Monday, March 31, 2014

Ouro Preto

The colonial city has many steep cobblestone hills

the city is surrounded by greenery and mountains

And lots of churches

Sao Paulo to Ouro Preto
Bus Company Util 125R 12 hours. I left at 10:50AM and arrived at 11pm at the bus station.  They said they had internet but it wasnt working. 

Ouro Preto (means black gold)
I stayed one night at Hostel Sonrisa do Lagarto for 30R but it had not internet so I moved to Brumas Hostel which is even more centrally located but costs 42R for a dorm room.  Ouro Preto is really nice city and the weather is nice and cool compared to the Northeast of Brazil. 

Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo Pinacoteca Do Estado Museum exhibit

Tree in the park

Exhibit from above

tree in the park
The Portuguese Language Museum
Sao Luis to Sao Paulo
I decided to pay for a flight on GOL airlines to Sao Paulo since my time is getting to the end.  Well my flight left at 5AM so I decided to take the bus which was 2.10R to the airport the night before and sleep at the airport.  I arrived at Campinos and took a bus for 19R to Sao Paulo which took about an hour and 20 minute to the Tiete bus station. It is a huge bus station. 
Sao Paulo

The metro is nice and easy to use. Friday I walked around the downtown and the churches and saw the outside of the Theatre and then went on the Critical Mass Bike gathering which was really interesting.  It was a group of over 100 people and they really tried to be noticeable and gave out whistles and were chanting more bikes, less cars.  It was quite fun.  So on Saturday I went to the Portuguese Language Museum and the Pinacoteca museum near the Luz station and the park. The Pinacoteca museum was really nice and is the oldest museum in Sao Paulo.  It had many nice art exhibits and was interesting to walk around as well as the park that is outside. I walked to the Municipal Market because my guide said they had lots of good food and was near there but it was closed. 


Sao Luis, Lencois Maranhenses National Park

Dunes next to green areas

Lots of lagoons in the dunes

Map of the park

So many lagoons that you can swim in

The water would reflect the clouds or blue sky

Us walking across the dunes to catch the bus

Getting back on the bus on the other side of the dunes

No its not a boat is the jeep bus that goes between the towns and cross the deep lagoons

Crossing the river on a floating barge that is moved by a small motorboat

Sao Luis
I stayed in Tijuana Hostel.  It was 35R a night and was a very quiet place with no more than a few other people. Its in a very residential part of town is kinda like staying at an apartment.  The English speaking staff/owner was very friendly and helpful. I would stay there again though they had quite a few mosquitos.  I started off in Hostal Solar Das Pedras.  The staff their was so nice but they had no wifi and I had to write a paper online so I couldn’t live without wifi.  They had a nice location near the market and center of town. 
I walked down the main road and the historical center during the day. I bought some of street food.  One night I took the bus in with another traveler and we tried some local food from the stalls.  It was 10R a plate and you got to pick a couple of sides, but it was not that great, I think it was maybe too touristic and we should have found some stalls outside of the historical center in a less touristy area where the food was maybe better. 
Lencois Maranhenses National Park
I initially was going to take the bus to Barreirinhas which only cost about $30R but I figured after I paid for the bus to get into town to where the bus leaves and the extra time it would take maybe it wasn’t worth the 8R I would save so I paid 40R to take a private transport hotel to hotel to Barreirinhas and takes about 4 hours. The transport picked me up at 5am and after a stop at their hostel outside of the city center they dropped me off at the jeep transportto Atins which cost 20R and took about 2-3 hours. I stayed in Atins because when I arrived in Barreirinhas I decided the city wasn’t that nice and Atins was much more peaceful and I was glad I did but Atins is really a small town so I was glad I brought some food cause food options were limited I didn’t really see a store, no bank, and certainly no internet.  The first night I stayed at Pousada Irmao but cost 50R per night for a room with a bathroom, the room was quite big and had three beds, but the second night I moved to Tia Rita where I had a smaller room with bath and fan for only 35R and they were also very nice.  From Atins I did a couple of tours.  I also walked to the dunes myself and walked around a bit.  There is also a Restaurant and Pousada to stay out called Canto dos Lencois which maybe I would have stayed a night there cause it was also around 30R in the dorm and it was right by the dunes so I could have walked around at my leisure to take some pictures.  I didn’t find any locals who spoke English so I didn’t understand everything they were trying to tell me.  Somehow I got my own private tour, I think because their wasn’t any space on the other tour group but I didn’t quite understand why or why they wouldn’t just split the group in two.  The dunes were quite spectacular and different for me. I don’t think I have ever seen sand dunes filled with lagoons and water. It was quite hot with obviously no shade and they were quite nice to swim in and each lagoon was a different temperature, with some warmer and some cooler.  Most backpacker tours from Atin or Barreirinhas cost about 50R but one of the hightlights for me was taking the jeep from Barreirinhas to Atins.  Its always interesting to see how people get between towns and here it’s a two hour journey in Jeep where they go through the dunes and they ask people who are willing to get out and cut through the dunes to lighted the load on the jeep.  Going there I was the only girl and didn’t quite understand what was going on so guy told me to stay on so I did but on the way back I walked cause its another opportunity to see the dunes.  Then the jeep goes through these very deep lagoons and rivers that are created from the rain.  On the way back we went over a fallen tree and the brakes broke but after evaluating that there were no brakes we just kept going.  We also have to take ferry across a river, which is just a floating kinda dock that they load the people and cars onto and a small motorized boat that they use to push the dock across the river. 


I miss the food, the cases of different types of bread

The selections of pastries

The selections of cheese

I stayed by the Sacre Coeur

So I went to visit the Sacre Coeur again

Well I arrived in Paris for the first time in Orly aiport.  It was so quick and easy to get to Paris from the airport.  I lucked out and it was free the day I arrived because of the pollution.  So I went out and took the Orly Bus to Denfert Rochereau Station. From there I changed to the Metro which was also free that day.
I went to Hostel Aloha. It was a nice hostel especially in comparison to the hostels in Latin America. On the upside they had lots of computers on the downside it was around 25 Euro and did not include sheets or towels.  I changed to a hostel close to the Sacre Coeur.  I really like this Hostel. Its called Perfect Hostel, the dorms are between 20-25 Euro.  The dorms are nice with lockers and include sheets and towels and are really clean.  They have a good breakfast that is served to you with juice, hot drink, baguette, butter, jam, and a chocolate croissant!  They have good wifi but no computers.  The hostel was nice and quiet and in a great location!  I really recommend Perfect Hostel.  The staff was really nice too.

Paris in the springtime.  The weather was really nice one day and a refreshing and cool the other days and the trees were starting to bloom.  The people were so nice and helpful.  I was walking around with a map just trying to get lost but it was hard cause so many people came up to me to help me and in English!  I am sad to leave so soon but glad I came to enjoy some good food and beer.  I didnt even get a chance to drink some wine.  Next time.  Paris I will be back!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Manaus, Santarem

In Manaus we went to the Amazon theater where they had a free dance performance.  I stayed at Hotel Rondonia which was

The meeting of the two rivers with different types of water

The waters dont really mix but stay separate

The vendors and people waiting to board the boat at one of the stops

The Amazon Theater in Manaus
Vendors using sticks to give food and take money to passengers

Many of the buildings are built on stilts to acomodate the change in river level depending on whether it is rainy season or dry season. In the Amazon its 6 months rain and 6 months dry. 

Coming into the port in Santerm

Sunset over the boardwalk

25R for a single room or 30R for a double room with two people. The rooms are pretty bare and look dirty and the bathroom is pretty bad but its cheap and it included bread with butter, too sweet coffee and juice.   There was also a restaurant place around the corner that had a lunch plate for 6R which included rice pasta beans and a small salad and the main of some type of meat chicken or fish or in my case they will substitute and egg or give me a plate without the meat for 5R and they speak spanish so it made my life easier so I ate there almost every day.

Manaus to Santarem
I went to the office by the entrance to the port and asked about tickets to Santarem and they cost about 80-100 real so my friend brought me tot he walkway behind the market where there are lots of "agencies" with tables set up.  I paid 60 reales though someone offered 50 real but we couldnt find that person when we came back to buy the tickets the next day.  I was told you dont need to buy them early so I bought mine in the morning then took the boat set to leave at 11am.  This boat you need to bring your own food, but they have purified water. I was told all these boats have purified water so you dont need to bring water on any of the boats that travel along the Amazon. There were some peole selling food at some of the stops but not as many as I thought, there was one woman selling lunch the second day for 5 real. She didnt even board the ship but lifted the lunch up with a stick and a cut coke bottle at the top to put your money.  Most of the vendors who entered the ship were selling fruit or drinks. They did serve hot meals on the boat that cost 10 real.   About 40 minutes after leaving Manaus we came to the encontro where two types of water meet.  I thought it was quite interesting to see the meeting of the black water and the brown water and how they float along side each other not really mixing.   One of the toughest things was that one guy kept talking to me the whole time and I dont understand any Portuguese but he kept talking anyway, he even moved his hammock closer to me so we he didnt have to talk so loud so as not to bother the people resting around us.  But I found it exhausting cause it was mostly him talking and me trying to understand and continually saying I dont understand.  But he was nice and helpful giving me updates about when we would arrive and the names of the villages and showing me pictures of his family.  I really need to learn Portuguese.  This boat was really full, at night when my hammock would swing i would hit the two people in the hammocks next to me. In the boat from Tabatinga to Manaus there was plenty of room and no chance of hitting the person next to you.
The boat arrived at 7pm the next day only 2 hours after they said we would arrive.  We did have to change our watches ahead one hour though.  The sunsets were quite nice along the river and so was the sky, often blue with scatter clouds, the river is big enough to make the sky look so enormous. 
A nice town along the Amazon River.  I can see why people stop here.  There isnt much to do and I only saw two other tourists.  They have some nice parks and a boardwalk with people running and exercising and fishing along it all day long until after 9 at night.  Santarem is also on the water where there is a meeting of two types of water from two different rivers so you can see the separation of the colors where they have not mixed and the two colors float side by side.  Its quite interesting to see.
I stayed at a place on the boardwalk the first night. It was called Trojos and was 60 reales. The place was terrible for 60 reales, but it had airconditioning, although no bath, which in this season is not necessary. Its actually a bit cool at night and if I am in a windy area I actually need long sleeves and pants or I get cold.  Las Brisas which was a couple blocks away was 80 reales and looked alot nicer.  The second night I stayed at Sao Luis which was in a nice location in the city center and it was basic but seemed clean, 40 reales for a room with fan tv and no bathroom.  They both had internet which at times was too slow to use.  I would have stayed at Sao Domingo which is outside the city center and in a more local area but the buses to the airport and to alter do chau pass by.  Its only 20 reales  for a very basice room with fan but the staff was nice I wanted to stay, only problem was they didnt have internet. 

Airport Santarem
I am not sure why but the guy in reception would not call a taxi for me.  Because internet was so slow I was having trouble booking my flight and ended up with a flight at 5:40 in the morning, meaning I need to be at the airport at 4:40AM and according to my guide book its one hour to get to the airport. So 3:30Am it is.  Great, I love to get up early!   I couldnt sleep cause my phone is not working so I cant use the alarm and have to rely on my watch alarm which I have many times slept though.  I was told it costs aroun 40-50 real.  Since I didnt see alot of options when he asked for 50 real I asked for only 45 instead of 40, as I am quite stubborn and want the local prices. He accepted the 45 and maybe just cause there was no traffic we arrived in just under half an hour.   Unlike last time when I was in the airport in Colombia waiting for my flight and didnt have anything to eat this time I am well prepared with snacks since I will be on planes and airports all day and not arrive till the following morning.  So strange to be leaving Latin America for the first time in almost 3 years and for such a short trip.  And also interesting to have to manage 3 national languages in less than two weeks all in the north of of South America, French in French Guyana, Spanish in Colombia, Portuguese in Brazil. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Leticia - Manaus

So in Leticia the fast boat to Manaus left on Saturday so I took the slow boat called the Manoel Monteiro leaving at noon on Tuesday.  It cost 180 reals (less than 90USD) and would arrive at 6am on Friday in Manaus.  They told me to bring a hammock and rope to hang the hammock and they would have provide food and water.  There was another boat leaving on Wednesday that also cost around the same.
I brought water but didnt need to as well as some fruit and toilet paper none of which I needed.  I bought a hammock for 25,000 COP which was comfortable and not too small.  Since my ATM card didnt work in Brasil I went to the official money changer OPITA and got a good exchange rate which surprised me that they gave me a better exchange rate than the ones on the street.

I got there at 9am by taking a moto taxi for 8,000 COP and had to wait till 10 to board but it wasnt necessary to get there early.  Its really easy to walk or take a mototaxi between Brasil and Colombia in Leticia (Colombia) and Tabating (Brazil). I walked between the two though it took a while and you dont need to show your passport or have a visa to enter any of the countries including Santa Rosa (Peru) which is a 5 minute or 3,000COP boat ride from either Tabatinga or Leticia. I do understand peoples suggestions to hang your hammock on the top level and toward the front of the boat away from the noise of the engine, as well as to hang the hammock in the center of the boat because the ones on the end can get very windy at night.  I was swung around quite a bit at night on some windy nights. The boat ride was quite uneventful but the views of the small villages and the different types of forest along the Amazon river were quite enjoyable.
We made quite a few stops along the way and we arrived at 7am in Manaus.   I was the only non South American on the boat though most other travelers I have met have said they met lots of other I think maybe because its low season and close to carnaval there were no others on my boat.
In Manaus I have found things to be a bit expensive. I am staying at hotel Rondonia where a room with a fan is 25real with breakfast (bread, butter, juice, coffee, saltines). I think I would walk a little further and go to Hostel Ocara which has more expensive dorm beds but probably faster wifi and a bit cleaner.  In Manaus people dont speak much Spanish or English here but its quite a big city. So far I really like the exotic fruits here. I have tried so many juices that are really good.
Lots of hammocks hanging on the boat

Season of this fruit in the Amazon

many different landscapes

views from the boat of the different forests and landscapes

arriving at Manaus in the morning, a large city in the Amazon

They had plenty of food on the boat.  It was the same food everyday but it was fine, though I can see why other travelers told me to bring food if I were picky and didnt like what they had it was the same food but I thought it was quite edible, though they did not feed us lunch on the day we left but I was told to be there are 10am to board.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Santa Marta to Leticia

Santa Marta to Leticia by plane
For just under $78 I flew from Santa Marta to Bogota and Bogota to Leticia on Copa because vivacolombia does not fly to Leticia.  
To get to the airport I took the local bus which goes down carrera 1 which is only a few blocks from Hostel Masays and costs 1400COP. One came as soon as I got to the street and took 40 minutes.

Views of the amazon from the plane

The steam coming up from the amazon

The views from the plane were amazing

In Leticia we got our bags then went to immigration to get our exit stamps so we wouldnt have to come back to the airport later.  Before leaving the airport we had to pay a city tax of 20,000COP.  I shared a taxi from the airport with another girl for 7,000COP each.  We saw a mototaxi which only costs 2,000COP per person but it was gone by the time we got out of immigration.  
In Leticia we stayed at La Junglada in the dorm for 25,000COP a night.  Next time I would try Hostel Mahatu.

Parque Santander
I went to Santander park to watch the parrots come a sundown.  We arrived at 5pm to make sure we did not miss it, and they came at 5:40pm.  There were thousands of them as promised as they go there to sleep.  We also picked up some bread as Casa del Pan the bakery by the park. 
The parrots flying in the park