Damn tedious all this protesting and road-blockade malarkey, but hey… ‘C’est la vie’, as they say here in French Guiana. In our last blog we arrived in a charming but blockade-ridden, far-flung part of the EU. Now, after a month of disruption, the protesters toddle home and things gradually get back to normal. For us this means freedom to move around the country. It means, the re-start of the Space Race (officially exciting!). And it means some first-hand proof of Hollywood’s tish, tosh and piffle on Papillon Island!
Just over the bridge from Brazil Amazon and… politics! Overlanders are always best advised to avoid national politics as they travel, but sometimes things just jump in your face. French Guiana is an overseas department of mainland France. It’s officially part of the EU, it has the Euro currency and, we find out to our cost, the people have the same French propensity for road blockades and labour strikes when they feel hard done-by! Continue reading
You can’t just drive across the Amazon Delta you know… you’d get a bit wet. Cuthbert earned his ‘Water-fording Proficiency’ badge reaching the Lençóis Maranhenses but this time we need to put him on a barge which zig-zags over 38 hours between the mangroves and islands, crossing the Amazon Delta. Compared to the much travelled western side of the continent, this north-eastern route of South America is, even in the dry season, relatively little trodden by the ‘overlanding community’. In the currently prevailing rainy season, even fewer travellers venture up here. Hmmm… maybe there’s a good reason for that!! Continue reading
It’s challenging driving to Lençóis Maranhenses, but is it worth the schlepp? “A spectacularly unique place… thousands of crystal-clear lagoons between dunes”… so they say. Our faith in travel journalists has been tempered slightly by our recent experience in Jericoacoara (see last blog), but we’ve not lost hope. Actually, Lençóis Maranhenses manages to exceed our high expectations, there’s just the small matter of getting there, testing Cuthbert’s off-road capabilities and our nerves!
Tudo bom… All good! The most common phrase we’ve heard all over Brazil. It’s a statement, it’s a question, it’s a greeting, it’s said with a smile and it’s a reflection of the consistently chirpy Brazilian nature which continues as we head into the far north. We’ve done middle Brazil. Now on this latest stretch we hit the coast at Salvador then head north: dodging coconuts, reaching the far east, dining with Iveco, and testing our nerves with Cuthbert’s capacity on dunes and deep-sand tracks.
A brewery, a palace, a gold mine, a football stadium, a police selfie, a floating angel, broken glow-plug, a desert lagoon and a foot swallowing sand-bubble. Our last post saw Rio and fab beaches, now we’re on a mission to see the great mix of middle Brazil, with the added dilemma of so much to see, so little time!
You like beaches? Brazil’s got trillions. You like jungle? They’ve got the world’s biggest. You like mountains and caves? Yup, they’ve got those. Waterfalls? Tick. Deserts and dunes? Err… yes. Wildlife? Yah, plenty dat too. And of course, the football… many shed-loads of that! They do sport, they do fashion, they do science, they do arts, they build things, they party-hard and they’re the economic power-house of the region. Sure, they have few teeny political snags on the agenda at the moment (who hasn’t? 🙂 ) but overall, we’re looking forward to seeing Brazil (and those beaches!)
Argentina has its finger stuck between Paraguay and Brazil. Yes, really! Look on the map… there’s long, narrow, finger-like, sticky-up bit in the far north-east of Argentina: Misiones province. We crossed into Argentina from Paraguay at the bottom of the finger and set a new northerly course through Misiones, up to Brazil and Iguazu Falls.
The Chaco… a chuffing big, flat plain stretching east from the Andes. Covering eastern Bolivia, north-east Argentina, a bit of south-west Brazil and much of Paraguay… it’s big. After the descent from the Bolivian altiplano, it’s a long, long, straight road reaching over 800km to Asuncion. We expect the Chaco to be hot. Turns out… our introduction to Paraguay is not just hot, but damned hot! And what’s Paraguay all about beyond the Chaco? Read on in the Paraguay blog…
In the Andes at over 4,000m again… a bit of re-acclimatisation is required. We interrupted the sequence of our blogs slightly for our ‘Dakar Special’ when we had a tougher than expected challenge to catch the Rally in Bolivia. So now please humour our ‘time-warp’ as we step back in time to a few days before the Dakar: we’re leaving the beaches of Arica on New Year’s Day for a last bit of exploring in the Andes of northern Chile before crossing into Bolivia.
No, we haven’t just upped-sticks and shipped to Africa, we’re in Bolivia for the world famous Dakar Rally 2017. After a load of security shenanigans in West Africa, the rally formerly known as ‘Paris-Dakar’ was shifted to South America where it’s affectionately known by locals as ‘El Dakar’. Here’s the story of our attempt at finding over 400 bikes, quads, cars and trucks charging across the altiplano in 2017, together with our Top Tips if you’re contemplating a trip to see Dakar 2018.
It’s not every Christmas that we open our presents to the booming sound of Chile’s answer to Snoop-Doggy-Dog (or whatever the latest hip-hop chap is called these days) and to be honest, it wouldn’t be our first choice for 2016 either! Nevertheless, that’s what we get 🙂 But before we launch into the Christmas Story, there is the final instalment of the Tyre Story. Continue reading
It’s little visited, the south coast of Peru, which is a real shame. Back in September when we travelled up through southern Peru we took, like most travellers, the mountain route via Lake Titicaca and Cusco. Now south-bound, we’re loving the coastal route south of Nazca and on to Chile. Continue reading
“Heading to the Dakar Rally?” we asked the friendly Brit biker at the Peruvian border, “Yeah… I’m competing” came the reply. Blimey. Impressed.com. We’re not quite, or even anywhere near, as brave as Lyndon, but we are keen to go and see what antics the competitors get up to on their way around the route. Our new claim to fame: we now know one of the Dakar riders who we can go to cheer on!
Peru by the back door
We’re now in Peru for the second time. This time we’re far inland from the coastal route that we took north-bound. Now we’re taking a small rough back-road through the mountains to a relatively little used border post at La Balsa. On this whole trip we have met very few Brits Continue reading
A ‘rainy season’ usually brings ummm… rain. Except for Ecuador in 2016, that is. The 2016 ‘rainy season’ has so far not really materialised in these parts and it’s been conspicuously dry in the north-western Andes. Locals tell us that they have seen not a single drop throughout November. Regular Cuthbert readers may recall that we have just returned to Quito from an impromptu trip back to UK due to a family illness. During those three weeks we had the traditional British ration of copious precipitation, but now we are back in sunny Ecuador ready to hit the road with a fresh supply of Twiglets and Yorkshire Tea bags!
Flexibility… the key to overlanding! Way back in May we left Chile into Bolivia, then on to Brazil, back to Bolivia, then to Peru. Now here we are in Ecuador and we’re making a big turn-around, heading some 3,000 km back southwards. It’s not the most logical of routes, and if we ever had an approximate route in mind when we set off in South America this certainly wasn’t it! But we have a date with a tyre supplier… in Chile!
“I’ve seen enough boobies for today” Things you thought you’d never hear your husband say 🙂 But fair cop… these are the red and blue footed avian varieties of boobies, indigenous to the Galapagos Islands and we had indeed seen rather a lot of them on that particular day. By far the best way to see the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands is on a cruise and our friends Mark and Lindsey have flown out from UK to join us for one of the most exciting legs of our South American trip. It’s more than just a wee bit exciting, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here . For our flights to Galapagos we need to get to Quito. Let’s first pick-up in the Galapagos blog, where regular Cuthbert followers last saw us: leaving Peru and crossing into Ecuador…
Back at sea-level! Yehhy! We do love the mountains, but life at over 12,000 ft can provide a few wobbles in your physiology. It’s a welcome change to now have the soothing sound of rolling waves and the smell of the salty sea air. The drive from Cusco down to the coast is a long and painfully winding road, but finally we’re down at the Pacific coast, back on the Pan-American super-highway, looking forward to following it north all the way to Ecuador.
Rainbow Mountain might predictably be described as colourful. The strata are indeed exquisite but at over 5,000m/16,400ft altitude in southern Peru, Rainbow Mountain sits far from any driveable tracks and it’s no ‘walk in the park’ to get there. Our friends Karen and Jimmy on holiday from UK, aren’t going to let the minor detail of a gruelling high-altitude Andes trek put them off visiting this geological wonder and we (foolishly??? 🙂 ) agree to join them on this quest. Are we doing Rainbow Mountain the easy way?
The Rainbow Mountain hike can be done in one tough day-sesh, but only if you are both: (a) a fit-young-crazy-thing, and (b) Continue reading
How on earth do we find ourselves hanging off a cliff-face, in a glass-bubble bedroom, suspended on wires above Peru’s Sacred Valley? Well, it is just the small matter of a 400m rock-climb via-ferrata. And a 200m high hanging wire-bridge to reach said bubble. And a six-stage zip-wire descent to return to terra-firma next morning. Stupid or brave… 🙂 ? Here’s our Skylodge Peru travel blog…
Lets winding the clock back a few months. Our great friends Jimmy and Karen are planning a holiday in Peru to meet up with us. Karen has a proven track record as an adventure holiday planner extraordinaire. “There’s this Skylodge thing…” Continue reading