Dominican Republic and the in-between

From Brazil to Luxembourg to Dominican Republic and Colombia

04.05.2022 – 16.6.2022.

Long way back to Brazil

It’s been over two months since we last wrote about our adventures in Peru, and so many things have happened since then. This period following our Peruvian trip brought many crazy ideas, several mini and long-distance trips, and new adventures that changed the way we travel, possibly forever. We took several flights from Peru to Chile in order to get back to the Atacama desert where Sr. Cabron Porsupuesto was patiently soaking up the desert sand and heat before going back home. We’ve spent a few more days in Atacama chilling (or more like freezing at night) under the starry desert sky, and enjoying the Chilean wine again accompanied by the little barbecue dinners. The borders finally opened and it was time to start the 3000 km long way back to Brazil. The way to Curitiba was an exhausting adventure on its own; we got lost, almost ended up in forests of Paraguay, the hotel we booked (and had the confirmation of booking) was closed (and it was the middle of the night); we ended up eating dinner during someones’s wedding party in a random restaurant, and had to search for border police (at the border itself) in order for me to get a stamp in my passport. From the north of Chile to the south of Brazil, besides the beautiful memories we made, we also we brought loads of mud from Argentina, and salt and desert sand from Chile. The car was so dirty it really needed the deepest of cleaning to be put back into the state we have received it in. It was time to say goodbye to Sr. Cabron and return it to its owners. You served us well, Cabron! Gracias.

Sr. Cabron Porsupuesto in the Salar of Agentina, going back home

In Brazil, as usual, smiley faces welcomed us back. It was nice to spend some more time with friends and family before starting new travel adventures. It was a creative time, Jorge was working on his music album and I got to try, and fell in love with, making ceramics. We took a quick trip to the beautiful Ilha do Mel that gave me another not-so-beautiful food poisoning. I still love you, Ilha, I just will never ever eat shrimps there again.

After 2 weeks in Brazil, Jorge had to go back to Luxembourg to fix a few documents and he had the nightmare two days, stuck at the airport, before he could actually get back to Lux. Thanks for that, KLM. Jorge spent two weeks in Lux with our friends and I decided to enjoy Brazil a little more (also, it was really expensive to go back for this very short period of time) but I admit, I was a little sad to miss the great moments Jorge had with our crazy friends in Luxembourg. To make myself less sad… I took another trip, I was on my own this time and I can’t complain at all. I’ve spent four amazing days in Rio, which is probably my favourite city in the whole world. I was wandering Ipanema, Leblon and Copacabana, enjoyed açai, people watching and reading my book on the beach. I’ve been to Rio 3-4 times before so I also wanted to see something new. I went to Ilha Grande, a beautiful island south of Rio and enjoyed very relaxing time on the beach listening to bossa nova coming from beach bars. But then the days spent alone started to be long…

Both Jorge and I realised that two weeks without each other is at least 12 days too much.. we realize that this is pretty much crazy since we have been spending ALL the time with each other in the past 8 months. It’s crazy but it’s amazing at the same time, so it was time for us to meet again. And what’s a better meeting point than a beautiful Caribbean island country? Dominican Republic it is!!!

Dominican Republic: A tropical paradise!

Before meeting in the Dominican Republic, we have already made a crazy plan of how the rest of our trip would be – we basically had bought a van in Costa Rica! We found the add in a Facebook travel group, and made a deal with them without actually ever seeing the van (well, we did see some pictures of it). Then we figured that in the next almost 5 months we will be living in a tiny metal box with no shower nor toilet and so we decided to treat ourselves first with something quite the opposite. And kids… that is how we ended up booking four days in an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

This was the first time for both of us to stay in a resort, since we’re not the kind of vacationers that will only sip cocktails and stay on the beach. But OMG, we might become just that in future since those four days were a total bliss. The hotel is like 20 meters from the beach, it has many restaurants, three huge swimming pools, pool bar, daily entertaining activities and well… as many piña coladas as you wish. It was a perfect spot to recharge batteries, do stupid dances at the pool, walk on the perfectly white sand beaches and just relax.

But ok, we couldn’t stay too lazy. After four very relaxing days at the resort, we decided to book a cheaper accommodation and visit more things. We went to the Saona island – it’s basically paradise on Earth with the greenest and the bluest and the cleanest sea water we’ve ever seen. The little boat taking you to the island stops at the natural pool with transparent, incredibly green water, in the middle of the sea, and then the crew serves the well known Dominican rum while you chill in the water. I mean… can it get better than that? Short answer is yes. After that amazing swim, we reached the island bordered by perfect palm trees, and were served the finest piña colada in its original pineapple recipient. The lunch was also included in the price of the excursion but it was probably the worse food I tried in the Dominican. Who cares, everything else was absolutely heavenly (obsession with the pineapple pictured here below).

The Katamaran ride back to the mainland was amazing too, pure pure joy and relaxation (Jorge was probably too relaxed and slept most of the trip). The endless blue sea, nice music, perfect wind that takes some heat away and thoughts of : shit, my life is amazing!

Perfect beaches and paradise islands are not the only thing Dominican Republic has to offer. We also decided to visit Santo Domingo, the capital of DR. The beach days were over since one needs to go outside the city to enjoy the beach but we did enjoy wandering the streets of Santo Domingo, visiting museums and trying local food. It was nearly 40 degrees outside which made our air-conditioned museum visits even more pleasant.

Beautiful and colourful city of Santo Domingo counts with loads of colonial and resistance history visible in its architecture, nice food scene and food markets, and beautiful nature around the city. We visited the “3 ojos” park with cave pools whose colour is totally surreal. It was so damn hot that day, we almost fainted but it was well worth it!

All in all, Dominican Republic was amazing and we decided to go back every time we need to recharge batteries and enjoy the magic of the Caribbean. Our next stop was supposed to be Costa Rica, but we decided to first spend a couple of days in Bogotá since our layover was there anyway.

Layover in Bogotá

It was raining cats and dogs when we landed in Bogotá, but the day after the weather was perfect for exploring the city. We got loads of great tips from our friend Carol who lived in Bogotá until recently and enjoyed thoroughly the food scene, the gold museum, wandering colourful streets of Candelaria and seeing at least a tiny bit of what Colombian life is like. We got incredible views, incredible food and met some really kind people.

We got only a tiny taste of what Colombia offers: it tasted reaaallly well so we cannot wait to have the opportunity to explore this country more. Our trip to Bogotá was very short because we had to be in San Jose, Costa Rica, to take over our van and arrange all the documentation we needed to cross many borders in the upcoming months. Our new, crazy and simple van life had started with the most magical sunsets. More about that… super soon!

Peru is magical!

02.04.2022-27.04.2022. Lima, Paracas, Huacachina, Nazca, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Puno, Titicaca, Cusco, Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu

It’s been exactly one month since we left Peru. Peru was everything great, kind of perfect combination of the best stuff we have experienced so far. It’s definitely on the very top of our list of the best places we have experienced. At first, we were a little disappointed that we could not drive to Peru from the north of Chile, since we got used to the freedom car traveling offers. We waited for a couple of days to see if the rumors of border opening would be true but they weren’t. We were not gonna miss Peru and seeing Machu Picchu so we decided to fly over. We read about a company called Peru Hop which, on one of the routes they’re offering, allows you to see many great places between Lima and Cusco. The good thing about the Peru Hop is that you have a flexibility of deciding how long you want to stay in a place. The ticket for this route costs about 200 US$ per person and you get to meet a lot of fellow travelers who are on the same mission of discovering Peru. First stop: Lima! Originally, we thought we’d spent only one day in Lima – thinking that it’s another big city that we probably won’t like that much. We were so wrong! After only a couple of hours spent in Lima we decided we wanted to stay at least another day and see more of it. It’s a beautiful city on the coast, with amazing food, great parks, vibrant neighborhoods, great street art and really really welcoming people; basically every single person we met was so super kind and nice.

Lima gave us also some of the best food ever! One of the highlights was eating “combinado” at the “Al Poke Pez,” a tiny place owned by a Netflix-famous chef that hosts guests in his kitchen. In Peru, I was forced to eat a lot of cilantro and I must say that after eating it for a month in almost everything I ordered, I could swallow it without cursing my life 🙂

Travel gives you these new perspectives; not only do you open your mind to new people and sights but also to new textures, taste, and ways of eating local food. And let me tell you, food in Peru was one of the best things one can experience, like seriously, it’s so so good. I learned that, besides ceviche, cuy (guinea pig) and alpaca meat, Peruvians are also crazy about eating soup. I tried only “crema de quinoa” (and didn’t like it really much) because most other soups are cooked with meat. No cuy for any of us though. Besides the best ceviche one could have, I really liked chaufa (fried rice; veggie and vegan options available) and I plan on making it very often once we’re back home. The only thing I didn’t really like was Inca Kola – that drink is incredibly sweet and has bubblegum flawor; I have no idea why Peruvians love it so much (but I heard they really like sweet stuff). And then fruits and veggies… so many kinds that I’ve never tried nor seen before in my life. Peruvian markets are probably the best spot to discover and try fruit, veggies, and some local food, plus they’re like live theater; one can observe local way of life, see and buy amazing crafts, spices and many other produce, listen to live music and simply enjoy a very good and cheap meal (we ate very tasty food for 1€50). Well, pictures will tell you more about Peruvian food:

Did you suddenly get hungry? Yeah, me too but I gotta stop thinking about Peruvian food ‘cos there is so much more to say. After Lima we went to Paracas, a small coastal village some 4 hours south of Lima. Some of the Paracas highlights were: 1. great food again 2. buggy rides through the National Reserve and 3. a visit to Islas Ballestas. OK, all I will say about the point 1 is that I had the best ceviche in a small restaurant which is actually a room of a family home and can receive max 6 people at the same time. 2. Buggy rides? OMG, that was an adventure! Jorge and I try to support small business and local people whenever we can, so instead of booking the buggy ride trip with one of the famous tour operators, we booked ours with a cute couple selling tours. They were so kind to us that we couldn’t resist. At the end we did not regret leaving our money with them because they’re young and honest people trying to make a living but the buggy they rented to us was like the worst one in the entire Reserve. We just laughed when we pushed the gas to the bottom and the rest of the buggy crew still left us far behind in their dust. On the way back our buggy had a flat tire and we had to leave it in the middle of the desert but we still laughed about it and had an amazing adventure and we still went back to the same couple and booked another tour with them to Islas Ballestas.

3. Islas Ballestas are also known as “Poor man’s Galapagos”. One cannot walk on the island since it is a preserved area for many birds, seals and other animals that live there. The clear, perfectly blue waters, rock formations and wildlife are beautiful to see from the boat and it’s definitely a “must do” when in Paracas.

After Paracas we hopped on the bus again, this time to explore Huacachina, the only natural desert oasis in South America. Huacachina is a tiny village surrounded by the sand dunes and it provides sooo much fun. We booked our adventure buggy ride through the dunes as soon as we arrived and what an adventure that was. You know that feeling when you’re on the roller-coaster going up and then you know that, inevitably, you will go down in a great speed? That’s exactly what riding on those sand buggies in Huacachina is, a really unforgettable feeling and experience. Once we got to the top of one of many dunes, we went down sandboarding, laying down, and that was another great thrill. And then… the sunset over the dunes… that was definitely “I love my life” moment.

The next day we joined the Per Hop crew (and a crazy guide Chris) to an early Pisco tour (I mean, why are these booze tours always happening in the morning ???) Sure enough, it was the funniest wine/booze tour we’ve ever had and we met some really nice people on this tour. By noon I was dancing macarena on the bus with the tour guide and later on we ended up in a bar having more pisco with our new, tipsy, pisco tour friends. Still tipsy, we decided to climb the dunes for another unforgettable and romantic sunset to say goodbye to this little oasis of fun. And then the next day… Off to the next stop, Arequipa! But first… a 13 hour long bus ride with a stop at Nazca lines. It’s so incredible to see with your own eyes the stuff you once watched on National Geographic. The lines were created thousands of years ago and to this day no one is sure what exactly their purpose was, but the fact they stand untouched (except for that part where they built the road right in the middle of one of these) is incredible on its own. More we discovered about Peru, more impressed we were with its majestic and mystic history and culture.

Arequipa was a great surprise, in the best way possible. Besides it being a good stop to acclimatize to the altitudes that were waiting for us, it is a beautiful city, sometimes referred to as “the white city” – reference to the white stone the city is built with. Visiting the Arequipa markets and trying new fruit and smoothies, watching the life happening and strolling the busy streets was a great experience. Meeting the friends from Huacachina (@Robin, we can’t wait to have more beers and conversations with you!) was another highlight but then going to the Colca Canyon was definitely one of the most amazing experiences ever. Some 4 hours drive up towards volcanoes surrounding Arequipa gives breathtaking views, selfies with llamas, alpacas and vicuñas and an experience of breathing (the lack of) air on nearly 5000m. All that happens before actually getting to see the valley, the canyon and the majestic condors flying over it. We definitely want to go back there and hike for at least 2 weeks through these crazy beautiful mountains.

Puno, the high altitude city (3800m) placed on the Peruvian side of lake Titicaca was our next stop. We were a tiny bit worried about staying for a couple of days on such a high altitude but we did receive loads of local tips on how to deal with altitude (basically, chew coca leaves and drink plenty of water and don’t go running like Jorge did) so we knew it would be OK. Puno is nice but nothing too impressive; Titicaca lake, however, what used to be just another National Geographic documentary I saw, was absolutely beautiful. We went to see the floating islands of Uros and took the traditional floating boat to go around islands. To say that it is a very interesting place, it’s an understatement. People that live there float their entire lives (some of islands are anchored, otherwise they would end u in Bolivia overnight LOL), their clothes are very colorful, the architecture incredible.

Nowadays they live off tourism so visiting Uros is a bit of a tourist trap since you end up wanting to buy many things there, but nevertheless, it is a great experience. The floating boat is pushed by a small boat with engine, operated by 8-10 years old kids which all “work” – whether singing for tourist or pushing boats. Our little boat’s engine stopped working at some point and we had to rely on those kids to know what the hell they’re actually dong before we end up floating to Bolivia ourselves but luckily they did figure it out quickly and pushed us to the place we needed to be.

In Peru, everything was an adventure. Whenever things didn’t work, they somehow ended up working just fine and we were quite relaxed and felt very safe. Titicaca was our last stop before heading to Cusco and Machu Picchu. There were some issues on the road, due to protests and road blockages but we were very lucky and never had a problem getting to places. We had to adjust our travel dates but other than that there were zero complications. So… Cusco! OMG!

Cusco lies on 3400m altitude but by the time we got there we already acclimatized pretty well, being on higher altitudes than that many times. Cusco is everything good you read about and more. A guy from Lima told us that one “feels a special vibe” there and he was really right. I don’t know if it’s just the excitement of being there and reading about its history (you know, it was the center of the Inca empire), or the mere expectation of going to Machu Picchu from there or the vibrant colors and the laid-back vibe and smiling tourists and locals… whatever it is, it’s amazing and we felt great strolling the streets, barrios, going to view points and eating great food. We met Robin in Cusco again, got pretty pissed with him (you know, he’s German and can stand his beer well) in the “highest Irish pub in the world.” And then the time has come… Machu Picchu! To climb to Machu Picchu, one has to get to a small town called Aguas Calientes. To get there, you take (a very expensive) train that takes you through the beautiful Sacred Valley, it’s worth the money for the train ticket! Loads of Facebookians said this town is not really nice and not worth staying in but we totally disagree. It’s surrounded by mountains, has 15 soles (less than 5 euros) 3-course menus, termal waters, friendly people, cheap and nice hotels and if we knew it we knew all that we would have stayed another night.

The day after our arrival to Aguas Calientes, we woke up at 4 am to start our climb to Machu Picchu. We walked through the dark and foggy valley but by the time we got to the first of 1600 stairs that would take us to the MP, the weather cleared out and the daylight followed. We walked with Stephan from Germany and Raj from Australia, two cool guys we met in the hotel. I knew that going up 1600 stairs would be tough and it was (for me, Jorge went up like a wind – regularly jogging obviously DOES make a difference!) but it was really really worth it. We met our guide at the entrance to MP around 7am. Up there, it was at first super cloudy and we couldn’t see a thing of MP. Our guide said we would wait for the weather to clear out and luckily it really did. While clouds added another level of mystery to this already mysterious site, once they moved, they revealed what is, indeed, one of the most beautiful world wonders.

MP was a cherry on the delicious Peru cake. We left Peru with so many great experiences and fun moments behind us and flew back to Chile to get our car. It was one of the most beautiful flights I’ve had, window seat all the way on this one, please!!!

We got to San Pedro de Atacama, our little car was working perfectly fine and our noses started bleeding again from the dry desert air. The weather has changed a lot in a month, it was freezing at night over there. Peru was quite intense and packed so we decided to take it easy in San Pedro this time, watch sunset, cook food and read books waiting for borders to open. On May 1st, the first day the northern borders between Chile and Argentina opened we hit the 2400km long way that led us back to Brazil where we said goodbye to Sr. Cabron Porsupuesto. We are now putting into action our new adventure called Central America!

¡Silencio! Estamos Chileando ;)

15.03.2022 – 02.04.2022 Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, Concon, Santiago, San Pedro de Atacama

Chile was so special in so many ways. It took more planning and preparation than any other country we’ve visited this far, due to many restrictions related to Covid19 (now, a month later, Chile eased many of these restrictions). So, before getting there, we had to fill-in dozens of documents, have our vaccination certificates recognized, fill out the exit forms for Argentina and entry forms for Chile and we’ve spent over an hour on the land border Mendoza-Santiago ‘cos the border police is very thorough. Anyway, it is what it is, traveling in the times of Covid requires a little more effort and patience. But let’s get to the good stuff! Chile gave us the feeling of being on another planet, plus we got to spend some time with our favorite alien, our dearest friend Manel! Not to mention all the tasty tragos (cocktails), thousands of kilometers of desert, stuffed noses, crazy altitudes and amazing ceviches (so so yummy) and many different flavors of pisco sour.

We left Mendoza for a curvy trip through Argentinean Andes and got to see the peak of the second highest mountain in the world, the majestic Aconcagua. Right before the border we got to see the Inca bridge, an inspiring structure formed by glaciers and hot springs. The history and the force of nature in this place are incredible and one feels so small and so inspired in this environment. It makes you want to see more, read more, climb higher, discover further… And we did!

As per usual in the last 5 months, we did not make a big plan (and some of my friends might be surprised about this – I’m talking about you Daniba), we only had a rough idea of what we wanted to see in Chile. This is what a long trip does to people, you learn to take it day by day since you never know where you will like to stay more and where less and you cannot predict which day you will need to just chill and rest. Some planning is necessary, obviously, but we did learn to live more in the present. One date was special, and it was the day when our Portuguese cutie Manel was to arrive to Santiago. Before meeting Manel we decided to first stop in Chilean coast cities of Valparaiso, Viña del Mar and Concon. We’ve spent 4 days on the coast and were a tiny bit underwhelmed with Valparaiso. While it is a very colorful city with some amazing street art, it also appears extremely dirty and stinky and we did not feel very comfortable wandering the streets with no map, as we normally do. The short stop there gave us these colorful views:

Viña del Mar is a bit of a contrast to Valparaiso, most of the streets seem clean and it has some nice beaches and loads of cafés and restaurants. The best of those four days, however, was climbing the dunes of Concon, watching the sunset accompanied but some very nice (and very cheap) Chilean wine and just being kid again jumping and falling into the sand.

And then the time has come to go see Santiago, and more importantly, Manel! Manel arrived with a huge bag and an even bigger smile (might have been the other way around too LOL). It was so good to hug an old friend after many months of not meeting in person any of our friends. After a quite intensive hotel check-in where nothing worked as it should have, we went tasting those yummy cocktails they make so well in Chile to celebrate Manel’s arrival. We decided to stay in Bella Vista, Santiago’s most vibrant but also probably the most stinky part of the town. This barrio buzzes constantly, there is a 24/7 party, which at first seemed exactly the thing we wanted, but after 4 sleepless nights we did wonder if we might have underestimated our age and the will to party thaaat much.

But we did feel young and energized at the start and were happy to see the drag shows, not only once but several times. To our amusement, drags sang and danced a little and talked way too much for us to understand all the jokes in our broken Spanglish but we did understand when they yelled “Silencio” and “Ridicula” which we later changed into and called each other “Rucula”. Now the title of the blog makes more sense, right?

Another Santiago highlight was visiting the Sky Costanera tower and having a great glass of wine 300 meters above the ground, with the incredible 360° views of this huuugee city that counts nearly 6 million people. All in all, Santiago was cool but not super impressive and we were ready for a complete change of scenery. Big cities were never really our thing anyway.

The next and best adventure was waiting for us, the Atacama desert!!! It took 3 days driving and passing through some “weird” places to get to San Pedro de Atacama, a little village in the heart of Atacama desert. We don’t recommend strolling Antofagasta at night, it’s nothing less of spooky with underwhelming food. We DO recommend driving through the Atacama desert, the way to San Pedro is spectacular:

After over 1600km driving through the desert, we finally arrived to San Pedro where we rented a cute cabaña that had a tennis field right next to it. Jorge and Manel pretended they were on the Wimbledon and even managed to exchange more than 10 balls – tough thing on 2500meters altitude and 30°C. So, how is life in the desert and on high altitude? Absolutely CRAZY! Our noses were stuffed with dust and bleeding every day but the altitude didn’t do other damage. Atacama really seems like another planet and everywhere you go, your jaw drops because you cannot believe you’re now a part of these surreal landscapes. Let me show you what I mean.

Frst stop: Cordillera de Sal – the Planet Mars.

Moving on to another one of these crazy places: Valle de la Luna – the Moon Valley. Our little car did so well on the crazy roads through the desert which should probably be driven only in the 4×4 cars. It takes time to get to the destination because you gotta drive slowly, and it takes a bit of the hike to see the best places, but it’s all so worth it once you get to see this:

An even crazier experience was floating and “standing” in the desert salt lagoons which have salt concentration higher than the Red Sea. I, Irma, who is afraid of the deep water, could for the first time ever in my life (without a life jacket) enter 12 meter deep lagoon with no issues because sinking is absolutely impossible here. Oh boy, I enjoyed so much. The boys did too. We danced inside the lagoon, we floated, we admired the out-of-the-world colors and landscapes and collected kilos of salt on our bodies (well, Manel won this one, even though he was specifically told not to wet his hair, LOL).

More we explored, more amazed we were with the surroundings. And then the sunsets… Probably some of the best ones anyone can ever experience. Add mimosa & friends and I assure you, it will seem you’re living everything you’ve dreamed of.

Then, Manel had to leave us to go back to Brazil and then to Portugal. He had the craziest trip one can think of (it’s a story about Covid tests and changing flights), but ask him about it if you want to have a really good laugh.

Cheers to you, Manelzinho!Thank you for the great time, we love you mucho!

We shed a little tear when Manel left and decided to “suffer” a little more in the desert. We were by now acclimatized and decided to explore the higher altitudes and plan our trip to Peru. We first got a little romantic and booked a star-gazing (or in Manel’s words: “star-gayzing” LOL) trip and it was specatcular; we learned about the constellations and the stars and the universe and got these amazing pictures taken as a part of the tour. We can now show you several constellations (seen in the Southern hemisphere) 🙂

The other days were spent strolling the dust roads of San Pedro and trying out more of the amazing food and drinks Chile has to offer. As it turned out, we should have planned a little more before going on daily trips above 4000m because there were places we couldn’t enter since we did not purchase the ticket in advance. But it didn’t matter that we didn’t manage to see another lagoon, we got to 4100m altitude, drank coca leaf tea and saw another crazy “planet” around us, with its all glory, volcanoes, dunes, mountains, flora and fauna. We finally saw llamas running freely on mountains and even pink flamingos that Manel wanted to see but didn’t. LOL

And then it was time to leave the desert, at least for a little while. We were hoping that the Chile/Peru land border would open but it didn’t, so we didn’t have other choice but to fly to Peru. Our Cabron Poursupuesto is still waiting for us in the Atacama desert; after 10 000 km of adventures, it deserved its 3 week-long rest but it will have to do some more work in a week or so.

Greetings from Cusco, Peru. Stories from Peru will follow as soon as we find time to write 🙂