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'Copa Copacabana'
BRAZIL - 2003
'Girl from Ipanema'
Friday 3rd October 2003 On a Bus to Rio De Janeiro

Foz do Iguacu is massive compared to the equivalent Argentinean town on the their side of the river. We got to the bus terminal where I ran off to change my Pesos fore Reals and then we had to catch another bus to the long distance bus terminal. I don't think we caught the best bus though as it was crowded and went the longest way round the town to get to the Rodoviaria terminal. We made it with 15 minutes to spare for the departure of our bus to Rio De Janeiro. Only to find our bus being loaded with hundreds of boxes of play stations. It didn't look as though there would be enough space left for us or our own luggage.

Fortunately we did make it on the bus which only left 30 minutes late due to the loading of the excess cargo. This bus was probably one of the least comfortable long distance buses we have caught so far, but still isn't bad. So another 24 hour bus journey ahead of us... Whilst sitting on the bus we discovered that the owners of the play stations where smugglers. They buy the play stations in Paraguay for 5 US dollars each and then bribe there way back to Rio so as not to pay any taxes. One of the smugglers was massive and very scary but proved useful as we always new when a food stop was coming up as he would rush to the front of the coach a few minutes before hand to be the first out to the cafe. (obviously done this trip a few times).

We amused ourselves with a home made version of battleships (at which Sarena constantly cheated on) and I started a Harry Potter game on the game boy.

We swapped bus drivers at about 11, the new one was very sporadic with his cornering though. It made it a lot harder to get to sleep. I still managed it though and I think even Sarena was able to get a few Z's in.

At about 2 I felt the rush of the big fat sweaty man past me. Oh good must be time for another break. A nice cup of Ice tea and a potato ball with chicken in the middle and I was all suppered up. Ready for some more shut eye.

Well we said goodbye to our Ozzy friends who gave us a few tips on where not to stay in Rio. Toby went off to change some money whilst i stayed with the bags, the weather was really very hot now and finding it hard to adjust again. When Toby got back we had to jump on another bus which took us to the major terminal where we would catch our 22hr coach ride to Rio. This bus was a bastard as we had to stand for the 30min journey with our backpack on and the sweat pouring off of the both of us whilst being thrown around the bus thanks to the shite driver - ah this is real traveling. We finally made it to the terminal thank goodness and had 30mins to spare before our coach was supposed to leave. So we sat down and stocked up on water then went out to board our coach which was supposed to leave at 12pm but when we got to stand 1, you could hardly see the coach for all the boxes that were still being loaded into the hold. I couldn't believe how much stuff this group of people were fitting into the bottom - had to be smugglers. it was then i noticed the coach and my heart sank as it was a really naff looking thing - certainly nothing compared to the luxurious coaches we had been lucky enough to get just lately, not such a good thing on a long journey but at least it had a loo. We sat down and waited to get our backpacks loaded and were still waiting at 12.30 as they were still loading the boxes. I just got on the coach and claimed our seat and tried to see the funny side of it all but the thought of sitting in that seat for that amount of time was daunting. At last the bus finally started up and Toby hopped on along with everyone else and we started our long journey. Toby came up with an ingenious idea of playing battleships something i have never done before, so he drew out a couple of pages of dots and explained the rules. We ended up passing 2 hrs with that stupid game and i won! ok i did put too many ships on my grid and forgot to put on a couple of crosses here and there but Toby accused me of cheating!! he didn't want to play again - bad loser.

We didn't stop for a rest bite until 8pm for a 30min grab some grub time and a cuppa, luckily we had eaten our rolls earlier on in the afternoon as we soon found out the food wasn't included in our trip, whereas the woman Toby had bought the tickets from, said it was.......she also said the journey was 22 hrs but we also found out it was 24hr.......lying sod. We both weren't hungry so just had a cuppa, oh forgot to mention that the group of smugglers were incredibly fat men who sat at the back of the bus with there t-shirts pulled up to expose the huge fat bellies hanging down over shorts - horrible. Anyway this group were the first of the bus on our short stop and went straight into the restaurant for an all you can eat buffet, the only people who did. Back on the bus again and i was surprised to find i dosed off for an hour or two and found the bus stopping again at about 2am for more coffee, more food for the big boys. This time Toby had something to eat whilst i stuck to coffee. unfortunately the coffee comes with Sugar a bit like Nepalese tea. so couldn't drink it. I had a strange night of dozing on and off but couldn't get much sleep thanks to the bus driving going so fast around the corners you ended up gripping onto the arm rest.

Saturday 4th October 2003 Chez Largato, Copacabana, Rio De Janeiro

had a pretty unbroken sleep until 6 am and it wasn't long after that when we all got the sign of another break stop. You don't build up much of an appetite when your stuck in the same seat for hours on end. So I had a big glass of hot milk. (not actually what I though I asked for) and we carried on towards Rio.

we where meant to arrive in rio by 10:30 but by 11 we where still a way out, and now we where being delayed even more as the smugglers started slipping the drive a few notes to stop at the inconspicuous places along the highway so that they could unload their contraband. Actually it was that inconspicuous as there where loads of white VW camper vans at every stop to receive the cargo. The fat man became remarkably nimble as he raced around to off load his stash (even more so than the food stops). We where informed that quite often they would smuggle cocaine in between the parcels too. This made me think that Sarena's choice to video their actions a little unwise. They didn't spot here though as they where too busy looking for the cops.

3 unscheduled stops and another hour later and we where arriving in Rio. A clear blue day and about 35 degrees - not bad for spring. We didn't have a place to stay when we got there but I had a package of leaflets to deliver to a hostel. Sarena claimed that she had been told that this hostel wasn't too good so luckily there was a stand at the bus terminal which guided us to a hostel in Copacabana. This meant one more bus journey.

We where also recommended another hostel in Copacabana so checked that one out first but didn't like it to much so ended up at Chez Lagarto, which was very popular, actually it was the most backpackers we had seen in one place since Buenos Aires. This was quit refreshing as we spent the rest of the day meeting other travelers and swapping all our stories but never our names. It is a secret traveling rule to never give up your name until you have told someone your complete traveling history. Another rule is that all travelers must understand the rules of Shithead.

Once we had settled in to the Hostel we realised we where starving. We where recommended this restaurant which was right at the other end of Copacabana, not what we needed. We where very hot and tired by the time we got there, and then discovered that it was another 'all you can eat' restaurant. just looking at the food sated my appetite, but I still managed one and half plates. Now feeling very stuffed we took a walk back along Copacabana beach. It was absolutely packed, what with being a Saturday and apparently the first weekend with good weather for ages, the whole city seemed to be out on the beach. It was just who you imagine a beach in Rio to be full of bronzed bodies with very little on. I felt very conspicuous with my comparatively white skin and more than 1 item of clothing.

Did hang around that long on the beach as we tended to draw the hustlers trying to sell us completely useless stuff. So we walked back to the Hostel to find that we had 20 new house mates. All seemed to be German drummer kids between the ages of 12 and 16. Everywhere you looked there was a little german kid with a bright red mohican drummer on the nearest bit of furniture. Very very annoying. A group of us managed to commander the pool table room though. We couldn't escape the sound of constant tapping but at least we had our own instruments to beat them with it it got too much.

Retired to bed at about 11:30 to a very hot and stuffy room. Consequently got very little sleep.

Did get a few hours of sleep better than my other bus journeys, in fact this journey seemed to be going very quickly and much more entertaining. The smugglers were up and down the bus all the time going to chat to the bus driver who they were trying to butter up for something or other. We went through a few police control stations where we were boarded by some coppers who did a huge search of the hold and the interior of the coach. We later found out they were looking for drugs which get packed up with all the other stuff smuggler people try and get across with. The group were very jumpy and a few piles of dosh were passed onto some coppers along the journey to keep them sweet. When we finally came into the outskirts of Rio the fat boys were getting all there stuff ready from the back of the coach and bringing it all up to the front ready for collection. It was then we saw some of the stuff they had. Loads and loads of play station 1 which they had bought for $5 U.S dollars from Paraguay and then flogged in Brazil. The reason they were bribing the coach driver and police is that they don't pay tax on any of the stuff therefore it was illegal....... aaaaah getting the picture now. Anyway it wasn't long and we had pulled into an old car park where 3 combi vans were sat waiting, as soon as the coach stopped the fat boys were on fire. They were hauling as much stuff out of the hold and the front into the vans along with some other guys who had come in the combi vans. It was like something out of a film and i couldn't believe how fast they were doing it! The vans roared off as soon as they were full and then the coach was off again to make another 2 stops to unload into waiting combi vans - all very TV. The coach driver was paid off, and then the gang disappeared along with the last load, We were now an hour late getting into the bus station. It was sweltering when we got off so didn't want to mess around too much with getting somewhere to stay, walked into the terminal and found a stand giving info on hostels in the area. Toby had been advised to go to one in Santa Tereza but the Ozzy girls had said they found the area to be dodgy so said not to bother. We found one in Copacabana which looked ok so hopped on another bus into the main town catching a quick glimpse of the huge JC statue up on the hill. We found the hostel but weren't happy about it at all, very small and dark. So went off to find another one up the road. This place seemed a lot more popular and had a big common room and a bar so thought we should stay there. Had different rooms which wasn't a problem but my room was really very hot and stuffy so just dumped my bags and went out for something to eat as we both hadn't eaten anything properly in 25hr now. We advised of a place in town which ended up being miles away and found out it was an all you can eat buffet again - oh dear very fatal...... and yes i ate my own body weight in food, Toby didn't do so bad either, thought it would be a good idea to go for a walk along the beach before going back so headed for the sea. The beach was fascinating, just like how you see it on TV with all the muscley men playing volley ball and scantly clad women walking around in thongs and little else- definitely a posers paradise! i felt quite the tourist with my day pack and sandals so didn't stay too long before heading back to the hostel and to sit in the common room for a couple of beers. My roomies all turned out to be a nice bunch so ended up sitting and chatting and playing pool with them for a few hours before they headed out for something to eat. The hostel also had a gang of 20 German kids staying who all seemed to play drums so were constantly drumming out beats of the table with their drum sticks, 2hrs later i couldn't stand it anymore so growled very loudly at them and they soon shut up, i went to bed.

Sunday 5th October 2003 Chez Largato, Copacabana, Rio De Janeiro

It was still extremely hot and stuffy in the room at 6 so I got up and spent the morning reading on the slightly cooler couch downstairs. Sarena appeared at about 9 (we where in different rooms) and we grabbed some breakfast. Didn't seem to do much after that and before we knew it it was 11. So we decided to head off before we wasted the whole day. It was an amazingly clear and hot day again, so we decided to deliver my package to the other Hostel and then head up to visit Christ the Redeemer. After a couple of attempts we worked out the Underground was closed on Sundays. By now we where very hot so gave up on public transport and caught a Taxi to the other Hostel. Rio Hostel is away from the beach and in the artistic area of Santa Tereza which is set on a hill full of ancient houses and cobbled streets. Carina the owner of the hostel let us in and showed us around. It is a beautiful homely hostel with everything you could need (even a swimming pool). We decided on the spot that we would move here tomorrow. Carina was very friendly and helpful and organised us the cheapest way to get up to see old J.C. Surprisingly this was by taxi (although walking is free you would probably die from sun stroke or a mugging). We where picked up outside the hostel and taken for a 40 minute drive up the hill and through the Tijcua forest park to the Feet of Christ the Redeemer. J.C stands on the top of Corcovado hill which stands about 750 metres above Rio. The views are amazing and surprisingly for a fine sunday the crowds where bearable. You only need an hour up at the monument and our Taxi driver waited for us and then took us back down the hill and dropped us off outside a quaint cozy cobbled restaurant.

By the time we had finished eating a caught a bus back to the hostel it was 2 minutes to 4. At 4 I was off again to the national stadium to watch a game of football between the most popular team, Flamengo and Parana. There was a minibus load of us that got picked up from the hostel. We even had 2 security guys with us in case of trouble and we where driven to the stadium and then hearded around like tourists. The stadium was pretty empty and didn't fill up much by the time the game started at 6. We where joined by a Flamengo fan club with drums and banners, and we sat and watched the local team get slaughtered by third rate Parana. ohh dear.

I arrived back at the hostel at 9 to be greeted by Sarena and a big plate of food. What service. We sat outside with a few beers for a few hours and then retired to bed. We have now both been moved into the same dorm and no one else had checked in so we had the room to ourselves and as a bonus the air conditioning was working in this room so we managed to get a nice cool and much needed sleep.

Woke up early after a good nights sleep and found Toby waiting out in the corridor reading his book. We had b'fast then thought it would be a good idea to go to Santa Tereza to drop a package off. The hostel in Iguazu had given Toby a wad of info on their hostel and asked us to drop it off to this other hostel in Rio which of course he said he would. We went for a walk about town to find a metro station which turns out didn't run on a sunday.... so caught a taxi instead up into the hills and into the most beautiful and most picturesque part of the world you could wish to imagine. Just a maze of cobbled roads which still used a tram, steep roads lined with huge mansions and old houses crowded together higgledy piggledy all with amazing views of the City down below. We finally found the hostel after a few wrong turns but then i couldn't find my way around this place it's like a maze. The hostel turned out to be on a steep hill so was a bit of a climb to get to the front door but once in, it turned out to be one of the nicest hostels we had visited. The lady owner - Corina who spoke brilliant English was amazed we had gone so far out of our way to bring the package for her and gave us a tour of the place. It was built in 4layers up the hill and even had it's own small swimming pool and the facilities were fantastic and really new, the atmosphere was lovely and Corina was very friendly. She told us how the hostel we were currently staying in was illegal and didn't pay the current hostel tax - naughty. We had decided to move to this place anyway as it was the same price but sooooooooo much nicer. We aren't beach fans anyway and certainly didn't seem to go out much clubbing so didn't bother us not being in town, Santa Tereza suited us much more, very bohemian with little bars and restaurants and crafty places. Corina arranged a taxi for us to take us to the JC statue on the hill. The taxi would wait for an hour then bring us back again which we thought was a grand idea as there was no way we were going to walk up in the heat. The Drive up was amazing and the view breathtaking, we passed through loads of trees that had huge fruits up in the branches which people seemed to be eating on the road side. We finally made it up to the top where there were loads of tourists as we expected, by now the heat was really bad and i was sweating my bits off. The statue was huge and pretty awesome so after a billion photos of JC and of the huge view we went and sat in the shade to eat some fruit i had bought with me. The taxi collected us an hour later and took us back down to a restaurant that had been advised by Corina and turned out to be a real treat. Packed full of atmosphere and fantastic food, we shared a pizza and soaked up all the surroundings for an hour before we headed back down to the main road and caught a bus back to Copacabana. Toby had pre booked a group tour to see a football match so had to be back for 4pm and made it just in time, mind you they all didn't leave until 4.30 anyway. So they buggered off and i went to buy some dinner for later on, knowing Toby wouldn't eat anything when he got back at 9pm. I had a pleasant evening chatting to a beautiful Ozzy girl who really should have been a model - bitch.... she was really very nice though but wish i could put a bag over her head! and her whole perfectly formed body - double bitch.... Well it seems she had had her whole backpack stolen a while ago so a lovely American girl who had left earlier in the day, had left me some clothes and bits to give her as she was going home. I bunged in a couple of my clothes and gave the Ozzy girl the bag of stuff which she was thrilled about, must admit i was tempted to keep the Clinique anti aging cream that was in the bag seeing as i needed it more than she did but i couldn't bring myself to be such a rat and left it in the bag.......... yes i will go to heaven. Toby came back about 8.40pm and seemed to be very grateful for the dinner i had prepared for him. Didn't seem too impressed with the football match but pleased he had gone, just had a couple of drinks then went to bed. Toby had now moved into my room and we were the only ones in it so could put the noisy aircon all night.

forgot to mention that my towel had been taken earlier on in the day - don't know if nicked or accidental but very pissed off.

Monday 6th October 2003 Rio Hostel, Santa Tereza, Rio De Janeiro

Felt real good in the morning. Sarena hunted for a missing towel and then checked out and caught the underground to our new Hostel. There was only one other couple staying at the Hostel. Kate and Chris from Manchester and they had flown in from the UK this morning. This made them officially the newest travelers we have every met. Our first task was to take advantage to the washing machine. then we lounged around while the machine did all the hard work. I then took a walk down into the centre of Rio and had a look for guide books giving any information about traveling through the Amazon. Found nothing. Downtown Rio is quite a claustrophobic part of the city. Its full of narrow streets and massive high rises. Great for keeping the sun out but does make you feel pretty trapped. The evening was spent in the Hostel drinking a few beers and chatting to Kate. Just as we went to bed there was a huge clap of Thunder which signaled the start of a 2 day thunder storm.

Slept really well again and woke up for some B'fast then packed up and waited for the cleaner lady to turn up so i could ask if she had seen my travel towel. She didn't turn up so just left the place and caught the metro then taxi up to the lovely hostel on the hill. We didn't do much for the rest of the day apart from some washing using a thing called a washing machine, an amazing contraption you put you clothes in then 30mins later it all comes out clean!!!!! wow. Our poor clothes all went into shock..... Were going to sit out in the hammocks on the chill out floor but just couldn't move off of the couch for a good couple of hours. Toby went out for a walk whilst i read in our room with the fan full on. When he got back i did my diary and met up with another couple who were also staying in the hostel, Chris and Kate and with Corina who had also turned up. I took a few picture of the amazing view from our room then joined the others for a couple of drinkies and didn't end up going out but just going to bed as it had started to rain.

Tuesday 7th October 2003 Rio Hostel, Santa Tereza, Rio De Janeiro

Lightening flashed across our window all night. and the wires of the cable car crackled below us in the heavy rain. We felt very cozy in our room. Until I remembered the washing and my boots where outside. I jumped up and ran out the back. Someone had very kindly moved our washing into shelter but my boots where looking even more sad than usual.

The Rain was here to stay, So I thought we could go to the cinema and I needed to buy some new pants! To my horror I found myself suggesting that we go to the mall (a moment of madness). Even worse is that it is the biggest one in Latin America and at least an hour away on the bus. We went anyway. It was very refreshing to be in the rain (our first daytime downpour since Easter Island).

As expected the mall was massive, and I succeeded in getting all the things I needed with the minimum of fuss, This was only due to the fact that Sarena and I split up to do the shopping. By 3 we met up again and went to the cinema to watch Pirates of The Caribbean. Sarena had already seen this but said it was so good that she could watch it again. Yep I really enjoyed it.

Just as the film ended the rain started to come down heavy again. We headed to the bus stop and jumped on the first bus we found. It was packed and had to wait a good half an hour before a seat came up. We didn't even know if we where heading the right way. Certainly not the way we came. Luckily we where on a circular route and after an hour we got stuck in the rush hour traffic north of Rio. The Bus ended up stopping somewhere I hadn't expected and we opted for a taxi to take us on the short trip back to the hostel. For some reason all The taxi drivers we have come up against have great reluctance to take us Santa Tereza. Maybe its the cobbled stones. Or they are just stalling for time as they only show there reluctance once the meter is started.

We got back at 8:30 and both fancied a curry, Carina was just on her way home so she gave us a lift to the supermarket which was just closing its doors, so we rushed in and around it and then walked back to the hostel. We weren't meant to cook after 9 as the housekeepers who live in a flat use the kitchen. Sarena did anyway which seemed to put them out a bit. Never mind the curry was bloody lovely though.

Terrific thunder storm all evening so had the window wide open and sat and watched for a long while. It was great looking over the City, the weather was still really humid so very dramatic. Woke up at some point in the early hours with a start as if someone had shaken me awake, couldn't hear a thing because of my earplugs but when i took them out i could hear hundreds of dogs all over the City barking, i sat at the window for ages and it was really weird as if something was going to happen.

Anyway nothing happened but did have the strangest dreams, got up and had b'fast which is laid on by the hostel. They had a sand which toaster which got full use from us but Toby ended up using all the cheese in his one sarny so he got a telling off........ Weather was still a bit drizzly but not at all cold, still muggy,. so Toby came up with the bright idea of visiting a huge American shopping mall on the other side of town. This place was supposed to be one of the biggest in the Latin America, now bare in mind Toby HATES shopping and gives me nothing but grief if i should even step into any kind of shop. He turns into a stroppy 3 yr old who has tantrums in the middle of the street - very very sad. So it did come of a bit of a surprise when he came up with this idea as i wanted to look for a new travel towel and maybe a new little bag as we were told not to look like travelers when out on the street. My day pack is the only thing that gives me away so thought i should just get a cheapy bag and hopefully less chance of getting robbed. So off we went on the bus which took us miles away, 1hr later we arrived at this huge monster of a tacky shopping centre with a big fake statue of Liberty in the front - mmmmmm nice. First thing we did was find out the time of a film to go and watch, deciding on the Pirate film which i wanted to see again anyway. We then walked around the shopping part of the Mall and was filled with hundreds and hundreds of shops and food areas, so had a quick lunch then split up (my idea) to do our own thing for the next hour and a half. I bought a couple of cheap tops and found a little bag, Toby purchased his bits that he was after as well. We went and watched the movie which we both thought was great then caught the bus home. It was now pouring outside so had to run around to find the bus which took 1hr 30mins of standing and packed in like sardines. Must have caught the wrong bus as it stopped off and we all had to get off in the middle of somewhere so had to run around in the rain again to find a taxi which finally took us back to the hostel. We popped out to get some food from a supermarket as we both fancied a curry but couldn't get all the stuff i wanted so had to make do. Went back and cooked up a fantastic meal, not really a curry but very hot! I sat on my own watching TV until 1am

Wednesday 8th October 2003 Rio Hostel, Santa Tereza, Rio De Janeiro

The Thunder storm is still going. We actually spent most of the day at the hostel. I intended to do my diary but just couldn't sum up the energy so ended up reading and trying to plan where we should travel to next. Went out on an unsuccessful mission to find an international phone card in the rain and then we met up with Chris and Kate and a new housemate Nick from NZ.

That evening Chris, Kate and us 2 took a walk into town to a bar called Caroline Cafe, Basically you pay a cover fee (5 pounds) and drink as much as you can for free until 9:30. The Bonus was that they head waitress, Gabriel, was extremely beautiful and the topic of conversation for us for the evening. Kate and Chris also gave us a run down on what's been going on in the UK. Mainly soap news... What Dirty Den's back - that's just madness.

We drunk as much as we could to until 8:30 and then, after approaching a few reluctant taxi drivers, we caught a bus back to the hostel 5 minutes before our cooking curfew.

Still raining so spent the day watching TV, reading and writing postcards which actually was quite nice. Kate and Chris stayed in for most of the day as well so had a bit of a laugh. Also had a new house guest, Nick from NZ. Watched on the box that Arnie Shwartsanieger won the elections - god they are a bunch of goons.

Went out in the evening to a bar in town which was having drink promo on, thought it was just up the road but ended up walking for quite a way through some dodgy and some normal places. Kate seemed really unhappy about walking about and was extremely nervous having never been anywhere remotely threatening before. They have only been traveling for a couple of day though so i'm sure she will get a little used to it, i wonder if i was like that when i started? Not that i'm not unaware now and i'm still just as careful, just not so uncomfortable - strange.

Found the bar which had a deal going of paying a certain set price each for the evening and drinking as much beer as possible between 6.30 -9.30. The worst thing was that the door girl who took us into the club etc was absolutely stunning - looked like a centre fold girl. Gabriel (Toby told me her name) was about 6ft tall and stunning in a hugging black number and long dark hair, which seemed to transfix us all for the evening. Conversation was mostly about all the soap gossip from back home - still shocked to find Dirty Den is back on the box!

We left early so we could cook some dinner before 9pm back at the hostel but none of the taxis would take us back for some reason so found a bus that dropped us off outside the door.

Thursday 9th October 2003 Rio Hostel, Santa Tereza, Rio De Janeiro

As predicted by BBC World Weather. The sky has cleared and the sun was back out in full force. We took advantage of this and headed out to the second major attraction in Rio... Sugar Loaf Mountain. On the way there though we had to stop at the very efficient post office to send yet another parcel home.

Sugar loaf was very impressive. Great views of the whole city, lots of monkeys, and cable car rides that scared Sarena. There was even a really cool American from Utah with massive side burns, a massive cap (with Utah written on the front), brown trousers and crisp tight white shirt and a boot lace tie. I don't know why I am compelled to write about him. He was just cool.

After Sugar Loaf and an attempt to be ripped of by a cabby (which we masterfully snubbed) we ended up back in Copacabana. First I finally found a way to phone home. Then we went to a travel agency and booked a flight to the Amazon... Cool! Sarena then went off and did her own thing, whilst I caught a bus to the next beach along, Ipanema (as in the song 'Girl from Ipanema') really just so I could say I've been there. There is also a British pub there, 'The Lord Jim Pub' So I popped in to see if they would be showing The England v Turkey match on Saturday. Bad News, apparently its not on at all in Brazil. Bugger. Great pub though. A tudor building that serves Old Speckle Hen and FIsh and Chips.

Back at the Hostel I found Sarena had been an angel and bought some dinner so I went back out and got some wine and a little bag of popcorn to say thank you. I gobbled down my tuna jacket and found that I didn't have much energy left so read for a bit until I dozed off.

After B'fast we got our shit together and headed off to the Post Office to send some camera films and a few bits home. We then caught a taxi to Sugar Loaf Mountain which was extremely high and just had a cable car dangling over a huge drop to take us to the top. I was a little unhappy at the ride up but it was very fast, thankgoodness.The first cable car takes us to the first and lower peak which we had a look around and took pictures, also had some cheeky little monkeys who were clustered around all the bins and very sweet. You then have to get in another cable car which takes you up to the higher Sugar Loaf peak for some more photo taking and looking at some horrible Parrots made out of Quartz and Amethyst etc - all very tacky and very large. There was a really expensive jewellery shop at the top that were selling the sculptures and when the English speaking assistant came out to ask if i wanted help, i was looking at the birds at the time, aghast. I just told her they were tacky and a waste of some beautiful stone - she didn't seem impressed. The views were stunning though and much better than from JC, a lot less crowded as well which helped to the overall effect.

Hopped in a taxi afterwards to take us to Copacabana, the driver tried to scam us by saying he would do it for set price without using the meter. Completely trying to rip us off so demanded him to put the meter on or we would get another taxi ( i was already out of the door) got to our destination and turned out to be the price Toby said it should be (half the price the driver quoted) but Toby still gave the thieving sod a tip!!!!!!!!!! why why why why why why why!!!!

Toby went and called his mum then we had some lunch before finding a travel agency and booking up a flight to the Amazon - cool. I then found my own way back to the hostel whilst Toby went to Ipanema beach. My journey home was going great until i got off of the metro and couldn't find the road i needed to get to, to find my bearings. Ended up getting completely lost but recognised some of the buildings which was frustrating. The City is very much like London, so a little confusing! I found a supermarket and bought us some dinner for the evening which wasn't a good idea as i then had to traipse around carrying that for now it was starting to get dimpsy so i jumped into a taxi who drove around a bit until i could recognise where i was then walked the rest of the way back.

Friday 10th October 2003 Rio Hostel, Santa Tereza, Rio De Janeiro

Well we have booked a flight into the Amazon for tommorow. So I spent most of the morning updating our web site diary. And then most of the adternoon searcging for an Internet Cafe to download it. Its always a relief to get a new version updated but as soon as its done then its out of date again.

In rained on and off through the day so nothing else was achieved. The local area that we are staying , Santa Tereza, is a bit of an artsy place and this week is a festival where all the artists open there doors. Chris and Kate took a wlak around in the morning and came back with an invitation to a party at one of the artists house.

We headed out to the party by about 9:30. It was up the hill and just above our hostel. The house was pretty amazing and had a great view across the centre of Rio. There wasn't that much art to be seen though. Just some tapestries of well loved drug dealers. Then all of a sudden the lights and music went out and we where subjected to half an hour of 'nail down blackboard sounds' with some ponce standing on a chair reading his prose whilst his girlfriend sauntered round shining a torch in peoples faces. It was all very pretentious and crap, but we found it very amusing. Sarena started to feel very ill from the course of anti-malaria tablets we started to take so we ended up getting back by 11. Sarena disappeared off to bed while the rest of us chatted on the balcony and met up with a new house mate, Christof, from Toulouse (spelling) - France.

The weather is still wet so didn't do much all day apart from read and lay around. I did go for a dip in the pool in the afternoon, even though it wasn't sunny it was still warm.

Kate and Chris came back a little later on with an invite to a local party in one of the Artsy peoples house. For 3 days a year Santa Tereza opens up all the houses and craft shops so that people can walk around and look at all the local hand made art and music creativity that people have set up in their houses.

Went to the party at about 9.30pm and found the huge house which was devoid of furniture but had so pictures on the wall of all the local drug dealers....... the host put on a but of a show for the crowd which entailed a girl walking around with a microphone reading some poetry and a bloke waving a torch around. This was done to some pretty weird soundtrack. The bloke stood on a chair and shone the torch down at the girl who was still yapping on about something and then they did a few other weird things which the whole crowd thought fantastic and applauded enthusiastically whilst we just sat outside and thought how pretentious the whole thing was.

I started feeling pretty rotten for some reason and wanted to go back, so everyone joined me as they had had enough anyway, i went straight to bed.

Saturday 11th October 2003 On various airport floors

It was still pouring down and we didn't leave for the airport until 5:30 so we took a walk in the rain around Santa Tereza to visit a few arty places and get some lunch. The first half of walk was pretty dry as the rain eased off but by the time we had eaten lunch it started to pour down. So we cut our walking tour of the area short and headed back to the Hostel.

We paid our bill to find that Carina the owner had very kindly given us a free night. What a bonus! and then hung around until the Taxi arrived at 5:30. We said goodbye to Kate, Chris and Nick and then ran to the taxi in the rain. Just as we drove out of the other side of Rio Sarena realised that she had left her bikini at the hostel so we had to turn around and make us late for the plane. We then got stuck in a traffic jam and I began to wonder if we would make the flight at all. We did. The plane left at 6:30 and we took a 2 hour flight to the capital of Brazil, Brasilia.

Our next flight to Manaus in the Amazon wasn't until 12 so we waited at the airport for a few hours only to find that it was then delayed until 2. I Managed an hours kip on the floor until it was time to board the next plan and hit the skies again.

got up and took another malaria tablet and then felt very ill again so realised it was the tablets doing the deed, don't think i will bother taking any if they make me feel this bad.

We went out later in the day to have a look around all the artsy houses and little streets, so pretty and full of character. The whole place is built on a big hill so there are little passages ways of steps leading down to other interesting streets, wonderful houses and great views. Unfortunately it started raining again and as my Pac a mac had died a death i ended up getting very very wet so went back to the hostel to dry off and wait for the taxi to take us to the airport at 5.30pm. Said our goodbyes to Kate and Chris wishing them well on the rest of their travels! On the way to the airport in the taxi i remembered i had left my bikini so had to go back - oops

Arrived in time thank goodness and went straight on to the plane for the 2hr flight to the Capital of Brazil at 9pm to change planes. Unfortunately we had a 3hr wait but then the the plane was delayed and we didn't get on till 2am.

Sunday 12th October 2003 Krystal Hotel, Manaus, Amazonia

The delayed flight got to Manaus in the early hours. We where pleased to find a fairly modern airport which made our little kip in the terminal more comfortable. We decided to wait there until at least daylight before we caught a bus into town to find some accommodation. We waited until about 6:30 and then left the terminal to be blasted by the hot air of the morning. A bus turned up 5 minutes later and we headed into the centre of Manaus.

We decided on a recommended hotel rather than a Hostel as we only plan one nights stay before we head into the jungle and some quality air conditioning would be much appreciated. The hotel gave us a discount to so it ended up being pretty reasonable. I Spent the rest of the trying to arrange a jungle/river trip whilst lazy Sarena went to bed. The hotel where in cahoots with Green Planet Tours which offer a trip up the river to a floating jungle cabin. It actually looked pretty good and was aimed for the budget traveler. I checked out a few more tour options though but in the end we decided to go for Green Planet aided by a very over friendly sales guy who turned up at the hotel. we got a good discount and arranged to start a 4 day trip tomorrow. Nelson the sales guy then offered us a lift to the Shopping mall It was the only thing open on Sunday and Sarena did need a new rain jacket so we jumped in his car.

The mall was packed with kids and we spent a good few hours there and ended up with a towel, rain jacket and a very crappy jacket potato each.

After a nice cool shower in the evening we went out to a local restaurant and got very hot and sweaty again.

Flight was fine and landed in Manaus for about 4.45am so spent the next few hours trying to get some sleep on the floor at the airport. I went outside at 6.30am for some fresh air and realised how darn hot and humid it was. There was a bit pond just outside which was full of huge fish and turtles so i stood there for a few mins having a look when a little scruffy stray dog came up and befriended me - very happy little dog. So i went back in the airport and took Toby's sandwich to feed the dog, turtles and fish.

We decided to go and catch a bus into town as we couldn't sleep anyway. Found a hotel that was more expensive than usual but supposed to be nice (so the lonely planet say) Bartered them down on the price thanks to my tactics which Toby never catches onto and always agrees to the first price given. After 2yrs and he still just don't get it.........

Found the room to be very comfy but best of all had air con, as i don't think we would get any sleep without it. We then went and got some b'fast from upstairs -top b'fast. I put my head down for a couple of hours whilst Toby went out to find out about trips along the Amazon.

We decided on one we both liked which was a tricky decision between 2 really good looking treks into the jungle. The trek was for the following day so we went to a shopping mall so i could find a new towel and rain mac and found both. Went out for pizza for dinner.

Monday 13th October 2003 Rio Negro, Amazonia

Off to the Jungle today. At 8:30 we got picked up by a whit VW combi and taken to the harbour. There was a massive fish market on the dock with massive fish being hacked around. We boarded the boat to find we where the only 2 on it.

The boat skipper first took us an hour downstream to the 'meeting of the river' this is where the Rio Negro meets the Rio Solmoes to form the Rio Amazonas. It was quite an amazing sight. The Rio Negro is jet black (surprisingly) and the Solmoes is brown where they meet forms a very distinct line between the two waters for a good 10 km before the colours finally merge. It was then 3 hours upstream to our Jungle lodge which is a floating cabin set in a small tributary just of the Rio Negro. We where arrived and immediately met by our guide for the next few days, Rueben, who gave us our itinerary and lunch. It was cat fish and rice and tasted really good. There was also 5 other people staying at the lodge but at 3 o'clock 3 of them caught the ferry boat back to Manaus leaving 2 italian girls.

In the afternoon Rueben took the 2 of us Piranha fishing. Using just a small stick and wire with some beef on a hook we sat in a small canoe and hooked up several piranhas. I was the first to catch one (being an expert fisherman and all) it was a tiny little piranha and dangled from the end of my line making a strange growling noise. Rueben took him of my hook and showed us his very nasty teeth then we threw him back in. Rueben ended up catching quite a few and sarena also hooked one. I caught another one but as I yanked the rod up I sent the piranha flying over the top of the boat and landing back in the river on the other side. We fished for a couple of hours and then headed back to the lodge for dinner.

The sun had set by 6 and by 7 we where back in the canoe and this time searching for alligators. There where plenty of large red eyes staring at us from the river banks in the light of the torches but I think the guides new they belonged to big Alligators so they where ignored. We probably hunted around for a good two hours before a suitable hostage was found. Rueben's cheerful assistant paddled out in his tiny canoe to a river bank in the dark. He started laughing hysterically and returned with a tiny baby Alligator. I suppose it could have been smaller as this one was probably about 40 cm. We had a good look at him in the boat and then Rueben did a trick... If you rub the belly of an alligator long enough they fall asleep into some kind of trance. Obviously you don't usually get a chance to rub the belly of an alligator for a good minute so this isn't a practical survival technique. The results in this case though where pretty amazing. The Alligator ended up motionless on his back in the boat. His little legs where sticking out likes he had been squashed and he didn't even wake to our voices. Just a huge smack on the floor of the boat next to him made him wake from his slumber and even then he didn't look to aware of what was going on. After that we let him go back in the river and he swam away very slowly in a bit of a daze. The poor thing is probably the same one that gets caught every night.

Well today is the day of the jungle today - very exciting!

got up early for some B'fast and were picked up at 8.45am by a little mini van which took us to the docks and our awaiting boat. Turns out we are the only ones on this trip so had the whole boat to ourselves.

Set of at 9am and headed straight to the 'meeting of the river which is where the Rio Negro which is jet black meets with the Rio Solmoes which is a milky coffee colour - this forms the Rio Amazon and is quite remarkable to see. There is a definite line between the 2 colours and they don't seem to mix which is the strange thing...

The boat then turned around and took us to our jungle floating lodge which wa another 3 hrs up stream on one of the rivers outlets. The lodge looked really cool and as soon as we docked we dumped our bags and introduced to our fantastic guide, Ruben. He then explained our activities and hung up our hammocks then we had a lovely lunch which included cat fish, i loved it as it tasted just like chicken. We then we all got on a little motor boat for our afternoon of piranha fishing.

Ruben took us up river just a little way where we then settled ourselves near a bank and baited our fishing wires with small bits of beef. It was then a case of just throwing the wire as far as possible then when you get a bite you pull the wire up as quick as possible. Toby (of course) got the first fish which was to small to keep so he had to try and pull the hook out of the piranhas mouth - not as easy as it sounds! These little buggers, quite obviously have a nasty set of teeth on them so Ruben had to show him how. Toby was being to gentle with getting out the hook and when Ruben got hold of the poor thing he just ripped the hook straight through his lip....... argh

The Piranha make a strange grunting noise when captured which came as a surprise, didn't think fish made any noises? Anyway i didn't so well and got all excited when the fish caught the bate but wasn't very quick at pulling the wire out the water quick enough........ my bate was always eaten.

Toby caught another one but in his haste in yanking out the line he through the fish straight over the top of the boat and back into the water on the other side - lucky fish. It was very funny but not as funny as when the young boat driver who was now fishing from on the roof of the boat had a bad dose of wind so kept ripping out large ones and then laughing hysterically - in the end all 4 of us were laughing.

Ruben caught the most fish but none were big enough to keep so after a couple of hours we went back to the lodge for some dinner of spaghetti. We got chatting to a couple of Italian girls, Luissa and Sara one of whom could speak English and was really funny. When the girls were in their hammocks she said they were like 2 beans - it was funny at the time.

Had a cold shower from the river water, it is sooooo hot and humid that the cold shower is a god send, but within minutes of getting out you are sweating again. Later on in the evening we went out alligator spotting which was quite good but i had trouble spotting the red eyes reflected in the torch light, whereas Toby had no problem. The young guy who was with us went off in his canoe to try and catch one but only ended up catching a baby which Ruben then demonstrated the art of sending them to sleep by putting them on there backs and rubbing the bellies which is really weird seeing an alligator flat on his back with legs in the air snoozing like a baby! We found out later in the trip that this poor bugger gets caught every time to show us tourists.

What was good though was the lightning storm, absolutely fantastic. Sat out in a boat in pitch black on the river whilst the sky lit up all around you with sheet and fork lighting, not a rumble of thunder which was weird.

All went to bed early as the place didn't have electricity, just some candles so not a lot to do when the sun goes down.

Tuesday 14th October 2003 Rio Negro, Amazonia

Slept pretty well in the hammock and not one insect bite. our first activity for the day was a Jungle walk. Unfortunately our guide said we had to where trousers and my chords a get pretty warm in this heat. We had a 30 minute ride in a canoe to a small local farm and then jumped ashore top explore the local Jungle. Rueben our guide was excellent we learned about all the plants and what medicines they where used for, Chased tarantulas out of their homes, Swung from vines ( Click here to view video (240 kb))(into trees), drunk pure water from other vines, tried to climb trees indian style (very pathetic at that) and used ants as insect repellent. It was all very cool and I reckon we now had enough knowledge to last in the jungle for a good 10 minutes on our own. Rueben even made us some Jungle fashion acessories from plants as he walked us around.

After 3 hours of hot sweaty jungle action we headed back to the lodge and met up with our 2 italian friends, Luisella and Sara. We had lunch and then arranged to do the overnight jungle camping trip together tonight. We left the lodge at about 3 with a few essentials for the night and headed back to the Jungle. Rueben hacked his way through the jungle f0r about 15 minutes until he came to a site for camping. It was right next to a small still stream so we where a bit dubious about mossies. So far there has been very little, apparently due to the acid in the Rio Negro that kills the eggs off.

Rueben and the italian girls guide immediately started hacking down trees to build a structure to hang our hammocks off. It was all very ingenious unlike our task to light a fire. The 4 of us looked pretty pathetic huddled round a tiny pile of smoking leaves. The fire eventually got going and Rueben built a kind of spit where he placed an entire chicken. We then set our hammocks and mossie nets up while the chicken cooked and rueben built a table! It was the best dam chicken I have had in ages. By the time we had finished tea though it was 6:30 and very dark. Nothing else left to do except go to bed!

Good job we got an early night though... The thunder started at about 9 so I got up to try and help Rueben and the other guide rig a tarpaulin over the hammocks (I wasn't much help) The mossies where out in full force so I sneaked back into my hammock. The rain started at about 10. It was very heavy and unfortunately the tarpaulin wasn't quite wide enough to cover the rope ends of the hammocks. By midnight water was gradually seeping along the hammock and my sleeping position was getting smaller and smaller as the dry patch decreased. By 2 I had no choice as to just lie in the wet. Sarena was also soaked as was Sara. The guides just seem to sleep through it so I don't know if they got wet or not. In the end Sara jumped into Luisella hammock and I tried to get some more sleep.

Didn't sleep so well but didn't get bitten by any mosquito's as they don't seem to have any which is odd seeing as we are on the river, seems the water is quite acidic and they don't like it - good job really.

Went for the jungle walk first thing with Ruben as our guide, he showed us all the different trees and their medicinal uses and all the other things the Indian tribes use them for, very very interesting. Can't believe how many amazing uses the bark, leaves, sap,.roots etc can be used for! He then showed us a tarantulas lair and coaxed the female out with poking a stick in the nest. A huge brown and black spider came running out and just stood there waiting for the pray to walk past so she could leap on it. She was the most poisonous out of all the Tarantulas. she was absolutely beautiful! Ruben managed to pick her up using a special method and luck, he turned her over and showed us her fangs which were really big then let her go on her way. Toby and Ruben then swung from some huge vines and then showed us how the indians climb trees using the bark twisted into a rope then wrapped around the feet. Toby and I both had a go and failed miserably. We saw a humming bird which i thought was a large bee at first, it was so small an saw some huge beautiful butterfly's and some birds, also the biggest ant i have ever seen in my life - this thing wa a monster! As we walked around he picked some long leaves which he made into some complicated weaving constructions - 2 crowns and 2 long things that were very intricate

The walk lasted for about 3hr which was quite long enough in that humidity but well worth the trip. Caught the little motor boat back to the lodge for some lodge of more cat fish and rice the had a shower and a lie down in the hammock for an hour. The 2 Italian girls who were the only other people at the lodge with us suggested we all do the jungle camping together that night, which sounded like a plan. We were supposed to be doing the canoeing but swapped it for the next day.

We all set off with supplies and hammocks up down river to a landing spot 30mins away. It was then a 10 min walk to a spot where the 2 guides suggested we camp for the night. I thought we would find an open spot but apparently not.... We were next to a little river which again i thought was a bad idea due to the mosquitoes but there didn't seem to be any (until later ...)

Ruben and the other guide then set about hacking down small trees with their machetes and making a wonderful camp out of all the things around them. They constructed a frame which we could tie all the hammocks to then added the mossy nets using sticks and bits of cord. In the mean time us 4 were trying to start a fire (unsuccessfully) so we could cook our dinner but Toby came up with the bright idea of using the Mossy Jungle repellent which when applied to the skin would take all the colour out of anything you touched - very strong, 80% deet! Anyway he stuck a bit on a stick and, bingo we had a roaring fire within minutes -very flammable and a handy hint to all those campers out there.

Toby set about to make a spit out of some wood and when done, Ruben skewered a huge chicken and put over the fire for our dinner. He then made us a table out of some more chopped down branches. When the chicken was cooked they layed out a big pot of pre-cooked rice and we had that with the tastiest chicken i have ever tasted. Didn't have any plates so just used the leaves from the trees - my idea of course, hey i think i could survive in the jungle!

All went to bed at 6.45pm - the earliest i have been to bed since i was 5 yrs old! but once dark there is nothing else to do...... All very comfortable and fine until the lightening started an hour later and i new we were in for some rain. Ruben said we wouldn't - hey he might be able to build a 3bedroomed house with pool out of 2branches and a leaf but a weather man he is not! needless to say at 9pm when i woke up again and thought it must be at least 3am in the morning, it started to sputter with rain. Ruben and the other guy hastily constructed a tarpaulin roof which by theory was a fab idea but the edges didn't quite reach either ends of the hammocks leaving the ropes out in the open. When it did start raining the ropes soaked up all the water and then into the hammock. After an hour of raining my bed was like laying in a shallow bath and not very comfortable. The night seemed to go on and on and on and on, and i just prayed for light so i could get up. I did however need a wee 4 times in the night which is something you really don't want to do in the jungle in the rain and the dark - yes my arse got bitten to death, like a big white target. At one point in the endless night Luisella lent me her full length poncho to sleep in as her hammock was the only one not getting wet. I was fully dressed which was a mistake as now my clothes were all wet so stripped out of them - not an easy job in a hammock which with the nets were like little blue pods. I ended up sleeping in the poncho with the hood up and trying not to move as the water started to warm up when lying in a prone position but not nice when moving. The other Italian girl ended up sharing Luisellsas hammock with her at one point as hers was getting damp - Toby seemed to sleep through most of this

Wednesday 15th October 2003 Rio Negro, Amazonia

Gave up trying to get back to sleep at 6 after trying to find the driest sleeping position on my hammock. in the end I resorted to sleeping on it rather than in it. Everyone else was up just after me anyway so we lit a fire. The discovery that our insect repellent is very flammable helped a lot to ignite the soaking wood. The fire was only used to make a big pot of much needed coffee (the eggs where all smashed on the journey to the camp). Sarena dried some of her close over the fire and then we packed the camp up.

A boat wasn't coming to pick us up until 10 so we took another walk through the Jungle whilst we waited. There is not too much wildlife near the river as the jungles are quite heavily hunted by Indians but we did manage to find a few monkeys and even a tree full of claw marks from a Jaguar. After an hour in the jungle my morning dampness had turned to a sticky sweatness so i was quite relieved to get back onto the boat and back to the lodge. As soon as we arrived I jumped straight into the river for a very refreshing swim, even though the water is only a few degrees cooler than a bath it was great to float around for a few minutes. didn't spend too long in the river though, what with Piranhas, Alligators and other strange river creatures that tend to attach themselves in any orifice they can find I didn't want to push my odds.

After the swim I managed another doze in the hammock before lunch and the arrival of more jungle explorers on the ferry. We also had to wave our 2 new italian friends goodbye, but immediately filled there place with 2 Irish guys, Brian and Ronan.

Rueben took us out in a traditional canoe in the afternoon and we spent a solid 3 hours paddling around creeks in the amazon. It was great as we managed to get close to the river banks and nature. At one point we got a bit too close as we came apon to large healthy alligators. They backed of into the jungle when they saw us but we then got grounded on a submerged branch just by the bank they where sitting on. The canoe then started to sink as we tried to lever ourselves of the branch. Luckily we got free and Sarena used half a coke bottle to empty the water from the canoe. I even managed to scoop a fish up whilst paddling and it landed at Sarena's feet. It was only a tiddler though not worth taking back for tea. It was very tranquil paddling around the jungle but I must admit I was fairly relieved to get back to the lodge and out of the dying sun.

Another boat load of people had arrived during the day. Quite a young bunch so the evening ended up being pretty socialable helped by a couple of much needed cold beers. Managed to teach the 2 Irish lads Shithead and I was propositioned by a German girl who thought I was a millionaire for being able to travel for 2 years! Sarena disappeared early to her hammock whilst a few of us stayed up really late and chatted in the candle light. We even made it up past 10:30.

Didn't sleep a wink and at the fist sight of light leaped out of the hammock in my sandles and poncho...... soaking from hair to feet. The ants were having a field day biting my feet so had a quick wee before putting my boots which luckily were dry - had the bright idea of bringing big plastic bags to put all our stuff in incase it rained.......

We were all up and about by 6am and after hammock testing we found mine to be the wettest - no surprise. Toby said his was wet but it was only damp. I think he just didn't want to share his hammock with me.......

Had a very quick B'fast then dried my trousers over the fire then packed up camp and went for a walk to pass the time before the boat to pick us up. All trudged off in the jungle seeing some monkeys and scratch marks of a Jaguar on a tree and some giant snail shells which i took back with me. after an hour of walking around we went back to the pick up point to find the boat waiting for us. We all trudged over the small beach area to get to the boat only to find the beach was of a clay/glue substance which stuck to the bottom of your walking boots so had to spend another 20mins trying to scrape the darn stuff off.

Went back to the lodge and had a lovely cold shower and got leapt on by a frog which really made me jump! i picked him up and took him outside then carried on with my shower... By lunch time we were all really hungry so stuffed ourselves on fish once again, same food everyday but good. Had a lay down in the hammock for a couple of hours after lunch then went out canoeing in the afternoon for 3hrs which was really good but hard work. It was Toby me and Ruben in the canoe and i was say in the middle with the biggest paddle i have every seen which was made of wood and weighed a ton and got heavier the wetter it got. My arms were going to drop off after just 30mins! It was lovely and quiet out of the river and saw a variety of birds an da couple of small alligators. At one point we paddled up a narrow estuary but the canoe got stuck on a log in the water so toby went to the very front to try and push us off with the paddle. Bearing in mind only minutes before Toby had spotted a couple of very large alligators moving around on the bank.......... The canoe started taking in a lot of water and we started to sink due to Toby's weight at the front of the boat! Ruben shouted for him to get back whilst i bailed madly and Ruben tried getting us off the log. I was worried about getting my camera wet rather than the alligators and piranhas for some reason....

We made it out alive thank goodness and made tracks up the main river and another few inlets before heading back to the lodge for some dinner and joined the big crowd which had turned up in the day for story swapping and then had game of cards with the 2 Irish guys, i went to bed not long after.

Thursday 16th October 2003 Krystal Hotel, Manaus, Amazonia

Even though I don't get a full nights sleep in a hammock I feel very cozy and find it very hard to get out of. Particularly when we have to get out at 5:30. Rueben woke us so that we could take a boat out to the middle of the river and watch the sun rise. The 2 Irish lads also joined us, but the clouds where a bit too thick on the horizon for a really effective sunrise. Never mind managed to get another hour back in my hammock before breakfast.

After bread and jam we joined the Irish lads again and headed upriver to a local village. The two guides Rueben and Fabio took us to one village but the water level has dropped a fair bit so we couldn't quite get there. Instead we went to a village on the main stretch of river. It was set on a beautiful white sandy beach and only consisted of a few houses. We took a walk around the villages orchards and tasted various strange fruit. Then we met a family who very conveniantly had a little artisan stall, a pool table and some beers! The village wasn't exactly native as you would imagine a tribal settlement in the amazon but it is probably very typical of all the villages along the main river.

Had a bit of lunch back at the river lodge then it was time to pack up and get ready for the ferry back to Manaus. It wasn't until 3:30 until the ferry was ready to leave. Some Monkeys even came in from the jungle to say goodbye as we headed of back downstream.

2 hours later and we where back in Manaus and pretty much dumped at the harbour. Obviously being hardened travelers like ourselves we soon found our way back to the hotel but left some very confused Germans at the harbour, they didn't know quite what to do. We grabbed some food at an Italian restaurant (Most places only seem to do Italian food).Then settled in our room and watched 'The Rock' with Sean Connery. It gets cheesier and cheesier every time I see it.

woke up at 5.30 and headed out in the little boat to the open part of the river to watch the sunrise which wasn't that good because it was so cloudy but still nice just the same. We then went back for b'fast and sat around until 8.30 when me, toby and the 2 Irish guys and their guide went out in the little boat to visit a local village. The boat couldn't get through some of the dense bush in the river due to the river being so low. So Ruben told us we were to visit another village another 20mins away. We turned up at a wonderful white beach where the village was set and went for a walk about. It was very quiet but a really pretty place with just a few scattered wooden huts with a variety of trees. The guide showed us all the weird and wonderful fruits growing in the trees and the use of leaves and nuts also growing. We tried the pecan nut fruit and a strange seed that tasted like melon. pineapple plants, citrus plants that had lemon smelling leaves, mango, coco, coffee, and loads more. It was really interesting to see where some of the produce we eat and drink actually come from. Ruben showed us the seed of one of the trees that had seeds used for dying clothes and other things. He put some of it on our faces like war paint and we then headed of to see the field of the highly important vegetable (can't remember the name) that is used everyday in the staple diet of the locals. We were also shown how it is grated and juiced then cooked to make a substance like flour which is used for bread etc. The only people that seemed to be around were a family consisting of 3 kids and granny, mum and dad who showed us some locally made crafts which i bought a load of (Xmas is coming.....) They had a pool table outside which we all then had a couple of games on and a lovely cold coke. The family showed us their water turtle which is currently a pet but will probably be eaten some time in the future as turtle and their eggs are also part of the diet, as well as monkeys and anything else that moves basically.

After an hour we got back on the boat and headed back to the lodge for some lodge and then Toby had a sleep in his hammock whist i watched some monkeys in the trees just behind the lodge. the boat arrived at 2.30 and were told we were leaving at about 3.30ish as they had to take a Japanese bloke for a fishing trip for an hour.. Packed up our stuff and said thanks to Ruben and at 3.30 we got on the boat and headed back to Manaus. Only took 2hrs to get back due to being down river but when the group of us got off the boat, none of us new if the Green Planet van was supposed to pick us up. Toby and I couldn't be arsed to hang around and wait so hopped on a bus which we thought was going to take us into town but only took us out of the dock area. Toby recognised where we were though so walked back to the hotel which turned out to be only around the corner - good old Tobes.

We dumped our bags and went straight back out to find an internet place but they were all shut so went out for some dinner instead and had a lovely pasta meal then back to watch a film and bed.

Friday 17th October 2003 Krystal Hotel, Manaus, Amazonia

Had some planning to do today. It was always our intention to go to Bolivia from the Amazon. But watching cnn in the morning and then checking web sites proved that the country is pretty much closed down due to riots and protests. And although we would probably be pretty safe (unless we got mistaken for Americans) traveling around would be a pain. So unfortunately we will have to leave Bolivia for another day.

So we now have a new plan. We are going to head further up the Amazon to the Columbia border where we should be able to find a route into Peru. I spent some more of the morning reading and replying to a load of emails, and then the afternoon doing some web site work for Liquid. Manaus is a pretty grotty city and I have no inkling to explore it any further than the streets around our Hotel.

By the evening I had finished my work for Liquid so spent a few more hours catching up on my diary and got an early night as we have to be at the airport at 3 to try a last minute flight to Tabatinga.

Back in Manaus which i have to say is a bit of a dive but had to get some things done so after b'fast we both went down to the internet cafe to check up on the goss and to find out about traveling in Bolivia seeing as its full of problems at the mo. Found out it's really not a good idea to even bother flying into due to the riots, the people (and rightly so) are hitting the streets full of anger about the president selling the only natural resource that Bolivia has, gas, to North America. Some travelers have been stuck in La Paz for some time and can't get out until it has quietened down, which by the sounds of it, won't happen soon. Both disappointed about not going as it is supposed to be wonderful. Toby did find a wonderful game though........ there was a power hose thing next to the toilet and found he could fire at his none flushable and very floaty poos to try and get them to go down, this amused him for quite a while and i haven't seen him so animated in ages.

Toby stayed to reply to his emails whilst i went off to but a new comb to a couple of other things then went back to the hotel to write my diary. Toby stayed in the room all afternoon to do some work for Liquid and i went out to get a takeaway. Have to mention when coming back up the marble steps in the hotel with a big bottle of coke, i tripped and went arse over tit landing full pelt on my face. The whole bottle of coke exploded and sprayed everything within a mile radius! the porter bloke came running up to see what the noise was, luckily i had picked myself up by then to save on embarrassment! he ended up mopping all the walls and floor whilst i hobbled back to our room with soaking trousers and a large lump coming up on my chin, even gave myself whiplash! I was more relieved i hadn't knocked out any teeth......Had a nasty headache by now so after a quick shower i went to bed. We had to get up at 3am to get to the airport and try and get a flight to Tabatinga. Toby had been told the flight was full but if we went down early and put our names down on the waiting list we might have a chance.

Saturday 18th October 2003 Pousada Rio Mar, Tabatinga

woke, showered, packed all within 15 minutes and then caught an extortionate taxi to the airport at 3:15 am just so that we could put our names on a waiting list for a full flight to the colombian border town of Tabatinga. Having decided to miss Bolivia due to riots we are now heading west where we can get into northern Peru. At the airport we where then told that the airline desk (Rico) didn't open until 5 so at least we would be the first on the list when it opened... or so we thought. I sat in the corner of the airport and did my diary. When I looked up at 4:45 there was already one person waiting at the desk. Bugger. they got 2 names down before us, so I half expected not to get on the flight.

Very surprisingly though they found us seats 2 hours before departure. Cool. The flight left at 8 and we had a short 45 minute flight up the Rio Solmoes to Tefé. We stopped there for 20 minutes. Poor old Sarena is getting worse with every flight. She was in a bit of a start after our landing but I must admit that I didn't think the plane would stop before the end of the runway. After swapping some passengers we where up in the air again for another 45 minutes and had a slightly better landing at Tabatinga.

Tabatinga is part of the Tri-Frontier part of the amazon where Brazil, Colombia and Peru all meet. It was very hot and humid here and we didn't mess around once we got our bags as there where plenty of people outside the airport willing to help us find accommodation, activities and transport out of town. I am always a bit dubious by these people but we have probably used them quite a lot know and always been given pretty good advice. A guy gave us a lift into town where there was a booking office for a fast boat up the Rio Amazonas to Iquitos in Peru. Unfortunately tomorrow was sold out so we have to wait until Tuesday to take either the next fast boat or a plane (they are both the same price). We opted for the fast boat as Sarena has had enough of flying and taking the Rio Amazonas up the river is an opportunity we shouldn't really miss.

We then went to a hostel (Posada Rio Mar) which was right by the bustling port of Tabatinga. The owner Fabio spoke very good english and was full of information. He even lent us some guide books for Peru so that we could gen up on it for a couple of days. Tabatinga is a very rural town full of palm leave huts and Indians with thousands of children running everywhere. There are hardly any cars as you only need transport to get around town so all you do is hail someone and jump on the back of their motorbike.

Spent the heat of the day laying on our bed with the fan full blast. It didn't cool us down to much but just the movement of the air helped. That evening we headed to a restaurant and managed to find a menu that wasn't all Italian food. We had churasco which is basically BBQ'd meat not that exciting but still pretty tasty.

Up at 3am and caught a taxi straight to the airport only to be told the desk didn't open until 5am - mmmmmmm duff info once again. Sat on the floor doing our dairies and waiting for the desk to open. A couple started queuing early and got there names down on the list before us which was really annoying and i bet they had just walked in the airport whilst we had been sat there for 2 hrs! Toby did get our names down though and by 6am the check-in lady said we could get on the flight - yippeee. Luckily my chin had not decided to look like i'd been in a fight but did find some more sore points over my body which i hadn't even known i had hurt when i fell over.

Boarded the plane at 8am, no seats allocated on this flight so it was a free for all, luckily we found a window seat for us. The flight only took an hour before a dreadful landing at Tefe to unload and load some more passengers. I say the landing was bad cause i happened to see how short the runway was before coming down, and when we did touch down the noise of braking was horrendous, soooo loud. As i was clinging to the chair i happened to look us and see the roof crimpling like a concertina - the nose of the plane came within half a metre to the end of the runway....................

We sat on the plane for 40mins waiting for them to do there business then had the pleasure of taking off again and flying for another hour and having the same landing as before in Tabatinga and i was very relieved to get off the plane. That was the second plane we had been on just lately that didn't have life jackets but used the floating seat cushions incase of emergency...........

As soon as we got off we had a bloke come up and give us some info on boats and accommodation, seems the boat for that day to take us over the boarder was booked up already so couldn't leave until Tuesday, same story with a flight. We jumped in a taxi with the guy and first went to the boat booking company who told us the same story but they were full also so ended up booking with another boat place just up the road. We then got taken to a hotel kind of hostel place where we got a double room with a little fan thank godas the weather was extremely hot and humid. The town is really very rural and how you imagine a South American little port village to be, all shanty wooden houses and tiny vendors and alleyways with dogs and naked children everywhere. Fruit was of abundance on every stall but most other things seemed pretty far and few between. This was the real SA as far as i was concerned, even had the chicken picking and killing on the side of the road which sort of put you off your b'fast first thing in the morning.

We didn't do much for the rest of the day due to the heat but did go out for some dinner at a restaurant on the main road which was recommended by a German guy who seemed to be living at the hostel, strange guy who liked the ladies.

Dinner was quite nice and very cheap, did try to find a bar to go afterwards but nothing was around so just went back to bed.


Sunday 19th October 2003 Pousada Rio Mar, Tabatinga

Most places of any interest (not many) will be closed today so we basically spent the whole day trying to keep as cool as possible. We weren't to good at that even trying to lay as still as possible got me hot and sweaty. Spent most the day reading (a cheesy Tom Clancy book). Sarena was really suffering.

Thankfully the local Internet cafe had air con so managed to cool of for a bit. We then went for a walk around the neighbourhood when the day had cooled a little. Its a pretty cool place and I am glad that we changed our travel plans and ended up here. It's much more amazon like than Manaus.

We where so hot still in the evening that we didn't even fancy anything to eat so ended up reading until it got too dark. We didn't want to use the light as that would attract all sort of insect things and we already had a pet rat in the room that likes to share our bed with us.

Didn't sleep very well thanks to the heat and the mattress which had 2 big dips in it. I popped out first thing to get some B'fast but found most things to be shut being Sunday an all. Came back with some bread and nanners and after our feast we spent the rest of the day just laying around the room as once again the weather was intolerable and i did have a bit of an eppy in the room at one point because i was so claustrophobic and had to take my inhaler. I went to use the internet in the afternoon and to my delight found the place to have air conditioning so ended up staying in there for ages. We both went out for a little walk in the evening just to have a look around and found everyone to be down by the river unloading huge bunches of bananas and all sorts of things, got lost in the maze of alleyways with the poorest of houses and people sitting around trying to sell everything and anything with babies running around and scabby dogs trying to get scraps.

We bought a couple of cold beers and took them back to the hostel. sat outside and drank them whilst waiting for a decent time to go out for dinner but after the beer neither of us were hungry so just went to bed, it was only 8pm.

Monday 20th October 2003 Hostal Pasudo Rio, Tabatinga

Slept better than the rat who kept fidgeting around the room. Although Sarena tried her best to keep me awake and lecturing me on my state of awareness!

After a nice big breakfast we walked up to the police station to get our exit stamps from Brazil put into our passports. Sarena had left her immigration card back at the hostel though. so I jumped onto the back of a motorbike to fetch it. After that minor drama we both jumped onto the back of bikes and took a ride into Colombia. There is no border control between Tabatinga and Leticia and in fact they are pretty much the same town. You only get checked if you try and leave the town. We walked up and down the high street for a few minutes and then dived into a restaurant to avoid the heat again. Had a great Spaghetti bolognaese (Italian again) and then took some bikes back to Brazil. Not really much of a visit to Colombia.

Spent the afternoon reading and having bizarre conversations with Fabio about all sorts of topics from Aliens and higher beings to Socialism. Then I did a very brave thing... Sarena noticed a guy just outside the Hostel was repairing peoples shoes. So I gave him my sacred walking boots which have now developed large holes. He seemed to think that it would be easy to fix so I stepped back a kept a cautious eye on him. It was very painful to watch him slice open the side of my boot. In the end he did a great job. My boots should last me another 2 years easy. All for only a pound! Sarena bought some snacks for tea which I supplemented with some grilled chicken and weird sausage meat from an Indian that was cooking on the street. The power went out for a bit while we sat outside. It went muy tranquil and we sat and watched all the fireflies buzzing around. Some other people from the hostel are also catching the boat at 5 in the morning. It was a good job that we spoke to them as we then realised that our watches had been an hour out since we got here. At least we will get an extra hour in bed now.

Once again i didn't sleep well, between the heat and the rats in our room it was difficult. They were in our roof and making a right old noise, even got woken up by the sound of coins being thrown on the ground? I got up each time to investigate as it could have been anything, so i'm climbing up on top of cupboards with a torch in my mouth waiting for a snake or something to jump out at me, all the time Toby is just sleeping and couldn't be arsed to get out and help me look -my hero! all bloody night this was going on and still he slept though everything. Only the day before we were reading about the high crime rate in Peru and how they use every scam in the book from old ladies to children to just ripping your jewellery off as you walk past. The book was giving us helpful tips how not to get robbed and one of them was to be vigilant and look mean - both of which Toby is not, especially vigilant and aware of your surroundings, as last nights escapade with the noises only proves - sleep though it.

I got up and once again went hunting and gathering for b'fast and then came back to consume and drink coffee, it was only then we realised we were supposed to put our watches back an hour which mean we went to bed at 7pm last night!

Bit later on we both walked up to get our passports stamped so we could leave on Tuesday but duncy me forgot a really important little piece of paper so Toby caught a bike taxi back to retrieve. Once that was all done we both hopped onto the back of a couple of scooter taxis which took us over the border into Columbia. We didn't really do much but did have a walk around, didn't look any different to a Brazilian town funny enough. We did have some lunch at a very nice place then caught the taxi back again to Tabatinga. For an afternoon or sitting in front of a fan. I noticed a bloke mending shoes just outside the hostel so told Toby to get his mended as they couldn't get any worse than they were..... he was like an expectant father pacing up and down watching the man mend his precious boots. He actually did a really good job much to Toby's surprise.

I bought some pickles and crackers for dinner along with a couple of cold beers, Toby went to one of the local stalls and bought a kebab thing which went down nicely. Toby started getting guilt trips when a little boy came and stood near us peering into the hostel to watch TV. Toby felt guilty for eating in front of him so offered him some food which he didn't want anyway.

We had a power cut during the evening which was quite nice as you could see all the fire fly's dancing around the square.

Tuesday 21st October 2003 Iquitos, Peru

Got up a 4 am packed as much stuff into plastic bags in my backpack as possible. We are bound to get wet tomorrow on the boat at some stage. At 4:30 we where down at the port waiting for this very expensive boat ride to turn up. A bashed up tin can did and everyone started boarding it. Couldn't help feeling that we had been ripped of on the ticket price (US$50 the same price as a flight) and that the locals definitely wouldn't of paid that price. The seats weren't too uncomfortable though and by 5 we where on our way up the river to the Peruvian border control...

Got up at 3.45am and quickly got dressed and packed up and were at the docks for 4.30am along with the owner of the hostel who had to go home as her mum was ill, Hans the German guy was along for a short while to make sure his boxes got across the border and about 15 others. At 5am a tiny little motor boat pulled up and we all clambered aboard loading our luggage onto the roof of the boat. Whilst Toby was handing his bag up someone tried to pickpocket him, luckily his pocket was empty, but toby never said a word or shouted or anything.......

The inside of the boat was like a sardine can and had no leg room what so ever, i couldn't believe this is what we paid $50 for!. There is no way the locals would have paid that much so we and a German guy called David had been completely diddled. In a few minutes we were on our way up river to the Peruvian border.


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