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!

¡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 🙂