Showing posts from 2015

Villa Tunari, Adventures on the Road, The Traveller’s Paradox

Villa Tunari is a town set in the Chapare mountain range.  Wide rivers, lush steaming valleys and the close, looming mountains make this a place of immense beauty.  The town is growing fast in the way that many areas of the third world are now.  Once bypassed by the Cochabamba-Santa Cruz road, the road now thunders straight through it, along with a consistent barrage of trucks and cars and motorbikes.  There is also a newer, smaller road cutting through Parque Machia – the home of Inti Wara Yassi animal refuge where I have been working as a volunteer for the past 3 weeks- right to the coca-growing town of Copacabana 5km away.  Rumours abound about why the Bolivian government built it, but presumably to make the transportation of drugs in and out of the region easier.  However it has had a devastating effect on the park, making animal management is a lot more difficult.

Weather is crazy here this time of year. The thunder rumbles in the distance, like a warning growl from some predatory…

Cochabamba, Bolivia

I had one afternoon and evening in Cochabamba in the Bolivian Andes, flying in from Sao Paulo over some breath-taking mountains – probably the Chapare range which I would bus through again the next day.  My last memory of it from late 2002 was that it was a small, dusty city, and I transited through the bustling bus station on my way to Villa Tunari.  I remember staring in horror at a jam-packed cage of live guinea-pigs by my feet, which is an Andean dish (hopefully a tradition that is on its way out as I haven't seen any this trip but avoid 'cuy' on any menu in South America), and wondering whether to set them all free.  I would have probably been arrested and the poor animals would no doubt have scurried under the wheels of buses only to be squished to death, so common sense did win out – but at the time I couldn’t wait to get out of there. 

Not so now – fast forward to 2015 and the city is transformed into a modern, buzzing hub.  Surrounded by the Tunari range of mountai…

Ilhabela and Sao Paulo, Brazil

After Rio I headed to the beautiful island of Ilhabela (which I think literally means beautiful island).  This is a very quiet place, busier on weekends when the crowds from Sao Paolo want to escape the dirtiness of the city and sit on a beach.

I caught an overnight bus from Rio with sleeper seats. It makes more sense to do it this way as it saves a night’s accommodation and also means I wasn’t travelling during the day when I could be on a beach instead!
I stayed in Hotel Guanambis which had a beautiful view West towards Sao Sebastiao – the port town where you catch the ferry to the island.  It’s on the very steep hill just up from the fish fountain.  The hotel is clean, the staff are friendly (they don’t speak English however) and the breakfasts are awesome –best yogurt I’ve ever had!  Power-walking up a steep hill a few times a day meant I walked off all the good food.

There’s not an awful lot to do on the island.  I did a day trip to one of the more remote beaches called Cas…


I’ve been to Rio before in 2012, during Carnival.  This trip was an in-betweener to have a few days in the sun, on the beach, before heading South to Ilhabela and Sao Paolo and finally to Bolivia.
On a recommendation I stayed at the Marina Palace hotel, which is in Leblon.  This area of Rio is on the beach, West of Ipanema.  My room was on the 23rd floor, facing East to Ipanema, with a stunning view of the lagoon, and the Christos.  For those who haven’t been to Rio, it has these odd little mountains that look like donkey’s ears, covered in greenery, that surround the city. The Christos (which is surprisingly smaller than it looks on TV) sits on one of them, Sugarloaf is another.  Favelas cling higgledy piggledy to the hillsides, alongside beautiful old Portuguese architecture, crumbling churches, and a mix of modern highrises and ugly. 60’s/70’s towerblocks. 
The Botanical Gardens (Jardim Botanico) If you aren’t happy enough to sit on the beach looking at the beautiful people, there ar…