Huanchaco

We arrived in Trujillo, bleary-eyed at 5am, with no idea where to go or how to get there. I don’t like relying on taxi drivers, let alone trusting them, but we decided it was our only logical option so we asked the driver to take us to the plaza principal so we could look for a hotel. Seeing our backpacks, he suggested we stay in nearby Huanchaco instead – mas economico. A quick fumble through the lonely planet told us there was a beach, and yes, it was cheaper. We went for it and grabbed a room at the first place we arrived (double with private bath for 40 soles). When it got light outside we discovered a little seaside town where you could hire both surfboards and traditional reed fishermens’ boats to take you out on the waves. You could dine in fancy restaurants or eat ceviche for 8 soles, drink mediocre coffee in a corner bakery or pay through the nose for some of the best breakfasts in Peru.

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Buenos Aires

People rave about Buenos Aires, so I didn’t want to like it. Yes, I’m that contrary. But when we arrived I couldn’t help but feel happy. The graffiti, the Carnaval parades, the faded red velvet seats in wooden subway carriages, the chaos of people at Retiro station, the dirty streets. It felt like a real city; the people looked tired just through sheer will of having to live in a place like this. It was like a sunnier, more colourful London. I almost felt at home.

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Street art in Valparaiso

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Valparaiso is simultaneously one of the most beautiful and one of the dirtiest cities we’ve visited. Houses are built all higgeldy-piggeldy on steep hills, covered in scrap metal and paint leftover from the shipping industry. The uneven pavements are covered in dog poo and creakingly old or out of service funiculars make getting around both a pleasure and a pain.

But the really magical thing about Valparaiso is the street art. It seemed like every surface that could be decorated, was decorated. The reason for this, I learnt on a walking tour of the city, was to discourage taggers from vandalizing property. If a house or shop has a planned piece, or mural, it’s respected and left alone. If a wall is just painted a block of colour, it becomes a blank canvas just asking for taggers to use.

I took so many photos it was hard choosing which ones to use for this photo essay. What in any other city would have been super cool became just average in Valparaiso. These are some of my favourites.

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Tours 4 Tips in Valparaiso

I’ve always thought a walking tour unnecessary. Why pay for something you can do for free using a map and guidebook? Besides, following a set route takes away from the fun of exploring (and the grafitti-patterned streets and rambling hills of Valparaiso are absolutely perfect for exploring on foot).

But the Tours 4 Tips walking tour in Valparaiso came highly recommended from both our hostel and other travelers we met, so we decided to give it a go. The concept is simple: join the tour but pay at the end, whatever you think it’s worth.

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It was, in my opinion, definitely worth the tip. The guide actually spends money taking you around Valparaiso! I don’t want to give too much away, but you get to ride some cool types of public transport and enjoy a couple of tasty treats through the course of the tour.

It gives a nice introduction to Valparaiso, but still leaves you with plenty to experience on your own. Although the tour covered some of the same places we’d already been to on our previous day’s exploring, I learned new facts and saw aspects I’d not only missed (like the cute art collective where we ended the tour) but wouldn’t even have known were there if the tour guide hadn’t shown us (fire stations, for example, are still run by the members of different ethnic communities that founded them years ago).

This may be the perfect tour for someone who doesn’t like tours!

Things to consider:
Most of the tour takes place outside, so bring protection from the elements. There are some stairs and uneven pavements, but overall it’s pretty easy going (certainly easier than most of Valparaiso).

Sao Paulo

A lot of what you hear about Brazil´s megacity has to do with crime. So, I was initially a bit guarded, looking out for pick pockets, or worse, violent gangsters. But my fears soon dissipated as I walked around Sao Paulo´s varied and coloful neighborhoods. From the Koreatown we stumbled into to the high rises of Vila Mariana, I took a cue from the easy-going Paulistanos and relaxed.