The River Wild

Looking back on Tuesday the 3rd of April, I can still say it was one of the best days of my year. This is the day I went white-water rafting for the first time on Costa Rica’s Rio Pacuare. The rapids are classed as III-V which is pretty high on the scale (VI is the highest), and the route takes you down a beautiful stretch of the river with jungle covered banks filled with monkeys, waterfalls and numerous birds (including the photogenic toucan). But we didn’t spend too much time birdwatching, as there were some mighty rapids ahead, and the adrenalin was pumping!

To South America - Our rafting team

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The Waterfalls and Coffee Fields of Turrialba

Our bus arrived in San Jose, and we jumped in the nearest taxi to another bus station. We hadn’t heard anything good about Costa Rica’s capital, and we didn’t want to waste a night in the place. Our next trip was a tour ride into the green coffee covered hills to the east, where volcanoes, ancient ruins and white-water rafting on the famed Rio Pacuare lay.

To South America - Costa Rican coffee

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Parque Nacional Tayrona

After the busy streets of Cartagena, we decided we needed some time on a beach. We had heard of Tayrona National Park through other travellers and friends, and it came highly recommended. Colombia is a little more difficult to travel than other more tourist-orientated countries in South America, and after doing some investigation, it turned out a door-to-door minibus transfer would be better than the arduous task of getting a local bus.

So we set off on the 5 hour trip to Taganga, a small little fishing village that had become a popular spot for locals and backpackers. In some respects this popularity and the resulting tourist development had negatively affected the town, and the beach front was practically just restaurants and street sellers. I didn’t see many fishermen!

To South America - Taganga beach

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Nuns on the run – Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa

I’m not usually someone who’s interested in monasteries. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no philistine; I don’t mind strolling around a church or cathedral for ten minutes admiring the architecture. I don’t get all dewy-eyed at the model crucifix, but I can still appreciate the skill and effort (and hard labour) it takes to conceive and build such a structure.

South America has loads of churches. Some of them are awe-inspiring like the one in Cusco, which has a great painting of the last supper with a roast guinea pig in the centre of the table. Others are bare brick buildings that have probably been pillaged of all their valuable objects over time. Most are relics of the colonial days when the Spanish and Portuguese came and forced their religion on the indigenous people, so there is usually some kind of torrid history.

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Goodbye Brazil, you beauty

I’m gonna miss ya. The acai, the squeaky sand, the laid-back locals, the stray dogs, the turnstile buses, the random cow statues, the monstrous waterfalls, the heat, the acai, the butterflies that sound like electricity, the mangoes for breakfast, the caiparinhas for lunch, the acai, the hershey’s, even the tongue-twisting Portuguese… did I mention the acai?

Here’s a few haphazard pics I’ve had time to upload… there’s only 5 so it’s not really an overview, more of an introduction, or an image appetiser if you will…