“Camping is nature’s way of promoting the motel business.” Dave Barry
Last night we were attempting to finding a service station where we could set up camp but became stuck driving through a limbo of wilderness and national parks. Eventually, realising that we no longer had time to cook a meal for 36 people, we pulled over at what I can only describe as a roadside shack, selling some rather dubious Argentinian food. The ‘chef’ had clearly never seen so many customers in his life!
We struggled for another couple of hours in the truck before pulling into a petrol station at around midnight.
We were not alone.
There was a little, yellow, vindictive looking scorpion staking his claim to the ladies toilets. In addition to this, a squeal from one of the girls tents this morning announced the arrival of a new bed mate – see the photos below.
We’ve now settled on the outskirts of Salta in North Argentina. For the first time we have the luxury of a hostel dorm room with showers and a loo that you can flush! The camping endurance test has finally come to an end. Our last official stop before our ‘bush camp’ was in a little town called San Ignacio Mini, home to some fairly spectacular ruins of a Jesuit settlement. A handful of the more enthusiastic in our group headed out at sunrise before our long drive commenced.
After five hours in the ‘truck’, we eventually reached Parati – a beautiful little colonial village on a coast line dotted with little tropical islands. Setting up tents was not quite as straight forward as I’d hoped as the tents were practically medieval and most were faulty in one way or another. It’s the wet season here so fingers crossed ours holds out! After exploring the town (stopping for and Acai ice cream en route) we went for a dip in the sea. It is without question the warmest sea water I have ever been in. It’s even warmer than the ‘bath like’ Maldives. It’s almost too warm! The surface is cool but due to the mud floor the area really retains the heat from the sun.
The locals seem to be far more tourist orientated here, with lots of little street markets selling hand crafted decorations and baskets etc.
My highlight of the day was spotting a tiny little hummingbird on the walk back to the camp site! No idea what type as have no way of identifying it really, but very pleased that I’ve seen one for the first time!
No photos as of yet, but we’re here for the next four days. In the mean time, here’s one of the Christ the Redeemer statue to mark the end of my time in Rio.
Christmas this year was pretty odd to say the least. I made the others mini stockings with my hiking socks and stuffed them with wrapped fruit! Exciting! We had a fairly heavy egg-nogg and pancake breakfast before loading the car with camping gear and heading off. Christmas lunch took place at Nandos, followed by a ‘golden gaytime’ ice-cream (that is actually the name of an ice-lolly here). We arrived at Spring brook rainforest at around five and, after setting up camp, went to see the view from a lookout point. It didn’t disappoint. We also spotted some paddy-melons (wallabies) on the way which was a bonus. There was also an adorably fat bandicoot scuttling around the bbq area in the evening!
On Boxing Day we trumped our usual Cornish beach walk with a 17km hike through the rainforest. At one point Hannah and I were walking along, happily chatting about Paris when I suddenly noticed a large blue and red crustacean brandishing it’s claws at me a metre ahead on the path. I swore loudly and jumped about a foot in the area much to Hannah’s amusement. It transpired to be a ‘Lamington spiny crayfish’. To be fair, who expects to see a bloody lobster in the middle of the forest! We weren’t even near a stream! We actually saw a couple more. The highlight was finding a large carpet python which I, again, almost trod on. It was coiled on the side of the path and my heart stopped for a split second before I noticed the pattern on its back. I would not be good at staying still if I got that close to a taipan (the most venomous snake in Aus)! The python was extremely lethargic. It only moved off when Melissa and I touched its tail.
The antagonist of the story became apparent after a few km. I noticed a little blob on my arm which I eventually twigged was a leech. We then looked down and noticed that our shoes and socks were covered in the disgusting little creatures. We had to then make regular stops to ‘de-leach’. The little buggers were even swarming inside the car; we kept on finding them in our shoes even once we’d driven back to the campsite! That night we also made a fleeting visit to the Spring brook glow worm caves which were spectacular – completely covered in Asian tourists though, not quite as authentic an experience as our walk in New Zealand! We drove back today, stopping for the day at the gold coast for a sun-bathe and a swim which was fantastic after the pouring rain in the rainforest over Christmas and Boxing Day (we got completely soaked on our walk and remained damp for the duration).
The last couple of days have been spectacular. We trekked out to a series of waterfalls. I had to take my boots off after the first hour as the mud was coming up to my knees. The disadvantage of this is that my feet are now fairly massacred (I had to drown them in savlon for the night!): we were walking through the wild jungle and sliding down practically vertical edges down to the river and so on. It was taking ‘off the beaten track’ to a whole new level. To cross rivers one of the men would cut down a tree, for example! There were the most amazing wild orchids dotted around the place! I was also lucky enough to spot a rare PNG eagle! The water was so fresh that we drank it directly from the falls…really incredible.
To make a fire one of the men rubbed some bush rope (made of bark) against some firewood. He then picked up the fire in some more sticks and carried it to the middle of the group! Snacks consisted of pandanas nuts that the men cut down from the top of the palm trees – I have to admit, they’re pretty disgusting – all of the locals were peeling them and happily forcing them on me!
That night we stopped at a small village and the ‘big man’ offered us the use of his round hut. A fire in the middle of the dirt floor keeps the bugs out of the grass roof of the hut! We all gathered round to cook ‘Kau Kau’ (sweet potato) and tell stories. They served Phillip and I the most ridiculously enormous portions of food – easily enough for six people – no exaggeration! I tried to sneak some to the emaciated dogs (the poor things were so hungry that they were trying to eat the fire!). Unfortunately for me the people only spoke pidgin, but I’m getting the hang of it gradually! We slept on a bamboo mat on the floor soon after the sun set (no lights there, of course – you sleep with the sun!).
The next morning the local girls took me down to the river for a ‘was was’. It was a completely pointless exercise as after washing we had to climb back up the mountain in the thick mud – inevitably we arrived back much dirtier than when we left! The villagers then took us on a ‘short walk’ to their church (two hours!). I embarrassingly fell asleep – Mr Bean style – repeatedly nodding off and suddenly jerking awake with a flourish. We eventually found our way back to the road and Verena came to pick us up! What a weekend!