if I was allowed to take a photo, on the camera, which didn’t do him justice at all. His incredible energy, youthful appearance were much more evident in real life. Time to go! Searching for another toilet!

Amazing Amazonia

The    Amazonia exists of almost 7 million square kilometres. Hard to grasp. It covers more than eight countries. The Amazon river is the longest in the world being more than six thousand kilometres long. What I wasn’t aware of is that the river has several different names. Here I am thinking I am travelling along the Amazon, but it is called Solimoes. It isn’t until after Manaus that the river becomes the Amazon!! There you go, learning something new every day! Since then I learned that that this name changes only here in Brasilia! For English speakers the whole rivers is called the Amazon! Phew! So glad to hear this!! Which WHY it is the longest river in the world, which is disputed by Egypt, which thinks it is the Nile!

On my last day in Leticia, I got up very early in the morning. I needed to find a cable for the camera, as it is no longer recharging. It is either the cable or the battery! Also I wanted to watch the comings and goings at the market. I wanted to visit the a Ethnological museum, which is housed in the library, it is free and opens at 8.30 am. It was an amazing museum.

I took lots of photos, but barely any notes, which I regret now! There are many different tribes in the Amazonian region. One of the tribes locks young girls away from the community when she first menstruates. While locked away, she learns all about being a woman. After a few months, all her hair gets plucked out, strand by strand until she is completely bald. Then covered in feathers, bald and painted she is welcomed back as a woman into the tribe. The party can last for days or weeks. What a way to celebrate becoming a woman!

There were dress up clothes as well, which I understood to be for funerals. Although the museum was extensive, the translation into English was rather thin. Three boards of extensive Spanish writing was translated into one paragraph. The Spanish made the assumption that all indigenous peoples were cannibals. So they tortured, slaughtered and dismissed the First Nation people.

Amazing Amazonian Adventure II

At seven o’clock in the morning, I caught a taxi to Porto Voyager, Tabatinga in Brasil. This sounds like an enormous trip, but it is literally ten minutes. Tabatinga and Leticia run into each other. The check in had started, except it was for the FAST boat! Now this was interesting as Solange had told me that there was NO fast boat to Manaus, only to Iquitos! May be I should say, I understood that she said that!  What I understand and what is said is often NOT the same thing!

Anyway, waiting is what I had to do. Since I am an extremely patient person, this is not an issue. I made friends with Laureano, from Buenos Aires. Also with a young couple, Camila and Alan, also from Argentina. This was suggested by the Lonely Planet and also re enforced by the travel agent, so that you have people looking out for you and your belongings. Since I make friends easily it was not an important issue.Finally it was our turn to go and check with the police on site. Photos were taken, passports checked, and back in line to do some more waiting. It wasn’t very busy as most people came after nine o’ clock. The boat was leaving at twelve midday. After more luggage checks, dog patrolling the luggage in search of drugs, I presume, we could climb on board. I followed Laureano, as he seemed to know what he was doing. We claimed a spot on the top floor.

The middle deck was soon chokker block full, while the top deck was spacious and bare. I was also meant to find out where the engines were, so you could go as far away from them as possible. This was all too much to think of as I was to busy organising my Letician’ hammock, I bought at the market for twelve dollars and stuff. I had a problem. I had seen an old man selling white cords at the dock, not realising what they were and what they were for! Well, it is simple really, if you want to sleep in an hammock strung up on high ceiling hooks, you need to put an extension on both sides of the hammock. This is if you want to be comfortable!!

I was fortune enough that Brasilian Max had a spare cord which he lend me! Okay, now I was lump sided! I went back down to see if I could get back off to find the old man selling the cords. This proved not possible. It occurred to me after a while that I had picked up some bits of rope somewhere along the way, as I was planning to send a parcel home. Was it going to be strong enough? Luckily, Alan, who is extremely tall, helped me out there. I can’t reach the hooks! So here I was all roped up, hanging and ready to go. I was very, very exited.

Soon we left. I had to squeeze myself. I am on the Amazon, in Brasil! I wasn’t dreaming! My childhood dream from so long ago, finally fulfilled! I met two lovely young people, Sinnaed from Ireland and Janika from Germany. Thank god, I can speak English for awhile! Dinner was called early, didn’t look to appetising. Some sloppy soupy type meal, with big blobs of fat and meat floating in it. I fished for beans and potatoes, ignoring all the rest. I had not eaten lunch, so I was hungry. Mind you if all the meals are like this, I might start my fasting now!

Since I didn’t sleep at all the night before, I turned into the hammock early. I slept surprisingly well, waking up at three for a toilet break and some star gazing! The night sky is just amazing! I didn’t expect the river to be so enormous! I mean, I have sailed on the Nile, kayaked down the Zambezi river, I have seen lots of rivers in my time, but never anything this enormously HUGE! I wish the boat would switch off the lights at night so the sky would even be more impressive! It is all encompassing, infinite, beyond enormous, intensely black, stars galore, it is overwhelmingly stunning.

It is amazing how fast the days past. We made five stops on the way, each time more people getting on board! By now the top deck is getting cramped too! An old lady strung up her hammock, nearly into mine! I became aware that as a person living in Australia, I have an enormous sense of personal space, which Europeans, nor Brasilians seem to have! In the end I just moved my luggage, tossed her luggage from underneath my hammock, under her own hammock, and moved one end of the hammock onto a different hook. At least I no longer have her feet or her face in my face!

The second day we had an enormous storm, which didn’t affect the stability of the boat, like it would have on an open sea! We just needed to move all our luggage, to keep it dry!

One of the nicest things is that at meal time, elderly people have priority! So the long queue can be passed! When the kitchen woman came to drag me out of the long, long lunch queue, I thought I had done something wrong! But no, it was because I was an ” abuela” grandmother!! Well, I don’t mind pulling the age card once in awhile! About time old age brings about something positive! The lunch was much nicer, choices are rice, spaghetti and bread! Well, there goes Keto!! I just LOVE spaghetti and now I am getting it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

The sunsets were just stunning! So we’re the sunrises! It pays to be an early bird! There are showers on board, for some reason on the upper deck we had less toilets for women than below. So up early, shower, cold, brush your teeth and having my coffee before anybody else is awake!! After five stops I tried to count the hammocks to see how many people would be on board. I asked the lovely kichen staff several times. I understood six hundred, but didn’t think this could be right! I counted, roughly, two hundred and forty hammocks, add the children who shared with the parents, and it came to about three hundred I reckon! Don’t quote me on this!!

One of the Brasilian women told me I was NOT on the Amazon, which shattered me completely!! But Sinnaed looked on google maps and there it was mentioned that it was indeed THE AMAZON! It wasn’t until I googled information about this mighty river, that I found out that it goes by a different name in Brasil! Also in Peru! So there you go, in English the whole long, over six thousand kilometre river, is called the Amazon!

After four wonderfully relaxed, gadget free, wifi free, days we finally arrived in Manaus! Only four hours slower then anticipated!! Next adventure to start after I have a solid sleep in a BED!

 

Amazing Amazonian Adventure

On Friday the 26 July, I was picked up early by the travel agency. Anthony walked me to the boat. Nobody had explained to me that he wouldn’t come with me!confusion when the boat guy asked me if I was to go to Puerto Alegria. I had no idea!After 1,5 hour on a very full boat I was dropped off. Puerto Alegria. The joyful port. Or the Happy port, take your pick.

I was welcomed by Benjamin and Freddy, who was to be my own personal guide. It took awhile before the decision was made in which room they were going to put me. What a lovely surprise, a large room, big double bed with a mosquito net, and a single bed also with a mosquito net! Plenty of space. Simple but functional. I would have liked a few hooks for my towel and clothing, but that was a minor little detail.

After a short break Freddy and I walked into the village,Irapay. There are about eight hundred people living here. The houses are mainly stretched out along the river front. Only one more street running parallel , which is set back a tad. On the 28 of July it is the Peruvian Independence Day. Eight days after Colombia. I was quite surprised that I was now in Peru, since we never crossed a border. I worried for a while that I had left my passport, and the two copies I carry, locked up in the safe at the hotel. Needless worry, as nobody else seemed to bother at all.

At the local primary school the children were practising their Independence March. I am against anything military, but this was quite funny to watch. Especially the lower grades. They weren’t marching in step with each other, which was quite cute!
As it was hot and very humid, I suggested a cold beer to Freddy which he gratefully accepted. The bar was wooden, rustic and deserted. The beer cold, the Peruvian, music blaring, a good time was had by us both.

After a very delicious lunch, I had a mini rest and promptly fell asleep for nearly two hours! Then it was time for real Amazonian explorations! We went Pirahna fishing!! Hm! I quite fancied some of these fish for dinner! My very favourite book is ” Pirahnas don’t eat bananas”, nor do they eat plums! Only BUMS! Of we went in a wooden boat, which had too much water in it for my liking! We saw so many birds! Big green parrots, birds of prey and vultures!

The fish started to bite as soon as the hook and bait were in the water! Shame they only ate the bait and kept refusing the hook!! Suddenly the rain came! So fast, hard refreshing, and on going! Within five minutes I was soaked to the bones. Just in time I managed to store my bag, with iPad, camera and note book, under the life vest! Soon it became cold. When thunder and lightening arrived, I feared a repeat of my Okavanga Delta experience, ( in Botswana) I preferred to go back to the camp!

Shower, cold, and change of clothes, it was dinner time, without fish! After my huge lunch I wasn’t really hungry. My iPad was playing up, and the camera is not recharging! Hm. Didn’t they like the rain? I met up with Manuel and Juan, two young lads, born in Colombia, but raised and living in the USA. We are at the same hostel in Leticia. After dinner, it went dark rapidly. One minute it is light and just like that it is switched off. Freddy and I went looking for caimans there were about eight of them! Could only see the eyes reflected in our spotlights! They were only small, about a meter in length, and sweet water ones, so not very dangerous at all!

I went to bed early, and although I had a nap in the afternoon, fell asleep fast, just listening to the cacophony of sounds emerging from the dark! My last thought was, oh my gosh, I am in the Amazonian jungle! I am so incredibly grateful. How fortunate I am to being able to fulfil all my childhood dreams?

I slept deeply and dreamlessly, unheard of, only waking once for a toilet break. A new day emerged as fast as the night had come! I was up early. The pond near the dining room had new lotus flowers! The flowers only last for 24 hours, but they are stunningly beautiful. The lotus leaves can grow to two meters in diameter, according to Freddy. The largest lotus leaves in the world. I take his word for it! There is now way to fact check his statements as there is no wifi in the jungle!

Today we were going to walk in the jungle. Due to a mix up, I was told to wait for the two lads, we didn’t start our walk until nine o’ clock. It was still just Freddy and me, and we were ready two hours before! Shame, because to see any reasonable bird life, you need to start early. As I got out of the boat, I lost one of my boots, which got stuck in the mud. Quite funny, as I fell backwards trying to pull it out!

Freddy literally had to slash a path through the jungle! It was so overgrown. The first thing we saw were a big family of very small monkeys, the name which I have forgotten. Lots of butterflies, enormous centipedes. A huge tree, over fifteen hundred years old, according to Freddy!
Different medicinal plants. Lots of bird sounds but no birds to be seen.

The walk took over four hours, the lads caught up with us, but since they were walking at full speed, they were quickly out of sight. Back at the camp, we had lunch, a rest, then time for another visit to the village.

One of the guides has a pet Anaconda. Why anybody would want this is beyond me, but anyway we were allowed to hold it! I wasn’t too sure if this was a privilege or a threat!! The guy held the snakes head much too close to my face for my liking!! After we all had a go, holding, looking and snapping pictures, we went to look for the woman with the sloth!

Often baby sloth fall from there mothers, who can’t or won’t go after them, so all these little orphans are left to die! This one was picked up by this woman, who recognised a business opportunity immediately! Charge tourists to hold your baby sloth! Good idea!! It was so incredibly cute! I think it was a little girl, as she kept smiling at Manuel!! When we came back it was time to pack up, go back to the pub and wait for the three o’ clock boat to arrive. Luckily we had cold beer as the boat didn’t show up until five! It had only been two days, but it seemed so much longer. Exhausted, but very, very happy I returned to the hostel.

Lovely Leticia

The trip to Leticia was fast and easy. I slept all the way! If only I could do this on the long haul flights! The taxi took me to my hostel. I had a four bunk dormitory all for myself. Not bad for twelve dollars! I dropped all my gear, showered and changed and went for a walk. The first thing I saw was the travel agency across the road! I went in to inquire about the boat to Manaus, Brasil. I forgot that I had decided not to do a tour here, I booked and paid for a two day tour. So bank, buying water, long sleeved top that isn’t a thermal one! Most important of all, anti mosquito spray! Bought one with DEET!  I had bought TWO aerogard tropical strength, but used them up on the Galápagos and in Tayrona.

 

My original plan was to leave on Saturday, but it seemed to much of a rush! Couldn’t possibly deal with leaving so fast. Okay, next boat is on Tuesday. Hm! Losing important days here. I had worked out that if I have more than fifteen days left over I WILL go to Suriname! Even for two weeks it is worth it, I reckon! Anyway, the tour was booked, get on with it. Do other travellers have this problem? I work everything out on paper and then there is this inner child that just takes over. I suppose it is because it really doesn’t matter one way or another.

Leticia is in the south east corner of Colombia. It is isolated. The nearest highway is over eight hundred kilometres away. It is splendid in its isolation. Motor bikes fill the streets, as do tuk tuks. There are nightclubs everywhere and I saw a few casinos too. Leticia is right on the border of Brasil and Peru. Hard to believe that just an hour away you can be in the middle of the Amazonian jungle!

I enjoyed an early morning walk to the harbour. Lots of roadworks going on. The vegetable and fish market was open. I was harassed by a motor bike taxi driver. The first time in Colombia! He wanted money, while touching me, I removed his unwanted hand and told him I was not a bank, nor an ATM. He then went out of his way to ” help” me find a coffee shop! Cleaned the table, yelled at the waitress to hurry up, got all exited that I drink my coffee black, just like he does!

In the end, I got fed up, no longer polite, and I firmly told him he could go now. I did notice that at ten o’clock in the morning the man was already smelling of alcohol. As I wandered more, I was offered drugs, thank you dreadlocks, by a very drunken local person. I declined. The bars were already full. Sunday morning ten o’clock. I had seen enough, was tired after my full on two days away and decided to go back to the hostel and work in my diary. I am very far behind.

  I did buy my boat ticket. At sunset time I wandered back to the harbour, the day was winding down. The drunks are now laying all over the streets. Not a pleasant sight.

People watching is my favourite pastime, and watching the comings and goings at a small harbour is interesting. Found a wonderful restaurant, had a zucchini boat filled with vegetables, delicious, and as it was Happy Hour, ordered two zombies! Delicious! One more day in Colombia. It is hard to leave!!

On my last day in Colombia I got up very early to watch the sunrise. Saw thousands of birds, parrots, making a racket in the Central Park. I was in awe! Never seen so many birds in one place! Today was a day of boring stuff such as migration, getting a stamp from the Colombians. Then onwards to Brasil getting an entry stamp from a very unfriendly Federal police man! My last meal was fried piranha !! All set and ready to go!!

Bogota in pictures.

Bogota, Botero and Beggars.

The flight from Santa Marta was direct and very fast! I fell asleep with take off and the next minute we are landing! Why, oh why can’t I do this on long haul flights home? The first thing was that it was bitter, bitter cold! Shock! I had decided to take the bus, I had plenty of time and that way I would get immediately used to the public transport system! Great idea! Bus to the city centre was in an accident, oops, need to take an other bus! Great!

Apparently this bus didn’t go anywhere near the city centre! All people got involved! Off the bus, ah, all you need to do is cross the huge road with the overhead walkway! Duh! I suffer terribly from vertigo, so not on your nelly! Finally this man stops a cab, puts my bags on the floor in the back, locks all the doors and gives me a lecture on how terribly dangerous Bogota is! Great, I am freezing cold and now shit scared as well!!

The taxi driver got me in the right direction, but kept going in circles. Meter ticking away! I told him to stop! Paid, got out and sorted it myself! He was two streets out! Finally arrived at Casa Sabella, where they slugged me for an extra 25,000 pesos on top of the bill! Nobody spoke English, I was tired, cold and very miserable. In the end they rang somebody who spoke some sort of English who told me that booking dot com actually mentioned this! She was right, I had just not read that far ahead! Now I was tired, cold, miserable and very, very, embarrassed.

Hot shower, and a nap. Always makes me feel better! I asked for an extra blanket as the blanket I had was see through! Received another one the same.  Started my explorations the next day. Great National museum. Found a lovely place to eat.

Mambo, Museo Arte Moderno de Bogota, didn’t open at the time it said on the door! Why not? Well, it was Saturday 20 July, Independence Day. All celebrations were on the Plaza Bolivar, which I thought was far, far away! Duh! Another five minutes walking would have brought me there. Anyway I amused myself, got my photos put on an USB. Chatted with the old men at the juice seller, and had a hot coffee at Maccas. Visited the Gold museum as well. This was mightely impressive. It had a fabulous display of traditional objects. It was packed! I forgot that my camera’s memory card was at the photoshop! Duh! Hours were spend here, best gold museum since San Jose in Costa Rica.

On Sunday I decided to visit Zipaquira, where the famous salt Cathedral is located. I had wanted to do it on a tour, but as I am only one person, it was much too expensive. So I took the bus to the Portal del Norte, where I caught the local bus to Zipaquira.

It didn’t take all that long, and I was quite content to look out the window and see the world go by. Zipa, as the place is locally known, isn’t very large. The historic centre was in walking distance to the bus station. Lovely old town being restored slowly and carefully. Would have been nice to stay here for a few nights!

The Cathedral of salt wasn’t too far away. The steps up to it did agrevate my dear knees, though. I wish they would just get over it! I mean my whole body is the same age! Why would he knees be the ones to demand extra attention? The cathedral is something else. You walk into a tunnel of different coloured lights, and then slowly, slowly you walk downwards. There are fourteen stages of the cross. There are all these different crosses hawn ( is that the word?) out of salt.  The spotlights on them turn them into different colours all the time!

Kitsch, indeed, but magical. Slowly you descent into the depth of the earth. I couldn’t help but think of these men who made all this beauty. After a hard days work, they then work on this cathedral. A 180 meters deep, you reach the main nave, with the altar. Ere are salt and sandstone sculptures everywhere. Mightily impressive!

I spend quite a long time underground, feeling like I was in outer space. When I finally surfaced, I visited the archeological museum, had a beer on the plaza de Independencia, and slowly wandered back to the bus station. Catching the bus home was challenging, as I recognised absolutely nothing! It was by now dark, and the beggars were all on he bus, telling their sad stories. Tears were rolling over my face, listening to their woes. Most of the beggars are from Venezuela. My heart just breaks when people are forced to leave their countries of their birth. I did this voluntarily , which is hard enough, let alone if you are forced to leave, so your children can survive. By now the whole bus is involved where and when I should get off, as the lady at the station had given me the wrong information.

Finally I arrived back after dark at my hotel room. Another great day was had. The only disjoin ting thing was that I bought a cross made out of salt, for my crosses collection, when I opened the parcel, it wasn’t the cross that I had chosen at all, but a salt Angel, which was half the price, while I was being charged the FULL price for the cross! I was very angry with myself for not checking while I was there, but you know, tired, dark and not thinking idled get ripped of in a CATHEDRAL!! Ah, one lives and learns!

The next day I moved to a different section of town, which is where I should have gone I. The first place! Calendaria is the ” happening” place! Just passed the gold museum is a barrio full of murals, music and action! My Cranky Croc backpackers was right in the centre of it all. Set up by an Australian, it was a magical place. Friendly staff, hot, hot water, thick quilts and awesome beds!  As it was Monday, and raining, I decided not to check out the other hotel until it was time to go. Working on my blobs, diary and notes, having a restful day, as all the musea are closed on a Monday anyway! So, took my time, settled into the new place and wandered around!

An amazingly vibrant barrio. Lots to see and do. I was determined to walk the graffiti tour. Then on the Tuesday I walked all the way over to the Botero art gallery only to find out that here, in Bogota, all the galleries are closed on a Tuesday! Bummer!

Lots of people from Venezuela here, selling objects made out of Venezuelan money. One young man painted famous prior traits on the money! Also a lot of older people begging in the street. I now keep my two thousand peso bills for the beggars. ($1) They are flying out. As it started to rain again, I decided to go back to the hostel and warm up. Signed up for, what I thought was the graffiti walking tour, and had a great afternoon, learning lots about the history of Bogota and Colombia.

Finally on the Wednesday I managed to get to the art gallery of Fernando Botero. What an absolute delight this was! How fortunate that I booked my flight tomorrow, this gallery was not to be missed. It has three galleries in one. I spend over four hours just wandering about.

I was so fortunate that a class of Indigenous Kindergarten kids, we’re giving a dance demonstration. Their teacher made them look at the dancers, a painting by Botero, and then the children gave a performance. It was just delightful! And very, very cute. One of the girls whacked one of the little boys , who obviously made a mistake! Proud parents and teachers and all of us fortunate visitors clapped and cheered as if it was a Broadway show.

Beautiful Bogota, probably much better when the sun shines, stay in the old part of town, near the gold museum. I had seven nights here, four in the wrong part of town. Shame. On the way to the airport the sun came out, and the whole city changed. Ah, Bogota, I only touched the surface. I never got to know you for real! Next time!

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