When we arrived in Ilha Grande by boat from the mainland, the weather was warm but grey and cloudy which was rather disappointing. The island is predominantly made up of small footpathes of sand and no vehicles are allowed apart from working ones such as tractors.
Thankfully when we woke up the next day the sun was shining!! After breakfast we stopped off to buy things for a picnic and then walked through the forest for 7km.
The path led to several beaches but we pushed on until we reached Lopes Mendes – a 4km bay of pristine white sand and turquoise water. The view was beautiful and so peaceful. The water was freezing though as this was the Atlantic Ocean, but it was very refreshing after walking for a couple of hours. For the trip home we walked back to one of the other beaches and caught a speed boat which as the water was very choppy scared me to death!
On Wednesday morning we had originally planned to head to Rio but changed our plans so that we could stay on Ilha Grande for another day. This time we headed in the opppsite direction and came to Cachoeira de Feticeira, a beautiful 15m waterfall in the forest which a pool underneath that’s big enough for an invigorating swim. We then continued on to another beach for an afternoon of lazing in the sun before getting another, smoother, speed boat back to Abraão.
Basically an awesome few days hiking and lying in the sun which now that I’m near the end of my trip, I definitely needed!
From Foz do Iguaçu we flew to Rio in a couple of hours rather than talking the 24 hour bus! We had then booked a transfer to Paraty on the south coast. We had to wait a while for other people to join the transfer so unfortunately the whole day was spent travelling. However we arrived to find that the bar for out hostel was on the beach so went straight there for some cocktails.
Friday was a sunny day so we spent most of it on the beach. As I hadn’t been to the beach since Ecuador, and even then it was very cloudy, this was a very welcome chill out day, particularly after the late nights I’d had in Buenos Aires.
The town of Paraty itself is a very pretty Colonial town with cobbled, pedestrianised streets and beautiful white buildings with brightly painted doors and window frames. There are loads of little boutique shops and plenty of restaurants which makesthe standard very high and difficult to choose from each night!
Saturday was also a beach day but we went kayaking too. Sunday was grey again but warm so we walked around the town and having seen a lot of posed Insta photos being taken, we tried a few of our own!
Whilst in Ecuador I decided not to go to the Galapagos Islands as the price was pretty high so instead I visited Puerto Lopez on the Pacific coast to go to Isla de Plata, also known as the poor man’s Galapagos.
It was a really good time of year to visit as the majority of the world’s population of humpback whales come to this area for breeding during July and August. Whilst on the trip out to the island, the boat stopped several times to see the whales breaching which was an amazing sight!
Upon arriving at the island, there was time for snorkelling. Sadly it was quite a grey day so the water wasn’t very clear, but there were still lots of different fish to see and giant turtles swam right up to the boat!
Once on the island, the guide took the group on a two hour hike during which we saw hundreds of pairs of blue-footed boobies who come to the island for breeding. The whole day wasn’t a substitute for the Galapagos but it was awesome to be able to get so close to nature.
Now the tour had finished, it was time for me to start travelling on my own which I was definitely feeling ready for. I decided to stay in Cartagena for a few more days and moved my stuff to Republica Hostel. I couldn’t check in yet but went for a walk around town visiting the Palacio de la Inquisicíon and Museo del Oro Zenú. The heat is oppressive, particularly in the morning when the humidity is high and just sitting around causes you to sweat!
After grabbing some sushi for dinner I headed to the bar in my hostel and met a few people. An American girl called Anna and I arranged to meet the next morning to go to the beach together. We headed to Bocagrande Beach and as the beach wasn’t amazing, paid for a boat over to a nearby island. The beach on the island was much nicer but everything was so expensive including finding somewhere to sit. Eventually we found a place to lie out on the sand but trying to get sone drinks was a bit of a disaster with waiters trying to charge an extra 30,000 pesos just for us to take a seat on the beach so we headed back to the mainland.
That evening there was a pool party in the hostel and I met more people – mostly solo travellers aged mid-twenties to early-thirties which is very good! However many other people are on 2-4 week holidays just travelling around one country rather than long travels like me. A bunch of us went out for dinner and then a few bars including a salsa club where everyone was so good, I didn’t even dare try!
On Monday a few of us got up early for a day trip to Islas de Rosario and Playa Blanca and unfortunately it was quite a grey, cloudy morning having rained in the early hours which is very unusual for Cartagena. In the islands there was an option to visit an aquarium but I went snorkeling which was more interesting and underwater was warmer! The boat then took us to Playa Blanca for lunch and we had time to relax on the beautiful beach. It was very crowded though as it was a public holiday but we didn’t have time to walk to the quieter part so just enjoyed the warm water and bought drinks from the walking sellers. That evening a large mixed bunch of us from the hostel went to Cafe del Mar on the old walls, Las Murallas, where the views of the sunset directly out to sea were stunning. Many of the group were leaving the following day, including myself, and there was a real ‘end of the holiday’ feeling to the evening which went on pretty late!
Tuesday was yet another long travelling day, driving to Bucaramanga, flying to Bogota and then flying to Santa Marta! The views as we landed in Santa Marta were amazing though as the airport is so close to the coast and I couldn’t see the ground so it felt as though we were going to land in the sea itself! It was amazingly hot as we walked off the plane as now we were on the Caribbean coast!
The first night in Santa Marta we had dinner outside and wandered through the streets enjoying the heat. Its obviously like this all year round as the shower in our hotel room only had one tap – cold – although not really a problem!
The next day we drove for an hour to the Tayrona National Park and walked for two and a half hours through the jungle and along the beaches in 85% humidity – beautiful but quite hard work. Once we arrived at Cabo San Juan del Guía, a stunningly beautiful beach with turquoise waters, I just had to jump straight in the sea. The trek back was a little bit quicker but still just as sticky. The views were stunning while walking along as the coastline was glimpsed through the trees.
Thursday saw us arrive at the final stop on the tour, Cartagena, a beautiful Colonial town and one of the oldest in the country. Our hotel was beautiful and had a pool which was very inviting when it was so hot. We were staying in the hispter area of Getsemani, just outside the town walls with lots of cool bars, colourful buildings and street art.
On Friday Helen and I went to the El Totumo mud volcano which is just outside the city. Its quite a strange experience floating in the mud but it is meant to have great properties for the skin! The tour also took us to a beautiful deserted beach for some lunch and a couple of hours of sunbathing. Back in the city we got caught in a thunderstorm so took refuge with a happy hour Aperol Spritz. For the last dinner on the tour we went to a restaurant in a converted convent.