A Travellerspoint blog

The end!

21 countries in 32 weeks!

snow 1 °C

We Did It!

So I thought I would put a few stats and thoughts together....

We visited 21 countries in total (19 without the UK and SA)
We travelled for 32 weeks.

Our Route


We covered 96,795 kms.


these are all the places we booked on booking.com


Out of the places we pre-booked on booking.com we stayed in mostly 0 star places but 1 five star!


I wrote 36 blog entries, these were the most viewed (top 10)


A Few of 'The Best & The worst'....

worst bus: Bolivian salt flats from Uyuni to Salta Argentina, 24hours
Worst Boat: Amazon volvo jet boat from Leticia to Iquitos
Worst nights accomodtion: Budahs birthplace (boarder nepal and india)
Worst Toilet and kitchen: China long drop at the bus station
worst Human :Koh Mak lady boy waiter
worst cash expenditure:karens green hair make over
painfull admin: trying to get HSBC Hong Kong to do banking for us and trying to find an internet cafe in HK to print out visa application. Also having my purse stolen in Mongolia and speaking to barclays on skype trying to organise more bank cards
worst meal: dog in southern china

best meal: hard to say... food in japan, hk, taiwan and india was all great!
Best travel accessory: my scarf (keep warm, put over dirty pillow cases or bus chair, use as beach towel)
Best beach: Colombia (parque tayrona) and Brazil (barra de loga florianopolis)
Best photo opp: gobi desert Mongolia or humming birds in Colombia
Best Hike: Tiger leaping gorge china
Best View: himalayas in Nepal & Machu Picchu

Often We get asked what country was the best and honestly its too hard to say. Colombia and Japan stick out as highlights but everywhere we went was very unique and special in its own way.
It was an incredible once in a life time journey and we would not change anything about it. It was amazing to share such an incredible experience with each other and we will cherish the memories forever!!
Everything has to come to an end and now its time to get back to the 'real world'. Next adventure is settling down in South Africa, cant wait!

Posted by karenandbyron 07:55 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)


Foz do Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro, Florianopolis, Sao Paulo


Foz do Iguaçu is the Brazilian city on the boarder of Argentina where you can go to see the iguazu falls. We spent the night there as it was cheaper to fly out of there than Argentina. It was sweltering hot and the falls were quite pricey so we decided not to go see them again. Foz do iquazu city is rather random so we thought we would spend the day swimming and chilling by the "dam" we saw on the map! The hostel told us which bus to take to the dam and we headed off with our suncream and swimming costumes only to find we weren't at a swimming dam like we pictured we were at a hydroelectric dam! Ha ha. But since we had missioned out there and had nothing else to do we took a tour and it ended up being quite interesting.The Itaipu Dam is a hydroelectric dam on the Paraná River located on the border between Brazil and Paraguay.The dam is the largest operating hydroelectric facility in terms of annual energy generation. The power is shared between Paraguay and brazil and at least we got to cross the boarder and can say we have been to Paraguay!

Itaipu dam

That afternoon we flew to Rio. Since it was the lead up to carnival the hostels were so booked up and pricey but we had booked the cheapest place available and it turned out to be a great hostel in the botafago area with a view of the Christ redeemer statue. We only arrived on the 1st night at about 11pm but we dropped our bags and decided to go for a drink in the neighborhood we were staying in. It was a Tuesday night and the bars that are all 24hrs were packed. Such a great chilled vibe with everyone sitting on the pavement. I had the strongest caparina cocktail ever, it was pure tequila.
The following day we tried to see as much as we could as our time in Rio was limited. It was a Scorcher of a day so we headed straight for Copacabana beach which is an awesome long beach and it was packed even though it was a weekday at 10am. We then walked to Ipanema beach where we had a swim and chilled there until we had had to much sun. Just behind ipanema beach is a main high street with so many cool shops and restaurants. We had the most delicious lunch. It was a Buffett with so much choice so we went crazy as though it was our last meal ever! We then took a wander around the Leblon area and the huge shopping mall. The shopping in Rio is awesome but rather pricey!
After a fun day at the beach and shops we took the subway back to the hostel to have a quick shower ( We have decided London officially has the worst subway in the world, the subway in rio is airconned and brilliant!) Our plan was to go up sugarloaf mountain before sunset but it wasn't the clearest of days and we had heard there was a better place to see the view so we missioned off to get there but when we got to the top of the hill the view point was closed. So we decided to walk back down the hill and stumbled across the Escadaria Selarón steps . They are the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón who claimed it as "my tribute to the Brazilian people". We then found ourselves at a little road side bar in the neighborhood but as soon as the sun went down we thought we better move on as it didn't feel so safe so we went for a lovely dinner in the saint Teresa area.


Then it was off to florianopolis which is the capital city of Santa Catarina state in the Southern region of Brazil. We struggled to find accomodation because it was school holidays and the week before carnival but in the end we booked a lovely little self catering unit for 8 nights. It was situated in the east of the island in rio Tavares area near the lagoa de conceicao which is an area on the lagoon with lots of shops and restaurants.
We stuggled in the beginning to work out the bus times/routes but in the end we got the hang of it. Over the week we managed to explore most parts of the island although there are 42 beaches. We spent a day on each of the following southern beaches: Campeche, Joaquina, Mole,but our favorite was Barra da Lagoa. Barra de logoa which turns into mosambique beach has the perfect sea, the waves were in enough for Byron to surf but not too big for me to have a nice swim and its more sheltered from the wind so we ended up going back to this beach a few times.
All the beaches are stunning! They are all long and wide with lovely white sand and warm sea. Florianopolis is known for its "hot chicks" but I personally just thought it was full of bum implants, boob jobs and flabby bums in gstrings!
We hired a car for 2 days which was great to go explore the northern beaches and the center of town. The beaches in the north are more built up and busy. We had a swim at praya brava which was nice and then drove along the coast stopping off at a few other beaches. We had brilliant weather most of the time we were there except for one day where it rained non stop but luckily we had a couch and tv.
We loved our time in this beautiful place, it was a great relaxing way to end of our trip!

Our flight to London was booked from São Paulo so we booked 3 nights there. We had planned to take a 12hr bus but when we went online to book we realized it was cheaper to fly but when we arrived at the airport in "São Paulo" we asked the taxi how much it would be to get to the centre of town and he just looked at us and said "São Paulo? That will cost 350 which is about £80" so we realized we were not actually in São Paulo, we were 100kms away. Luckily we found out the airline had a free bus and we arrived at our hotel at About 12 at night. We had booked a place that was in the ghetto! It was Saturday night and carnival weekend so we decided to go for a walk but we soon bought a packet of chips for dinner and hid out in our hotel room. I spent the night staring out the window convinced I would witness a shooting but instead watched a huge drunken bitch fight!São Paulo is one of the richest cities in the southern hemisphere, though inequality between the classes is blatant ( a bit like joburg).

São Paulo is the largest city in Brazil, with a city population of about 11 million and almost 20 million in its metropolitan region. It really is a huge city so we weren't sure where to start. We walked along avenue paulista which is the Main Street in the business district and walked through some lovely parks. It was a sunday and they had blocked off the street to cars so there was a lovely vibe with everyone riding bikes around. That afternoon we needed to escape the heat and I wasn't very well so when we found a shopping center with a cinema where all the movies are in English we got rather excited. A girl who spoke English helped us buy tickets for Lincoln and we got chatting to her. We were so embarrassed that we were watching a movie instead of exploring the city, it was clearly the end of our trip!
The next day before our flight we walked around Ibirapuera Park which is a lovely huge park in the city. It was a public holiday so it was packed with joggers, cyclists, skate boarders etc!

Unfortunately The carnival was not what we thought it would be. Unless you know a local it's hard to find out what's on and you can't buy tickets on line with foreign cards. The tickets to the parades were over USD200 and unfortunately I wasn't feeling up to the crowds of the block parties in São Paulo so we didn't get to experience carnival like you see on tv but it was still a nice time to be there.

Brazil was an awesome country to end our travels on, I would love to go back for the Olympics or World Cup, the vibe will be brilliant!

Posted by karenandbyron 14:23 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)


Salta and Iguazu falls



We arrived in salta totally shattered from our 24hr bus journey but we dropped our bags off at the hotel and went in search of a good meal. we sat at a lovely place on the plaza and had our first of many delicious curizo steaks and a beer.

Salta is situated in the Lerma Valley, 1,152 metres above sea level so it was great to not be at such high altitudes anymore and it was so hot!
Nicknamed Salta la Linda ("Salta the beautiful"), it has become a major tourist destination due to its old, colonial architecture, awesome weather and the natural scenery of the valleys westward. We spent longer than we needed here because we could only get a reasonably priced flight out after 4 days but it turned out to be a great spot to hang out.
We walked around the town, spent time chilling in the square people watching and did Lots of eating. We ate steak every night, ate empanadas every day and drank lots of red wine and beer. It was delicious meat and such a breath of fresh air after the average food in Bolivia and peru! Argentina is a lot more expensive than where we have been in South America but it's still reasonable compared to Europe and we really enjoyed the food and wine! :) we also browsed around the lovely shops and i bought a handbag

Salta...lots of eating

We went to the MAAM musesum which was interesting. The Museum of High Altitude Archaeology holds the findings of the Llullaillaco children , one of the most important archaeological discoveries of recent times, which dates from Over 500 years ago, during the height of the state inca , shortly before the arrival of the conquistadors Spanish . They have the bodies of the children which is quite hectic to see! my Dutch residency card has saved us a bit of money on this trip. in non dutch/english countries it passes as a student card so this was a bonus on this occasion!

On one of the days we hired a car and explored the valley. We headed to cachi which was a cute little town where we had another delicious steak and the scenery on the way was stunning. Cactus plains with red stone mountains, it was very unique. Luckily we managed to see the view on the way there because on the way back heavy mist rolled in and the drive through the mountains was rather scary. The drive took a lot longer than we thought and it was a 7hr round trip but nice to see something different.

From salta we flew to puerto iguazu to see the famous iquazu falls. these waterfalls are on the border of Brazil and Argentina so you can view them from either side. We decided to see them from Argentina.
The falls are incredible, I have never seen anything like it (the photos don't do it justice). The drop is so long that you can feel the spray from way up at river level. It was really refreshing to get wet though because it was about 38 degrees at 11am! There were so many tourists that its difficult to get photos without people in but it didn't ruin the experience.
After a lovely day walking around the national park viewing different parts of the falls we returned to our hotel to collect the bags. We couldn't bear missioning in the extreme heat so we chilled at the hotel pool until dusk and then got a bus over the boarder to the Brazilian town of foz de iguazu.

Posted by karenandbyron 14:34 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Salar de Uyuni


The first part of our journey to Uyuni was a 3 and a half hour bus from la paz to Oruro. We had a few hours to kill in the small town of oruro before getting the train to Uyuni. We took a taxi to the center of town and hoped to find somewhere nice for lunch and maybe get some wifi. Oruro is such a dump, it was sunday so most places were closed and there was no chance of a nice place to eat. We were starving so we settled on the first open place we found open which was a local fast food place. Being the only tourists in there, we hid away in the corner with all our bags and had chips and cake for lunch!
As we left the restraunt it started to rain so we got a taxi to the train station. The train departed at 7pm and arrived in uyuni at 2am. We had booked the most expensive tickets (about 150 bolivians) and it was very comfortable. I wish we could have travelled more by train rather than bus.Fortunately we managed to spot flamingoes on the lake just before sunset.we tried to sleep but there was a very loud violent movie filmed in Cape Town that kept us wake. luckily we thought ahead and booked accomodation because when we arrived at 3am in the tiny town of Uyuni it was freezing and obviously everything was shut. The town is so overpriced but we had a room with hot water and a heater so we were happy we could climb straight into a warm bed.

The plan was to get to uyuni, book a 3 day tour to see the salt flats and the flamingoes and then end the tour in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile But it all changed dues to external factors out of our control......
The rain over the past few days was so heavy that the roads were completely flooded and it was too dangerous to cross the newly formed lake on the salt flats. We began asking around for prices of tours and some places were selling tickets and other companies were saying it wasn't possible. We met a Swiss couple who had just returned after one day because their driver was cautious and they said they heard that 2 cars had overturned and people had died. We weren't sure if that was true but it still scared me. Then we met other tourists who said they had heard people got stuck and had to sleep in the jeeps while stranded in the lake for the night. The other problem was that the road to chile was closed and so was the boarder,so after hearing all the horror stories we decided to laugh it off.
We were still able to do a one day tour to the salt flats which was great and definitely worth the trip all the way there. We had a driver and 4 Chilean people on our tour who couldn't speak a word of English but our travel Spanish got us by and and it was a great day. On the way we stopped at the train cemetery. It's very random but had become a big tourist attraction with lots of photo opps. The trains were mostly used by the mining companies. In the 1940s, the mining industry collapsed, partly due to the mineral depletion. Many trains were abandoned thereby producing the train cemetery.

After the cemetery we headed out to see the salf flats.Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat at 10,582 square kilometers. It is located in the Potosí and Oruro departments in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes, and is at an elevation of 3,656 meters above mean sea level.The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is covered by a few meters of salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness with the average altitude variations within one meter over the entire area of the Salar. The crust serves as a source of salt and covers a pool of brine, which is exceptionally rich in lithium. It contains 50 to 70% of the world's lithium reserves,which is in the process of being extracted. The large area, clear skies and the exceptional flatness of the surface make the Salar an ideal object for calibrating the altimeters of Earth observation satellites.
Along with everyone else, We took millions of corny photos and had a fun day.

Because of the rain our only option out of Bolivia was to go to Villazón which is a town in southern Bolivia, on the border with Argentina. The bus is supposed to be 6 hrs but due to diverted routes it took 12hrs. Before getting on the bus we had dinner with an Aussie guy who had done the trip in reverse and he told us the bus trip was so bumpy and horrible but we got on at 8pm and didn't expect it to be that bad. It was the most scared I have been the whole 8 months... There was no actual road out of the salt flats and we drove through the night along a narrow one way path through the mountains in the pitch black. The bus was packed and there was no leg room. The driver kept stopping and getting out and often it felt like we were going to tip over, I was petrified so didn't sleep a wink. There was no toilet on the bus so when we stopped at 2am at some random town i was desperate! We tried to hold the iPad still along the bumpy road and watched 2 episodes of breaking bad which killed some time. When we arrived at the boarder I was so grateful not to be spending the night in the bus in the middle of nowhere and was so happy to be alive !!
The boarder crossing was a joke. We had to que outside in the freezing cold for 2 hrs, no one spoke and there wasn't a smiley face in sight.
Once we were finally on the Argentinian side we shared a cab with a German couple to the bus terminal and then from there we got on another 7hr bus to salta! It was the longest 24hr journey ever but we were happy to be in Argentina and couldn't wait for warmer weather and steak!

Train cemetery

Salt flats

Random in uyuni...
Best couple in town, everything matching

Posted by karenandbyron 16:38 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Lake Titicaka and La Paz


6 °C

After paying the exit tax we climbed on our bus that left Cusco at 10pm. we had cama seats ( Fully reclining) and we settled in to a few episodes of our breaking bad series.
At about 6.30am we were woken up by a guy shouting copacobaba so we got our stuff together and quickly got off only to realize we were on the high way in the middle of nowhere. Luckly its the "gringo trail" so there were a few other tourists doing the same route as us.we Followed some Isrealy girls and English guys into a mini van that took us to the Peru/Bolivia boarder where I found out I needed a Bolivian visa (cost40 USD). luckily we had american dollars on us (they have come in handy a few times in south america ) so we exchanged some money while waiting for the immigration to open at 7.30am. As far as boarder crossings go, it was quite easy. passport stamped on Peru side then walked over to Bolivia where everyone had to wait for me because I was the only one who needed a visa, typical when traveling with SA passport! on the bolivian side we got into another minivan and were dropped off in the town of copacobana.

Boarder crossing
the town was freezing and dead so together with the two british guys we found a hostel that was open and had a typical Bolivian breakfast which consists of average coffee and a white bread roll with strawberry jam. The hostel was recommended by the lonely planet ( which we have given up on now(useless South American outdated version) so we asked if they had a free room with hot water as we hadn't showered in 2 nights and were desperate for a good shower. The guy assured us the room met our demands and gave us the key. When we got to the awful room we left the water running for about 20mins and when no warm water came out I was close to tears so we put our bags on our backs and went in search of somewhere better. We found a lovely little Eco hostel that was 3 times the price but SO worth it. We had a heater, hot water and a tv for £20 for both of us which included a nice breakfast. It's amazing what a hot shower can do to your mood.with our spirits lifted we went walking around town which had now woken up and loads of tourists appeared. This town relies solely on tourism, it's a very popular spot for everyone going between Peru and Bolivia.

Copacabana is the main Bolivian town on the shore of Lake Titicaca which by volume of water it is the largest lake in South America. It is often called the highest navigable lake in the world, with a surface elevation of 3,812 m. We bought tickets for a boat tour to isla de sol that afternoon. We weren't aware though that the time was one hour ahead so we missed the boat but luckily another company let us get on one of their boats. We sat on top of the boat and chatted to some Argentinian guys for the hour and a half until we got to the island. On the island are some inca ruins but the boat was leaving again in 30mins so we just decided to have lunch instead. It was a very strange tour and basically it was just a slow boat ride on the lake but still enjoyable!!!
That evening we walked up to the top of the hill in the town. It's only about a 40min hike up but because of the hectic altitude (3800mts) I was exhausted and totally out of breath at the top! the view was stunning and we watched the sun set from up there. That night after dinner it was so nice to have a decent warm room to go back to.

Lake titicaka

The Next day morning while packing our things my tooth broke (had root canal before we left Amsterdam and the filling came out)! We had panned to head to la Paz that afternoon so we searched online for a decent dentist. Our hotel called and made an appointment for the next morning at the lady recommended by the us embassy and other tourists. So thankful for the Internet and other people's travel forums!
Our bus to la paz was due to leave at 1pm. we got to the bus stop half an hour before the departure time and there were already lots of people sitting on the bus. Byron ran off to get some food (tuna sandwiches which were so gross we didn't touch them ) and I tried to get our bags on the bus but it was chaos and the driver kept saying wait, wait. When we eventually had our bags on the bus and got on there were no seats left. A aussie guy told us that they had oversold tickets the day before too (obviously happens everyday) and he had to stay an extra night but I was in pain and desperate to get to la paz to see the dentist so i started shouting at the bus driver but he just looked at us blankly and then said " get off, full" so we got our bags off and ran around asking if there was space on another bus. we found 2 seats on a bus and they accepted our tickets so we didn't have to pay again.
The bus trip took about 4hrs with a unusual stop to cross the lake.There is no bridge so all the passangers get ferried over on a boat and then so did the bus.

Journey to la paz

We arrived in la paz and after wandering around for a bit we found our hostel which was close to the san fransico cathedral. We stumbled across a great spot for dinner. It was called benais and it became our best friend. We went there 3 days in a row and ordered starters, mains and dessert! it was so nice to have reasonably priced food that wasn't average pizza or pasta. La Paz is located 3,650 m above sea level (the city is built on steep hills), making it the world's highest de facto capital city with Quito being the highest legal capital. The altitude really has an effect and you feel out of breath all the time.

Early The next morning we got a cab to the dentist on the other side of town. I felt relieved when I saw we were in a fancy residential area. The dentist spoke very little English but I managed to explain the problem to her. After 20mins and £50 we were out of there and I was pain free! That afternoon we wandered the streets sorting out our travel for the next 2 days. (booked our bus to Oruro, the train to uyuni and a tour for the next day.) then we we went up to a beautiful view point ( killi killi) that overlooks the whole city as well as the towering triple-peaked Illimani, which is always covered in snow. As the city of La Paz expands it climbs the surrounding hills, resulting in varying elevations from 3,000 to 4,100 m .


View of La Paz

The tour we booked to Valle de Luna And Chacaltaya mountain was a full day trip. In typical Bolivian style The bus was half an hour late to fetch us and by the time we had fetched everyone else from various hostels around town, we set off at about 10am instead of 8am!
The drive to the mountain was 2hrs up narrow windy dirt roads. Besides for a kiwi and a Scottish guy we were the only english speaking people on the bus but the tour guide tried her best to tell us interesting facts in English. On the way she told us little facts like how a llama got its name ( someone asked "come se llama" which means what is its name in Spanish ?the local repeated llama over and over, the tourist was confused and started calling them llamas).
From the top where the bus could go no further we walked about 150mts up to the peak which is the second highest point in Bolivia at 5395mts above sea level. Its rather hard walking at that altitude so We had to take it very slow. The view at the top is supposed to be incredible but unfortunately for us it was a total white out and all we could see was mist. It was freezing and snowing up there and when we got down we could hardly feel our toes. the Valle de Luna was another 3hr drive from there so we decided to skip the next part of the tour and go somewhere for a warm lunch instead. we told the tour guide we were sick so she wouldn't get offended and got dropped of in the center of la Paz. Us and the strange scots man who belongs to couch surfing.com found a cozy coffee shop which was run by a Swedish lady and spent the afternoon there!


In la paz we also visited the witches market, learnt some interesting facts at the coca museum and tried to go into the San Pedro prison.

Gross llama fetus that they use for medicine at the witches market.
Coca museum... Did you know that coca cola use coca leaves as one of their ingredients, same stuff cocaine is made from
If anyone has read marching powder you will know about San Pedro prison. We couldn't get in but we still went to check it out.

on the last day we embarked on our long journey to uyuni....

Posted by karenandbyron 16:37 Archived in Bolivia Comments (4)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 36) Page [1] 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 »