Monthly Archives: June 2019

Rio to Iguacu Falls, Brazil and Argentina.

23rd and 24th June – 27 hours!!

The bus trip.
We caught the bus from Macae to Rio with no issues at all getting the bikes in the luggage hold and at no extra charge, this was a 3 hours trip on a very comfortable coach.
Arriving at Rio in the main bus station we managed to get tickets for a bus which was leaving 3 hours later to Foz Do Iguaçu, I couldn’t get seats together but the seats were close together.

This coach was fairly comfortable compared to aircraft seats but we had 27 hours to do so we braced ourselves for this trip. In summary, it was not too bad, sleeping in the reclined seat was possible but not great. The coach stopped several times and at first, we were apprehensive on how long we had at these rest breaks but it worked out that if the driver left the coach then we had approx 30 minutes.

After a while, the bus thinned out as passengers left at different venues so we ended up with plenty of spare space.

Ginette – I had to work really hard to calm my nerves, 27 hours on a confined bus! sitting next to a stranger! with a seat that only semi-reclined! and not understanding a word the driver said! Somehow I managed to take a huge chill pill, and although I didn’t sleep well, I managed to finish the book I was reading and read another book. Did I mention there was no wifi or tv screens on the bus? The landscape was very sameish, farmland followed by American style towns (shops all along a highway). I had no regrets about not cycling this route.

We arrived at Foz Do Iguaçu and our hotel was next to the bus station so we were able to rest up for the evening.

26th June

Iguaçu falls
We visited the Iguaçu Falls (Brazilian side), travelling on the public bus. This is one of the natural wonders of the world and is absolutely huge and awe-inspiring. We have seen many waterfalls but nothing on this scale. We have taken pictures and videos but you can’t film all the falls from one spot as they cover such a large area. Whilst filming there were wild Quatis (like a small raccoon) pestering us tourists for food, they are used to humans to the extent they sneak up and try to get access to any bags you are carrying. The amount of water plunging in front of us over the many cascades is a great sight and sound. Across the river we could see Argentina. We stayed in a border town of three countries, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil all within sight.

Our hosts in Pousada Laura were really lovely, we had a long chat using google translate, we were also taken out to lunch with another Brazilian couple who were guests. Google translate is great but it does slow down the conversation.

In the local supermarket earlier we found two armed men on patrol, it turned out a bank was having money delivered and these guards came with the security van.

The temperature in this area of Brazil is much cooler than we have been used to but we are pleased we have come down this end of Brazil. I don’t think we have seen enough of Brazil, having only cycled a short part of it but I think we are going to enjoy the cycling from here.

Ginette – the Iguacu Falls are amazing, the majority of the reviews we have read have said the Argentina side is better, it is hard to believe but we will find out in a couple of days. 

It feels much colder, I have resorted to wearing trousers and several jumpers on the upside it is great not to sleep with the air conditioner blasting out each night.

27th and 28th June

Argentina.
We cycled into Argentina on Thursday over a road bridge, we stopped at the border to stamp our passports on the way out, we had to pull over to do this off our own backs as we could have just cycled straight through without stopping.

The route was only approx 9 miles so a short ride.

We are now in Puerto Iguaza, Argentina. It has the feel of a border town and is a little rundown.

Ginette was legally mugged at the cash machine, the banks here charge an extortionate amount for each withdrawal in this case £8 for a £40 withdrawal ouch (£40 = £20000 pesos).

 

Today we took the public bus to the Argentine side of the falls. We took the water powerboat trip which took us through rapids and up close and personal and very to the waterfalls, proper touristy.

Ginette – our accommodation is very cheap at only £12 a night but is very basic. The owner could not take a credit card, he explained in broken English that the tax is too high and that most places in Argentina require cash payments. 

As we wandered around the town I found it difficult to get my head around the currency, it would appear most things are more expensive than Brazil but still cheaper than the UK. We had a large pizza (which we had to send back as it was undercooked) with a large beer for the equivalent of £7.

There are still lots of stray dogs around, at least 50 in the town we’re in, the majority look like they’ve been hit at some time or other and walk with a limp.

and of course, there is still rubbish everywhere, like Brazil there are high raised rubbish holders for people to use (so that the dogs don’t attack the rubbish) despite this rubbish is heaped at the end of roads.

People in Argentina look different and seem a little warmer and more openly smile and greet us.

My final observation for the day

roads traffic seems a little calmer and a little safer however health and safety has gone out the window, lots of motorcyclists with no helmets, 3 to 4 people on bikes with kids riding pillion.

28th June

Ginette – on arrival at the Falls we decided to take a boat ride into the falls this cost far more than the entrance fee but was worth it. I can’t begin to describe the sensation of being under the waterfalls, they’re huge and so powerful. We got drenched but it was amazing.

Gary  – On this side, there are several walks to view the falls from below and above, they are pretty good but we had lost a little of the wow factor as we had seen these spectacular falls now from Brazil and from the boat.

There is also a train that takes you to the furthest viewpoint area, from where you have approx 1.5k of walkway over the river to the mouth of the waterfall.

Now, this was another wow moment due to the power this fall has and the close proximity of the viewing platform to the edge.

Some bonuses from today, spotting huge catfish, a large terrapin, a close by cayman, some close encounters with exotic birds, and a huge ant.

Ginette – It was a fantastic day, it was hot at 28c all day which was a stark contrast to the previous two days where the temperature had struggled to reach 19c. 

We spent 8 hours in the park, viewing waterfalls, walking in the rain forest and enjoying watching the wildlife. Although the Qataris are annoying (trying to steal your food) they are fun to watch. Added to this there were hundreds of beautiful butterflies fluttering around.  

To the end of the day, we stopped in a Mexican restaurant and had a very tasty meal along with a cocktail. This was probably the first meal I have had since travelling that I have enjoyed (with the exception to the meals Gary cooks). We only had a simple burrito and taco dish but it included vegetables and was not covered in cheese. The waiter explained he was a teacher and worked in the restaurant to supplement his salary as teachers are not paid highly in Argentina

 

 

Niteroi to Rio De Janeiro

Gary normal text – Ginette italics

16th – 18th June

Our new accommodation was smaller than our previous apartment and a little damp and in need of some TLC (sink hanging off the wall) however the wifi was much better and we had a lovely outside communal area to sit in.

On our first night in the accommodation, we explored the area and stumbled across a fete with a live band. The evening was warm and there were lots of families and groups of friends chilling and enjoying the music.

We learnt on Sunday that the Brazilians love to visit the beach, it was a hive of activity. Women and girls in their bikinis (worn to expose their big, brown bottoms) and men in speedos. It felt like there were no inhibitions everyone seemed to be happy in their bodies big or small, old or young.  I still find it a little disconcerting watching people taking selfies of themselves, pouting and laughing into a camera to capture the moment, very strange.

19th June

Our first cycle since Net had the argument with a taxi bumper that she lost.

To move up Brazil we had no option but to go over a 500ft steep climb, I had done a recci cycle the day before and it was really steep (Front wheel lifting whilst trying to ride). This was with no kit so I knew we wouldn’t be able to cycle without getting off to push.

I had planned to get Net to walk as I pushed her bike, then at the top I could go back to the accommodation for mine. But Net can be a little stubborn and we ended up both going together. I ended up doing a relay of sorts, pushing mine up a while and leaning it against a post or tree (it needed a fixed structure or it would have rolled back down the hill) going back down and helping stubborn Net.
Ginette’s confidence has taken a downturn as she didn’t ride down the hill either, this walking lark looked harder than cycling it to me.

Ginette – I couldn’t see the point of Gary walking with me to the hill and pushing it all the way, I knew I was more than capable of pushing it most of the way, even if I was a little slower than Gary.

Once at the top of the hill, I had hoped to ride down the other side, but we were on a steep hill, I was in granny gear and there were cars passing at speed on a very uneven surface. I wasn’t sure if I could get on the bike on such a steep hill and if I did whether I would be able to control it. My confidence was shot to pieces so reluctantly I walked the bike slowly down the hill, using the brake to keep it steady. I had tears of frustration rolling down my face and my knee hurt like hell.

The cycle ride to Marica was planned to take us along the coast road, we did this for a while but the road was slightly inland and set low so we had no sea views. The road deteriorated to sandy tracks a few times. This route was a shorter route and was not suitable for cars, in the end we opted to head across to the main road for ease of cycling.

I had been trying to use my Garmin route but by this stage we were off route and I had no map to follow, to address this I switched to using the I phone with maps.me as a route planner. This worked really well, and didn’t need the internet. We are so lucky that Uncle Micheal gave us this phone, it’s becoming a very useful tool.

Today felt decidedly Foreign at last, the roads, people and houses looked different just like I thought they might have had before but being so close to the big city of Rio the contrasts were not so great to Europe.

Marica is a lively little town, we arrived fairly early so had a few beers near a bus station and watched the world go by, in fact I think the world was crammed into one of the buses.

Later we had a wander around the shops and settled in a street bar to watch Brazil vs Italy in the lady’s World Cup with a group of excited female supporters cheering the Brazilian team on.
The town had a nice feel to it and had lost the scary edge that we have felt in other areas.
Our host kindly text to offer to take us to a dance class for free, a fantastic opportunity missed down to bad timing , we didn’t see the text in time.

Ginette seems to be coping with cycling but I am trying to avoid hills and gravel for her. The roads are very busy and coachesand lorries are driving past very fast and close which is a little uncomfortable.

In the evening I managed to download Brazil terrain maps onto my Garmin from a website called “Talky Toaster” for £11 (Garmin charge far to much for there own maps) Also going premium on “Plot a route.com” has allowed me to view my plotted points on google earth hence I can avoid non tarmac roads.

Ginette – observations from the day. Locals are friendly and seem curious as they see us cycle pass them but they are very slow to smile or to wish us a good day, usually responding once we’ve initiated the greeting.

My confidence grew through out the day but it is clear that road users are not courtious to each other and it is every man/woman for themselves. Cyclists seem to be given the least respect. I had hoped to cycle without my ipod but without music or voices in my head I am constantly worrying about something hitting me from behind. Several times we have had to swerve to avoid being hit by coaches or lorries.

I vowed that if we travelled in a foreign country again I would learn the language, I so wish I had taken the time to learn a little more Portuguese. We have tried but our efforts seem to be in vain we are getting by largely by hand gestures and smiles.

20th June

Today was a much longer cycle than originally planned due to rerouting to avoid main roads and gravel tracks, I think we ended up at approx 80 k

We had a long section along a good cycle route along the coast with good sea views also large inland lakes on the inside of us, but only the occasional view of these.

We reached a small seaside town called Saquarema, this had a church upon a hill by the coast giving good views of both the sea and lakes.

At one of our rest breaks we watched as large fish jumped and splashed back into the sea in the near distance.

Having finished our picnic we passed a cafe doing a cooked meal for £3 each.
On the coast road there were several vulture like birds sitting in the road
The cycle from the coast to our accommodation at araruama was up a busy 2 lane road with a sporadic hard shoulder so we didn’t enjoy the last 5 miles.

Our hotel was a little dated but had a pool and the room was spacious and clean. We tried to find dinner but the locals don’t seem to eat till later, the hotel had an on site restaurant but all they could offer Ginette was cheese chips, so she went to bed unhappy and undernourished. As we sat in the restaurant I watched others order their food we realised that all dishes consisted of chips and a choice of chicken, steak, sausage or pork. I had the chicken and some of Ginette’s chips. The restaurant hired a guitarist to play some local music and I wrote my diary to the sound of live music playing.

Ginette – Cycle ride, it is difficult to enjoy the main roads as they are so busy, but although Gary has tried to plot a route away from the main highways it is virtually impossible. The alternative is off road routes or going in land over the mountains.

Once at the accommodation we asked about food and although there was a language barrier the owner definitely confirmed fish was on the menu. Food was not served until 8.30pm which is really late considering we finished cycling at 3.30pm and greasy fries with some sweaty cheese on top did nothing for me. I tried to eat some to be polite and I even stayed half an hour to listen to the guitarist but I was not happy and decided the best course of action was to go to my room. I had intended to make a roll or eat some crisps but the chips had congealed into a ball of goo in my stomach and I didn’t want to add to the discomfort. I read for a bit whilst Gary stayed in the restaurant. We were both ready for sleep at 10.30 but the guitarist had other ideas and continued playing until gone midnight. He had some stamina but in all honesty I so wanted to go out there and break the guitar over his head. Not a great way to end the day especially as I had felt bored on the bike and had to keep reminding myself how lucky I am to be cycling in a foreign a country in the sunshine.

Highlight of the day was swimming in the pool at the end of the ride, we didn’t stay in very long as it was cold but it was very refreshing. The temperature is constantly in the early 30’c which is great but it does sap your energy.

21st June

Today we cycled to Macae, it was not a nice route as we only had one choice of road.
We are still making our way up the coast northwards so we have had occasional sea views but my spirits have been low today.

I Have resorted to removing my hearing aids as this softens the traffic noise. The road is pretty busy and for some stretches there is no hard shoulder on which to cycle, hence the buses and lorries pas by really close, one lorry had to manoeuvre back in whilst overtaking as he ran out of space, I had to drift off the road to avoid his wheels. To be fair these drivers have no room to move over but in the UK they wait for a gap in the traffic, here they just push on by. The coaches are worse as they are quiet so you don’t know they are there until they are alongside.
When we enter a town we then have cycle lanes to follow. These keep us away from the traffic but if the cycle lane has been built between carriageways then you have to contend with the flow of cars from both sides at each side turn.

We had lunch by a beach in another self catering cafe, 2 meals and 2 soft drinks for approx £6.

Ginette – Rubbish day, Gary has been feeling low for a day or two, we couldn’t wait to get going but the route we’ve chosen is dull along busy roads. I have saddle sores and my knee aches but worse than that is knowing Gary is clearly unhappy. I think the stress of finding a decent route and keeping me safe are wearing him down. Added to this the towns we have passed through are holiday resorts, nothing special or new. It feels like we are spending our money without experiencing anything new. We will give it another day but we may need to consider our plans.

22nd June

We didn’t cycle on today, after a discussion about how we were both feeling we are looking to see what other options we have to improve our trip. Although being by the coast can have its benefits, it does become sameish each day. Yesterday’s cycle was no fun and looking at the route we are currently heading on we will have similar experiences for the next 1000 miles.
Although I do want to cycle I also want to enjoy and feel safe

In Asia our cycling experience was very different with locals smiling and welcoming you, wanting photos with you plus the differences of religious beliefs meant temples and mosques kept the experience interesting.

I am having trouble capturing the same freedom of the road feeling, maybe I am just a bit jaded having done the years cycle and these new experiences we are having are no longer a novelty, or perhaps the area we are cycling is to “holiday zone” hence the flat feeling I am experiencing in this area.

We booked another accommodation in the same town and  spent the day with frustrating research

We have decided to change direction, our intention now is to try to get to Foz do Iguacu, the town is not supposed to be anything special but it is home to the large waterfalls. Once here we are in an area that is south Brazil bordering Paraguay. It should be a good base to start cycling again eventually heading into Bolivia and Peru

The research on how to travel there was time consuming and frustrating, you can find out most information quickly but add cycles into luggage requirements and it gets a bit trickier

Buses look to be the easiest and cheapest option as flights mean packing the bikes. I opted to cycle to the bus station and used google translate to check if the coaches will accept cycles, the answer was yes to Rio but no clear answer for the next 24 hour bus ride.

Tomorrow we will attempt to bus to Rio than to Foz do Iguacu, hopefully this will work out.

Ginette – A frustrating and expensive day. I upgraded our accommodation as the previous one had the noisiest air conditioning unit you could imagine and the wifi wasn’t very good. I had hoped for an apartment with a kitchen but all we had was a microwave and a bit of added space.   I sound like a miserable moo, but actually my spirits are high considering things are not going as we expected or hoped.

I keep reminding myself that we are very lucky, cycling in the sun in a new country but it is hard to ignore the fact that each day we are spending money and not fully enjoying the experience.

We have booked a bus to Foz do Iguacu but it will be 25 hours – yes I said 25 hours on a bus!!!  We don’t even have seats next to each other, I wish I took valium or something equally as strong to knock me out for the journey.

No photos this week – the internet in the bus station is pants.

Niteroi

10th June – 16th June

A quiet week resting my poorly knee after being knocked off my bike.

Our first accommodation was pants, dirty and tired (see pictures below), although our host was amazingly helpful. We decided two days was enough and moved further along the coast.

We treated ourselves to an apartment in Itacoatiara we had intended to stay two days but have stayed four has my knee has taken a little longer to mend. I’ve probably done a little damage to the Cartledge or ligament (Dr Google says).

The apartment is lovely and very close to two amazing beaches. If it was not for the fact that this rest period has been enforced on us I am sure we would feel like we were in paradise.  We have tried to look for positives, especially as we know if we were back at home it would be wet and we would be at work.  But following our adventurous first week in Rio, we had desperately wanted to start our journey and now feel a little bit as if we’re in limbo.

We’ve tried to make the most of it, strolling to the beach and enjoying the surf, swimming with turtles and enjoying the sea and sun. The cold beers help at the end of the day. Gary has ventured a little further and climbed some hills but we are both itching to get back on the bikes.

I finally managed to attempt a very small bike ride this morning and I am pleased to report it was relatively pain-free. It is only when I try to straighten the leg fully that I experience any pain. With this in mind, we have decided to give it a couple more days rest before setting off.  To help the budget we will be downgrading to a small beach bungalow.  Although our apartment is far better than the others we have stayed in, it doesn’t have any outdoor space and the wifi is pants.  The bungalow we are moving to has an outside patio, however, we will have to wait and see if there is an improvement on the wifi.

Being in limbo in paradise is a hard life but someone has got to do it.

Gary.

We are finding that booking. coms location maps for the accommodation is very poor. sometimes not even on the right street. the last place I had to get a local to talk to the hosts on my phone, he came and drove by me to show me the way, about half a mile away on a different street with the same name. The house numbers do not follow sequentially they’re really ad-hoc 601 can be followed by 209 and number 9 can be next door to that.

There are loads of 0C6 outrigger canoes on the beaches, never used in the day. I did manage to arrange to meet a club at 7.20 this morning but when I got there I didn’t have a spot in the canoe, talk about being the last to be picked for the football team.

I have had a couple of walks up into the nearby cliffs either side of the beaches, one was a walk through jungle terrain with the odd clear view. the other a walk up a steep granite slope so a little hazardous but it had loads of other people all doing it so this must make it OK?

Swimming with turtles popping up for air near you and Frigate birds diving in close proximity for fish is fantastic, being shit on by the birds and nipped by a crab is less fantastic.

Rio De Janeiro

Summary

Rio de Janeiro Is a very big, noisy, dirty, congested city, sandwiched between beautiful beaches and fantastic green mountains.  Due to our budget, we stayed in some very dodgy areas (read the full blog for more on this). We walked up Sugar Loaf Mountain, sat on Copacabana Beach and cycled to Christ the Redeemer. To top it all off we paddled in an outrigger with a local crew across to Niteroi. Which interestingly is where we are now and will be for a few days due to a little accident with a car. We are both OK just a little sore.

Full Blog – Gary in normal text, Ginette in italics 

We are now in South America, Rio De Janeiro.

3rd and 4th June

We spent our first night in a hostel north of the airport it was only a short taxi ride, we arrived in Rio at about 8pm so didn’t fancy putting the bikes together at the airport.

Ginette – the flight went quickly, we flew with Norwegian Airways, food and sound quality on the sound system were mediocre but it was a budget flight which cost £177 without bikes and additional luggage.

I spent ages trying to find accommodation for the first night. I had been spoilt for choice. I eventually decided on something close to the airport, cheap with wifi. In my essential criteria, I should have included somewhere safe. When we arrived at the hostel the taxi driver insisted I stayed in the car. The hostel was in a very run down area of the city, we had driven past derelict buildings, piles of rubbish, smelly river added to this the roads were in a very poor state. The hostel was more like a very run down Airbnb we were greeted by a lovely young man with a facial twitch, who helped us to unload our bags and bikes and take them inside the compound, which was behind metal gates. The young man was keen to help us settle in we asked him if there was a bar/shop close by and in his broken English it was clear he did not think this was a good idea and showed us a menu. He proceeded to take our order and went out to purchase a fish burger and a beer for us. The room was not too bad, it had air conditioning but the walls were paper thin, our neighbours were very noisy but not as loud as the dogs that barked all night.

We had already decided to move closer to the beach on our second day in Rio but before doing so I thought it wise to check which areas we should avoid and was not surprised to find that tourists should avoid the northern areas especially the favelas (low run down areas) which is where we had spent our first night. On the upside, we got to see parts of the city most tourists don’t and probably don’t want to see. 

The following day we cycled down to another hostel called Chill hostel not far from Copacabana beach. This was not a pleasant ride.
We had a lot of heavy traffic to contend with but the main problem was trying to navigate a route that didn’t use the main flyover arteries.

Ginette – not a pleasant ride is an understatement, the roads were wet from the rain and extremely busy with buses and big trucks whizzing by us all morning. A 20-mile journey took us 5 hours to complete. In fairness, this included lunch break which was in a self-service restaurant costing £7 for two big plates of food and a large beer.

We cycled around and passed lots of homeless people laying in doorways, under bridges and on the pavement. The majority of them lying lifeless under blankets covering their bodies and faces. I couldn’t help thinking how long did a dead person have to lie there before someone noticed them. It was rather depressing, but not unlike some of our cities.

After a spot of dinner, we set off again using the Apple iPhone and maps.me (I had to come off the Garmin route as it wanted me to take the big roads) the rest of the route was much better. We cycled paths and rode by the coast and docks the scenery was a great improvement on the earlier smelly dirty bits. (Smelly bits included raw sewage in the river, lots of it eww)

Ginette – We cycled passed the Science Museum which is an amazing looking building

Our hostel was in what might be termed a lower class area, on the top of a very steep hill overlooking Copacabana Beach and was pleasantly really nice.
Just as it was getting dark, which is about 6pm here, there were a few rounds of automatic gunfire nearby. We had seen lots of armed police and soldiers all day but hadn’t felt threatened, the armed presence is very high and somehow a little reassuring and unsettling at the same time.

We were both a bit weary and jet lagged so we had an early night, oh what party animals we are.

Ginette – the hostel is a big improvement on our previous one, the view (if you ignore the run-down properties below us) is very picturesque however I did not think sleep would come easily as we were surrounded by small ghetto type bars playing loud music but not long after inserting my earplugs and placing my eye blind on I was out like a light and slept really well. Rio 

5th June

Ginette

a day of a climatising ourselves, to one of the biggest cities in South America.

It was a wet start to the day so we spent the morning internet searching, Gary seeking out things to do in Rio, while I looked at what to do in South America.

Mid-morning we set out to explore the Botanical Gardens only to arrive at our destination and decide that we didn’t want to spend £6 looking around, it was still very wet and not the weather to wander aimlessly around gardens. It was not a wasted trip we experienced going on the subway and taking a bus, which interestingly you access via a turnstile and has signs encouraging you to give up your seat for pregnant ladies, the elderly, disabled and obese. Unlike the Canary Islands, the drivers had no respect for the passengers and set off as passengers old or young tried to make their way to their seats. They also drove recklessly accelerating and jumping lanes to reach their destination as quick as they could. Passengers almost had to throw themselves out into the road to get noticed at bus stops. 

We made our way back to the hostel via the lake (interesting birds), beaches (men fishing for rubbish (definitely not fish) from the sewer outlet) and shops (oh so many shops…) we didn’t get back to the hostel until 6pm we were exhausted. Our body clocks are taking a while to get used to Rio time, this is not helped by the fact that it gets dark at 4.30pm (still winter here) and it is so noisy at night.

On 6 Jun

I must be starting to relax a little as this morning I felt unsettled and wanted to do some exercise.

We opted to walk to Sugarloaf mountain, this was only approx 3 miles from our hostel. The walk to the area was just another meander through noisy busy city streets. But once there we walked along quiet forest type path with crashing the Atlantic Ocean on one side and a steep forest-clad rock on the other.

There is a cable car but it costs and we had been told we could walk up to the first cable car stop so opted to do this.

The climb was ok, a little steep in places but all up steps which made it manageable even though the ground was wet from the rain overnight. The views at the cable car station were very panoramic, looking out over the sea, islands, the city and Christ the Redeemer statue.

As we are cheapskates we didn’t bother paying to go the next hill as the views were very good and we’d been informed by our host that it wasn’t worth the money. On the way down we were treated to a close encounter with Marmoset monkeys, these are small monkeys and must be used to humans as they ventured pretty close to us.

If we had taken the cable car then we would not have had this experience.

The sun has finally come out so we had a short rest on Praia Vermelha beach.
We then took a picnic to Copacabana beach, it is a huge beach but was windy and had lots of hawkers selling their wares, including an offer of some weed.

A nice hot sunny day, topped off with the discovery that a litre of Rum is only £8, making it cheaper than most of the wines.

Our hostel is in a Favela area called Babylonia, a Favela is a slum area of potential high crime. We didn’t know this when we booked but it feels safe if not a little edgy. We figured if it was that dangerous then surely our hostel would not be able to operate or be advertised on Booking.com.

However, at the end of the day before sunset, we sat outside a local bar and an armed police patrol came by on full alert with rifles aimed at the houses and pulled tight into their shoulders ready for action. It was a really surreal feeling seeing this obviously dangerous and threatening behaviour whilst sitting with some locals and tourists that acted as if nothing strange was happening. So much so that I nearly forgot to include this little adventure in my diary.

The police and army have a very high presence on all the streets, they are everywhere and usually in large groups, having been here for a few days it now seems normal.

If you have a minute look up this area on the internet machine, we did after we returned from the bar and it sounds far worse than it looks, but then we don’t venture out at night.

Ginette – please note by the time you read this blog we will have moved to a different area. 

7th June

We took a cycle ride to Christ the Redeemer, the initial ride through the city was a bit pants, when we reached the bottom of the climb we had to push the bikes as the road was steep and cobbled, after a short time we joined another road which was covered in asphalt and not as steep.

When we reached the top we decided not to pay the entrance fee as the views had been pretty good on the ride up (we are on a budget don’t you know).

There was light traffic up the hill but nothing like the chaos of the city. I was blessed with a view of a hummingbird which fed on a few red flowers in front of me.

After the Christ statue, we heeded further into the parque Nacional Tijuca, which is a rainforest in the mountains on the edge of Rio. The roads were much quieter, it would appear everyone else goes back down the hill after visiting the statue.

Ginette – their loss as it was quiet and much better than returning to the smelly, noisy city.

We couldn’t see a lot other than huge trees and waterfalls as the forest was pretty dense but the atmosphere was something else, all the time riding along listening to the sounds of the forest. I did have a bird of prey swoop in front of me screeching a call, I think it was disappointed it couldn’t make a meal of me.

Once out of the mountains we joined the beach road far further south than planned, we had an 8-mile cycle ride all along a great cycle path along all the beaches such as Ipanema and Copacabana.
We stopped at Ipanema to sunbathe for an hour, we were positioned near an open beach shower but I lucked out as it was only the men who came and washed the sand off, Ginette was happy as these guys were all nearly as fit as me.

Ginette – I think we need to return tomorrow. The beaches in Rio definitely attract fit, tanned bodies, it was easy to spot the westerner.

We stopped at Copacabana to watch the surfers while listening to some live music. As the sun was setting the beach areas came alive, everyone using the space, to either play, sell goods, ride/skate, sing, dance surf or play in the sea. It was fantastic to sit there and soak up the atmosphere. We had to cycle back at a leisurely pace as there was so many other cyclists, scooters and foot traffic.

8th June

We set an alarm for 5.50am so that we could get a taxi to an outrigger canoe club.

Ginette
The taxi driver drove as if he was on a mission, shooting red lights and speeding around corners. Well, we had interrupted him, he was in a bar when we approached the cab, in fairness he could have been drinking coffee.

Rio Ocean Club agreed to take us out on one of there Saturday training sessions, they run these as well for non-paddlers as an Air B and B experience, we were charged £14.80 for the two of us (we think we received a discount as we are experienced, paddlers).

We took 3 OC6 canoes out. The entry into the sea was difficult due to the way the waves breaking on the shore, Ginette was in seat two and lost her footing but managed to hang on while we paddled out of the breaking surf then she got in the canoe but unfortunately cut her leg and elbow in the process. We were OK there were no sharks in the bay.

The paddle was pretty relaxed, far more so than we are used too but it was a great experience paddling in the warm waters of Rio with all the iconic scenery around us. There was a Navy submarine anchored offshore which is not normally there so we paddled out to it for a photo shoot.

We paddled across the bay to a small beach near Niteroi, there were a lot of other Outriggers there.

It was national clean-up day and the outrigger clubs had got together and cleaned up the beach.  Ginette – I was amused the paddlers were being helped by some local garbage cleaners on the reverse of their high vis tops they had the word GARI, apparently, this is the term for garbage cleaner. 

We all gathered in a hand holding circle and the two coaches gave an inspirational talk (at least we think it was inspirational we don’t know what was said as it was all in Portuguese). We find that the paddling communities around the world gather in these circles so even though we didn’t understand the language we understood the sentiment.

On the way back there were lots of other outrigger canoes, the sport is pretty popular here.

The paddle back onto the beach was the most exciting bit getting through the crashing waves in one piece. Our hosts were lovely and we had a great morning.

Paddling done we set off on foot to visit a landmark set of painted steep steps. On route, we came across an open market with live music so we had a snack and rest.

After the steps we walked up to Santa Teresa, an area of bars and arty stuff, popular we think because it has an old tram system running to it, we were not that impressed with the area, maybe if we had gone by tram instead of walking we may have bought into the atmosphere a bit more.

We chilled on Copacabana beach till the sun played hide and seek.

Ginette – I was hoping one of the many hawkers would stop and sell us sunglasses, sun tops or sweetcorn but the only thing we were offered was a lime alcoholic drink which we refused. Why is it when you want to be hassled nothing happens and when you want to chill out you are hassled none stop?

9 Jun 2019,  Crash Sunday 

Before we get to the crash.

We set off from our hostel ready to start our adventure, we headed along the cycle path to the ferry port past Flamingo beach.
It was Sunday and the beginning of the festival month for Rio the whole area had a vibrant and friendly feeling, lots of families out for walks, people playing football, volleyball, skateboarding plus several graduation ceremonies with all the students in caps and gowns and families in Sunday best. It was a lovely cycle ride and very slow due to the number of people around.

We took the ferry over to the East side to Niteroi, a straight forward affair and very easy plus cheap at approx £3 for both us and the bikes.

We headed towards a hostel ( we hadn’t booked as we were not sure if we could get the ferry) when I heard a thud and unpleasant gut-wrenching noises.

Ginette had been knocked off her bike by a taxi. She was laid on the floor with panniers spread across the road, she told me she was fine but she didn’t look it.

I am not an author so I can’t describe the thoughts and feelings when you look back at this scene other than the supposed relief that comes with Ginette talking and trying to stay calm herself. If I was an author then this could fill at least a whole book chapter.

However, she gingerly made her way to the side of the road while I picked up the spread of panniers. She was limping and shocked but it didn’t look like she was seriously hurt.
The taxi driver and his passenger stopped and were with us for ages, another cyclist stopped that fortunately spoke great English.
Ginette was bruised and battered but refused the offer from the taxi to take her to the hospital. The cyclist helped me repair Ginette’s bike which had the rear pannier bent so it was rubbing on the wheel. Hence the bike is OK and it’s only Net left with the bruises.
It looks like she took the hit on the pack pannier. This was from a side street, the lights had turned green as we had crossed In front of them and the taxi had sprinted off without seeing Ginette in front of him.

The helpers were very attentive but eventually, we were left to our own devices.
Ginette did try to cycle but her left leg was too sore.
Whilst sitting deciding what to do next with my I-phone in hand a couple of teenagers came and warned me that I should not have my phone out in this area as it is not safe, as you can imagine this was a bit disconcerting when we were as stuck as we were.

There were several options, send Ginette on in a taxi and I could walk the bikes or head for a google searched nearby apartment 1.5 k away. Ginette couldn’t cycle but was able to hobble along

Pushing the bike, when we reached the turnoff she was coping well so we opted to head for the hostel, another 3K.

On arrival they only had shared bunk rooms (8 to a room) so we used what little WiFi was available to book another place (the WiFi is shocking, it took ages to get on a site and do any searches, the lady at the hostel tethered our phone to hers so we could use her internet). We eventually booked a hotel but it was a further 2K back the way we had walked.

It took ages to find the place, booking.com has a nasty habit of not having the correct location for its hotels, this one was 3 blocks further down the road than marked on their map.

On the upside, it was in a good location right near the beach.

As it was late we ate in the hotel, banana pizza oh my god it was lush.

Ginette – first let me start by reiterating I am fine, I have twisted my knee so we have decided to rest it for a couple of days. The crash could have happened anywhere, the taxi driver claimed he didn’t see me as I was following Gary across the junction I can only imagine he was concentrating on the road ahead and not on the cycle path that ran across the junction. At least he stopped and seemed genuinely concerned. The cyclist that stopped said that car drivers have no respect for cyclists and that there are a lot of accidents but that is the same the world over. It has not deterred me but I think I may be a little more caution for a few days.

photos to be uploaded when we have better internet

Rio de Janeiro

Summary

Rio de Janeiro Is a very big, noisy, dirty, congested city, sandwiched between beautiful beaches and fantastic green mountains.  Due to our budget, we stayed in some very dodgy areas (read the full blog for more on this). We walked up Sugar Loaf Mountain, sat on Copacabana Beach and cycled to Christ the Redeemer. To top it all off we paddled in an outrigger with a local crew across to Niteroi. Which interestingly is where we are now and will be for a few days due to a little accident with a car. We are both OK just a little sore.

Full Blog – Gary in normal text, Ginette in italics 

We are now in South America, Rio De Janeiro.

3rd and 4th June

We spent our first night in a hostel north of the airport it was only a short taxi ride, we arrived in Rio at about 8pm so didn’t fancy putting the bikes together at the airport.

Ginette – the flight went quickly, we flew with Norwegian Airways, food and sound quality on the sound system were mediocre but it was a budget flight which cost £177 without bikes and additional luggage.

I spent ages trying to find accommodation for the first night. I had been spoilt for choice. I eventually decided on something close to the airport, cheap with wifi. In my essential criteria, I should have included somewhere safe. When we arrived at the hostel the taxi driver insisted I stayed in the car. The hostel was in a very run down area of the city, we had driven past derelict buildings, piles of rubbish, smelly river added to this the roads were in a very poor state. The hostel was more like a very run down Airbnb we were greeted by a lovely young man with a facial twitch, who helped us to unload our bags and bikes and take them inside the compound, which was behind metal gates. The young man was keen to help us settle in we asked him if there was a bar/shop close by and in his broken English it was clear he did not think this was a good idea and showed us a menu. He proceeded to take our order and went out to purchase a fish burger and a beer for us. The room was not too bad, it had air conditioning but the walls were paper thin, our neighbours were very noisy but not as loud as the dogs that barked all night.

We had already decided to move closer to the beach on our second day in Rio but before doing so I thought it wise to check which areas we should avoid and was not surprised to find that tourists should avoid the northern areas especially the favelas (low run down areas) which is where we had spent our first night. On the upside, we got to see parts of the city most tourists don’t and probably don’t want to see. 

The following day we cycled down to another hostel called Chill hostel not far from Copacabana beach. This was not a pleasant ride.
We had a lot of heavy traffic to contend with but the main problem was trying to navigate a route that didn’t use the main flyover arteries.

Ginette – not a pleasant ride is an understatement, the roads were wet from the rain and extremely busy with buses and big trucks whizzing by us all morning. A 20-mile journey took us 5 hours to complete. In fairness, this included lunch break which was in a self-service restaurant costing £7 for two big plates of food and a large beer.

We cycled around and passed lots of homeless people laying in doorways, under bridges and on the pavement. The majority of them lying lifeless under blankets covering their bodies and faces. I couldn’t help thinking how long did a dead person have to lie there before someone noticed them. It was rather depressing, but not unlike some of our cities.

After a spot of dinner, we set off again using the Apple iPhone and maps.me (I had to come off the Garmin route as it wanted me to take the big roads) the rest of the route was much better. We cycled paths and rode by the coast and docks the scenery was a great improvement on the earlier smelly dirty bits. (Smelly bits included raw sewage in the river, lots of it eww)

Ginette – We cycled passed the Science Museum which is an amazing looking building

Our hostel was in what might be termed a lower class area, on the top of a very steep hill overlooking Copacabana Beach and was pleasantly really nice.
Just as it was getting dark, which is about 6pm here, there were a few rounds of automatic gunfire nearby. We had seen lots of armed police and soldiers all day but hadn’t felt threatened, the armed presence is very high and somehow a little reassuring and unsettling at the same time.

We were both a bit weary and jet lagged so we had an early night, oh what party animals we are.

Ginette – the hostel is a big improvement on our previous one, the view (if you ignore the run-down properties below us) is very picturesque however I did not think sleep would come easily as we were surrounded by small ghetto type bars playing loud music but not long after inserting my earplugs and placing my eye blind on I was out like a light and slept really well. 

5th June

Ginette

a day of a climatising ourselves, to one of the biggest cities in South America.

It was a wet start to the day so we spent the morning internet searching, Gary seeking out things to do in Rio, while I looked at what to do in South America.

Mid-morning we set out to explore the Botanical Gardens only to arrive at our destination and decide that we didn’t want to spend £6 looking around, it was still very wet and not the weather to wander aimlessly around gardens. It was not a wasted trip we experienced going on the subway and taking a bus, which interestingly you access via a turnstile and has signs encouraging you to give up your seat for pregnant ladies, the elderly, disabled and obese. Unlike the Canary Islands, the drivers had no respect for the passengers and set off as passengers old or young tried to make their way to their seats. They also drove recklessly accelerating and jumping lanes to reach their destination as quick as they could. Passengers almost had to throw themselves out into the road to get noticed at bus stops. 

We made our way back to the hostel via the lake (interesting birds), beaches (men fishing for rubbish (definitely not fish) from the sewer outlet) and shops (oh so many shops…) we didn’t get back to the hostel until 6pm we were exhausted. Our body clocks are taking a while to get used to Rio time, this is not helped by the fact that it gets dark at 4.30pm (still winter here) and it is so noisy at night.

6 Jun

I must be starting to relax a little as this morning I felt unsettled and wanted to do some exercise.

We opted to walk to Sugarloaf mountain, this was only approx 3 miles from our hostel. The walk to the area was just another meander through noisy busy city streets. But once there we walked along quiet forest type path with crashing the Atlantic Ocean on one side and a steep forest-clad rock on the other.

There is a cable car but it costs and we had been told we could walk up to the first cable car stop so opted to do this.

The climb was ok, a little steep in places but all up steps which made it manageable even though the ground was wet from the rain overnight. The views at the cable car station were very panoramic, looking out over the sea, islands, the city and Christ the Redeemer statue.

As we are cheapskates we didn’t bother paying to go the next hill as the views were very good and we’d been informed by our host that it wasn’t worth the money. On the way down we were treated to a close encounter with Marmoset monkeys, these are small monkeys and must be used to humans as they ventured pretty close to us.

If we had taken the cable car then we would not have had this experience.

The sun has finally come out so we had a short rest on Praia Vermelha beach.
We then took a picnic to Copacabana beach, it is a huge beach but was windy and had lots of hawkers selling their wares, including an offer of some weed.

A nice hot sunny day, topped off with the discovery that a litre of Rum is only £8, making it cheaper than most of the wines.

Our hostel is in a Favela area called Babylonia, a Favela is a slum area of potential high crime. We didn’t know this when we booked but it feels safe if not a little edgy. We figured if it was that dangerous then surely our hostel would not be able to operate or be advertised on Booking.com.

However, at the end of the day before sunset, we sat outside a local bar and an armed police patrol came by on full alert with rifles aimed at the houses and pulled tight into their shoulders ready for action. It was a really surreal feeling seeing this obviously dangerous and threatening behaviour whilst sitting with some locals and tourists that acted as if nothing strange was happening. So much so that I nearly forgot to include this little adventure in my diary.

The police and army have a very high presence on all the streets, they are everywhere and usually in large groups, having been here for a few days it now seems normal.

If you have a minute look up this area on the internet machine, we did after we returned from the bar and it sounds far worse than it looks, but then we don’t venture out at night.

Ginette – please note by the time you read this blog we will have moved to a different area. 

7th June

We took a cycle ride to Christ the Redeemer, the initial ride through the city was a bit pants, when we reached the bottom of the climb we had to push the bikes as the road was steep and cobbled, after a short time we joined another road which was covered in asphalt and not as steep.

When we reached the top we decided not to pay the entrance fee as the views had been pretty good on the ride up (we are on a budget don’t you know).

There was light traffic up the hill but nothing like the chaos of the city. I was blessed with a view of a hummingbird which fed on a few red flowers in front of me.

After the Christ statue, we heeded further into the parque Nacional Tijuca, which is a rainforest in the mountains on the edge of Rio. The roads were much quieter, it would appear everyone else goes back down the hill after visiting the statue.

Ginette – their loss as it was quiet and much better than returning to the smelly, noisy city.

We couldn’t see a lot other than huge trees and waterfalls as the forest was pretty dense but the atmosphere was something else, all the time riding along listening to the sounds of the forest. I did have a bird of prey swoop in front of me screeching a call, I think it was disappointed it couldn’t make a meal of me.

Once out of the mountains we joined the beach road far further south than planned, we had an 8-mile cycle ride all along a great cycle path along all the beaches such as Ipanema and Copacabana.

We stopped at Ipanema to sunbathe for an hour, we were positioned near an open beach shower but I lucked out as it was only the men who came and washed the sand off, Ginette was happy as these guys were all nearly as fit as me.

Ginette – I think we need to return tomorrow. The beaches in Rio definitely attract fit, tanned bodies, it was easy to spot the westerner.

We stopped at Copacabana to watch the surfers while listening to some live music. As the sun was setting the beach areas came alive, everyone using the space, to either play, sell goods, ride/skate, sing, dance surf or play in the sea. It was fantastic to sit there and soak up the atmosphere. We had to cycle back at a leisurely pace as there was so many other cyclists, scooters and foot traffic.

8th June

We set an alarm for 5.50am so that we could get a taxi to an outrigger canoe club.

Ginette
The taxi driver drove as if he was on a mission, shooting red lights and speeding around corners. Well, we had interrupted him, he was in a bar when we approached the cab, in fairness he could have been drinking coffee.

Rio Ocean Club agreed to take us out on one of there Saturday training sessions, they run these as well for non-paddlers as an Air B and B experience, we were charged £14.80 for the two of us (we think we received a discount as we are experienced, paddlers).

We took 3 OC6 canoes out. The entry into the sea was difficult due to the way the waves breaking on the shore, Ginette was in seat two and lost her footing but managed to hang on while we paddled out of the breaking surf then she got in the canoe but unfortunately cut her leg and elbow in the process. We were OK there were no sharks in the bay.

The paddle was pretty relaxed, far more so than we are used too but it was a great experience paddling in the warm waters of Rio with all the iconic scenery around us. There was a Navy submarine anchored offshore which is not normally there so we paddled out to it for a photo shoot.

We paddled across the bay to a small beach near Niteroi, there were a lot of other Outriggers there.

It was national clean-up day and the outrigger clubs had got together and cleaned up the beach.  Ginette – I was amused the paddlers were being helped by some local garbage cleaners on the reverse of their high vis tops they had the word GARI, apparently, this is the term for garbage cleaner. 

We all gathered in a hand holding circle and the two coaches gave an inspirational talk (at least we think it was inspirational we don’t know what was said as it was all in Portuguese). We find that the paddling communities around the world gather in these circles so even though we didn’t understand the language we understood the sentiment.

On the way back there were lots of other outrigger canoes, the sport is pretty popular here.

The paddle back onto the beach was the most exciting bit getting through the crashing waves in one piece. Our hosts were lovely and we had a great morning.

Paddling done we set off on foot to visit a landmark set of painted steep steps. On route, we came across an open market with live music so we had a snack and rest.

After the steps we walked up to Santa Teresa, an area of bars and arty stuff, popular we think because it has an old tram system running to it, we were not that impressed with the area, maybe if we had gone by tram instead of walking we may have bought into the atmosphere a bit more.

We chilled on Copacabana beach till the sun played hide and seek.

Ginette – I was hoping one of the many hawkers would stop and sell us sunglasses, sun tops or sweetcorn but the only thing we were offered was a lime alcoholic drink which we refused. Why is it when you want to be hassled nothing happens and when you want to chill out you are hassled none stop?

9 Jun 2019,  Crash Sunday 

Before we get to the crash.

We set off from our hostel ready to start our adventure, we headed along the cycle path to the ferry port past Flamingo beach.
It was Sunday and the beginning of the festival month for Rio the whole area had a vibrant and friendly feeling, lots of families out for walks, people playing football, volleyball, skateboarding plus several graduation ceremonies with all the students in caps and gowns and families in Sunday best. It was a lovely cycle ride and very slow due to the number of people around.

We took the ferry over to the East side to Niteroi, a straight forward affair and very easy plus cheap at approx £3 for both us and the bikes.

We headed towards a hostel ( we hadn’t booked as we were not sure if we could get the ferry) when I heard a thud and unpleasant gut-wrenching noises.

Ginette had been knocked off her bike by a taxi. She was laid on the floor with panniers spread across the road, she told me she was fine but she didn’t look it.

I am not an author so I can’t describe the thoughts and feelings when you look back at this scene other than the supposed relief that comes with Ginette talking and trying to stay calm herself. If I was an author then this could fill at least a whole book chapter.

However, she gingerly made her way to the side of the road while I picked up the spread of panniers. She was limping and shocked but it didn’t look like she was seriously hurt.
The taxi driver and his passenger stopped and were with us for ages, another cyclist stopped that fortunately spoke great English.

Ginette was bruised and battered but refused the offer from the taxi to take her to the hospital. The cyclist helped me repair Ginette’s bike which had the rear pannier bent so it was rubbing on the wheel. Hence the bike is OK and it’s only Net left with the bruises.
It looks like she took the hit on the pack pannier. This was from a side street, the lights had turned green as we had crossed In front of them and the taxi had sprinted off without seeing Ginette in front of him.

The helpers were very attentive but eventually, we were left to our own devices.
Ginette did try to cycle but her left leg was too sore.

Whilst sitting deciding what to do next with my I-phone in hand a couple of teenagers came and warned me that I should not have my phone out in this area as it is not safe, as you can imagine this was a bit disconcerting when we were as stuck as we were.

There were several options, send Ginette on in a taxi and I could walk the bikes or head for a google searched nearby apartment 1.5 k away. Ginette couldn’t cycle but was able to hobble along

Pushing the bike, when we reached the turnoff she was coping well so we opted to head for the hostel, another 3K.

On arrival they only had shared bunk rooms (8 to a room) so we used what little WiFi was available to book another place (the WiFi is shocking, it took ages to get on a site and do any searches, the lady at the hostel tethered our phone to hers so we could use her internet). We eventually booked a hotel but it was a further 2K back the way we had walked.

It took ages to find the place, booking.com has a nasty habit of not having the correct location for its hotels, this one was 3 blocks further down the road than marked on their map.

On the upside, it was in a good location right near the beach.

As it was late we ate in the hotel, banana pizza oh my god it was lush.

Ginette – first let me start by reiterating I am fine, I have twisted my knee so we have decided to rest it for a couple of days. The crash could have happened anywhere, the taxi driver claimed he didn’t see me as I was following Gary across the junction I can only imagine he was concentrating on the road ahead and not on the cycle path that ran across the junction. At least he stopped and seemed genuinely concerned. The cyclist that stopped said that car drivers have no respect for cyclists and that there are a lot of accidents but that is the same the world over. It has not deterred me but I think I may be a little more caution for a few days.

Pennine Way

Pennine Way

Distance

423 km or 265 miles

ascent 11,343m

the weather threw everything at us, hailstone, rain, wind (lots of wind), and sunshine

Ginette enjoyed 98% of the route

Gary enjoyed far less due to very sore feet and blisters.

On 4 May 2019

We have decided to walk the Pennine Way ( it’s 423k from Edale to the Scottish border) as we have time to play with whilst we are in the UK.

We travelled up to Sheffield by Megabus, had one night in an apartment and then took the train to Edale, the start of the walk.

Unfortunately, we didn’t take into account that it was a British bank holiday. The train was heaving with all sorts, there were groups dressed for hiking and tourists. When we got off the train it was easy to find the route as we simply had to follow the crowd.

We were not happy, and the weather was not too good either, I had visions of having to walk the first three days in a conveyer belt of people.

The first part of the route was busy, especially at Jacobs ladder (no we was not in Cheddar gorge). But once this attraction was passed then the footfall became less.

The views, as usual, were stunning. We have swapped the warmer climes for England’s greenest surrounds.

We had a few ups then a long flat high stretch of bog, fortunately, the path has been laid with stone blocks, this section must have been much harder in Wainright’s day.

Ginette has not been a happy bunny, she was up for this walk, so the walk itself is not the issue, it’s the British weather she is not happy with. We have had a cold and very windy day with spells of hailstones. On the bright side at least the hailstones don’t soak you like rain would. She has been cold every time we stop, hence she is slaving me away with fewer breaks. She walks faster than me and often has to wait for me to catch up.

The people up north talk funny, not proper like what I do. Our apartment apparently had a baff, but I could only see a bath. Fortunately, Ginette is from these parts and is fluent so has been translating for me.

We arrived at a campsite at 7pm, they have upped their prices just for this weekend, but on the upside Ginette managed to persuade the campsite owner to sell he4 a bottle of his wife’s wine for a fiver.

On 5 May 2019,

Day 2 of the Pennine Way.

A much easier walk than yesterday but still hilly.

We have had several “I am at the top of the world” occasions.

We have walked over several moors, some blackened by last years fires.

We stopped for a beer just at the end of the day, in a pub where a Swiss couple had stopped to charge their devices they are also walking this route. Amazingly they’d been on the road for three years already and travel by cycle and walking. The guy had completed the Pennine Way route in January as part of a race called the Spine race. The route has to be completed as fast as possible, competitors are not allowed to sleep in a bed or take an6 transport. It sounded brutal, lots o& sleeping in fields, toilets and church floors.

Ginette is still not a happy bunny, her mood seemed to lift today but this evening we had a tiff, she is not happy with wild camping she is struggling to get warm in the tent and as a result is not sleeping well.

On 6 May 2019

We had a great view this morning from our wild camping site.

After porridge and coffee, we broke camp and set off around the reservoirs.

Ginette and I are having a few issues, as I am sure many others do. We will work through these, they are just a little bit more tricky when we are both tired and weary and living in each overs space. Just a little later a few kissing gates gave us a lovely opportunity to kiss and make up, the good news is there were several kissing gates.

Would you believe it, Ginette doesn’t like wild camping, at least not in the cold.

Today we tried to meet up with Steve Kidd, a gentleman we met on La Graciosa in Lanzerote. In the end, our paths didn’t cross which was such a shame. Steve kindly agreed to meet us but our rubbish attempts at predicting where we may be meant he was far further north than us, he had even bought us some provisions, which we found the next day all over the floor where a fox or badger had attacked the bag.

We met a man from Belgium who is walking lands end to John o groats, now that’s hard core, however, he didn’t look that fit, he was walking with a limp and looked like he had, had a stroke.

Day 3 walk was a variety of moors, reservoirs and rolling farm lands d the beginning of Brontë Land.

We did get lost a few times, the sign posts have been vandalised in lots of areas and the way is not always clear. I have the route on my Garmin but sometimes the autopilot may change the route slightly, this is not usaully a problem but today we were worried in case we missed Steve walking the other way.

Fortunately, on route we found a little shop called Mays it was amazing, it stocked everything we could possibly need including hot pies.

We camped in Pondon. It was not far from the Pennine Way. The owners are lovely, the cafe was closed when we arrived but they had seen us coming and met us at the door, offered free hot coffee very hospitable. We camped by their lake, a little wet but a pretty setting.

We also had a pub nearby so were able to have a couple of beers, while enjoying being in doors next to a warm fire.

Gary has had to pop a lovely big blister, the beauty’s of walking in new boots.

On 7 May 2019

I would have slept well last night if it was not for the little puppy that kept shoving it’s wet nose in my groin for attention. Let me explain, Ginette gets really cold at night in the tent, which makes no sense when you know how hot she gets in a normal bed. But she has cold spots which are her knees and her bum, hence in the night, I find Net shoving her knees or bum into me so she can share my body heat. If I move she follows me. It is just like when a little puppy is nuzzling you for a cuddle.

My foot is really sore from the blister on my sole, I have even taken pain killers.

I think I must be overcompensating as later today my knee on the same side also started playing up. I feel every bit of 80 years old.

Due to this we took an extended pub break, rested and even dried out our very wet tent and ground sheet. Once we set off again I felt much better, even breaking out into song this afternoon (could have been the beer).

The walk is getting easier as the terrain becomes more rolling. We have still past over moors but the arable land is much more commonplace. We are passing hundreds of lambs so cute but so far haven’t managed to catch one for dinner.

We dropped into Cowley, we actually found the food that Steve Kidd had left for us but some wildlife had got to it first so it was all over the floor, we picked up the plastic and kicked the food so the nearby geese could enjoy it. There was a campsite sign just down the road. We walked to it hoping they had a shop.

The owners of this small site were great, they initially gave us directions to a shop 8 minutes away(in the wrong direction) but when they realised we were only after bread they sat us down in the garden, gave us some bread rolls and then let us have free use of a cabin/shed so we could make ourselves a cup of coffee as well.

Such a nice couple, they didn’t want to take any money but took a donation for a local charity.

By day 4 we were in a much better place mentally, Ginette still hates camping but needs must. I think the easier walking has helped and now we are both starting to hurt we have other things on our mind. Net is still keeping an eye on the weather forecast. She has booked us a room for tomorrow night as it is promising to soak us all day.

On 9 May 2019,

A wet start today, it had rained in the night, we did manage breakfast in the dry but had to pack the tent away wet.

My feet are pretty sore, mainly my left foot. The pain eases as I walk but increases again every time i stop.

We had a short walk today of about 10 miles and finished the day early in Malham. Ginette has booked us a room and it’s a very nice barn converversion.

The walk was pretty easy over farmland with lots os lambs and calves around.

We met a man coming the other way who is walking John O Groats to lands end, he was very chatty so we spent a pleasant little time with him.

We stopped for dinner in a farm shop/cafe in Airton, I stuffed myself with cheese and beans jacket potato, Ginette ha£ homemade soup with potatoe wedges. The locals up North are really friendly and open conversations with you readily. It took us a while to leave the cafe as several people were interested in our travels.

The room we stayed in was great, it felt like a real luxury to have a kettle, how much easier it is to boil water when it can be done with the flick of a switch.

We had the pleasure of a call from Shaun and Kes from Borneo. They are wondering where they should go next on there honeymoon and were asking some advice. We told them to go back to bed (joking).

Ginette is feeling much better, she is a really strong walker and is bouncing ahead of me, often waiting for me to catch up.

The blister I had treated yesterday had swollen up again, no wonder it hurt so much today. I have treated it again hopefully properly this time.

On 9 May 2019

Net slept well but I struggled to sleep, I seem to have an issue transferring from canvas to warm cosy rooms.

The walk would have been far more enjoyable if the weather was not so inclement, we had high winds and some rain. We spent the day with extra layers, hats and hoods up so walking with the tunnel vision the hood gives and also the sounds are restricted, especially fo me as I had my hearing aids in and all I hear is the rustle of the water proof hood.

Now weather aside we had some spectacular moments, if any one wanted a recommendation for a walk this would be at the top of the list.

We left Malham and straight away was treated by a huge rock face called Malham Bech, apparently once a waterfall in the ice age, our walk took us to the top of this feature with great views.

We then had several gorges of rocks up to a large lake called Malham Tarn.

The next treat was a steep climb over rocks which involved using hands and feet to scramble up to the summit of Pen Y Ghent, very windy, wet but great views.

We met an American walking the route on his own, we also bumped into a couple of Dutch guys we had met a few days before.

As the weather was poor we booked into a bunkhouse behind the Golden Lion pub. The bunkhouse can fit 15 but fortunately, only 4 of us were booked in for the evening. Ginette usually hates the idea of bunkhouses but this was her idea as she didn’t want to camp and what’s more, she is actually pleased with the bunkhouse room.

Dinner in the pub tonight, living the dream

We had a good night, it was a very social affair as most of the pub was full of walkers including the American and the Dutch guys.

Net has now booked us into a YHA for tomorrow and the Tan inn For the next couple of nights. We know we will be meeting most of these guys again especially at the Tan Inn.

Today I have finished feeling very weary, Ginette is feeling strong, but as I am writing this she has rosy red cheeks from the roaring fire, drink and food. Life doesn’t get much better.

On 10 May 2019

Last night was very enjoyable with an evening in the pub with several other walkers, then we had the bunk house to ourselves. Not sure what happened to the other 2 who had been booked into the room but it meant we had an uninterrupted nights sleep.

We finished walking by 3 pm a short day with gentle climbing so in effect a bit of a rest day.

Although we had no major hills to walk the countryside was very scenic. We passed in the distance a stone arched railroad viaduct which apparently cost the lives of approx 100 men to build.

We walked next to Ling Gill, a nature reserve with a series of small waterfalls in a gorge.

We stayed in a YHA in an en-suite room, sharing the place with one elderly English woman and a group of German schoolchildren. We reached the hostel before we could check in but all the doors were open and we had access to the toilets and kitchen. It was surprisingly very expensive at £69 a night!

As we finished early we took a trip into town, Hawes. We had a spar which meant we could stock up and we could buy fresh vegetables and fish cakes for dinner (and we had the kitchen to ourselves as the Germans had the staff cooking for them).

The beer in the pub was a lovely couple of pints of old peculiar on our way back to the hostel we took a look around the town and found an old fashioned sweet shop, a real trip down memory lane. We truly were like a couple of kids, we bought hard licourice sticks, army and navy and Yorkshire mix boiled sweets.

12th May

We slept at the Tan Inn bunkhouse last night, not the greatest experience.

The pub itself looks welcoming but the staff all looked like they wanted to be somewhere else, service with a smile had long since past.

We shared our bunk room with 4 young cyclists who were actually in bed before us. As we had all settled down another guest was shown to our room at about 11pm. He had to find his was around in the pitch black and used his phone light to pick one of the remaining top bunks, he was very unsteady on his feet and he was lucky to have made it up the ladder.

Sometime in the night this same gentleman needed to rid himself of all the fluid he had partaken in the bar earlier, he finally managed to reach the floor from his bunk having woken most the room, when he came back again he had the pitch black room to contend with, but this time no phone after attempting to get into bed with one of the cyclists I got up and guided him to his own bunk.

Breakfast was a slow affair, served by the same unhappy staff.

It was a sunny day yeah.

The walk from Tan inn led us straight over a moor which was very boggy, so many people had tried to find a dryer route that it was hard to find the right path. This terrain suited me fine, my feet were sore and the ground was soft and squidgy, I even managed to keep up with Ginette as she was trying to dodge and weave to find the dry route where I just ploughed on (using my poles to check the water depths, some would have been victor of dinky moments).

We reached Clove barn, this had recently been converted to a modern bunkhouse, they have put out signs welcoming anyone to use the facilities and a small group of day walkers were sitting outside doing just that.

We had a coffee and cake for a fee of our choice, the owner then came for a chat and showed us around his main business in the main building where his luxury B and B has a new jacuzzi and a sauna, if the weather hadn’t been so nice we would have been tempted to stay.

Later in the day we passed through a farm with a tuck shop, this was a small kennel type box with an honesty box. We only had 4K to go but the chocolate and fifty drinks looked too tempting. A lady on the farm invited us to sit and rest in their picnic chairs.

We struggled to find and change for the treats we so dearly wanted, after a chat they accepted some Euros. We were also made a cup of tea, the farmer came and sat with us having made himself a tea as well and we spent an enjoyable session chatting with this amiable man and his wife.

It turns out the tuck shop is his 13-year-old daughters’ project. It has been going for three years and is well used by some of the regular eventers. One marathon runner has even requested the type of snacks the other runners would want and the dates they need to be stocked.

We are camped in Middleton on Tees in a caravan site just out of town. After we had cooked we walked the 10 minutes into town to say our goodbyes to the two Dutch guys who go home tomorrow, we had a good evening, meeting another couple of older gentlemen that are doing the full walk, one from Huddersfield the other from Ginette’s home town of Halifax. We hope we meet these two again as they have a cracking sense of fun.

Having left them we stocked up at the co op, then as I was hungry bought a takeaway pizza, what a treat. However, as soon as I opened the lid I lost all but three slices all over the floor. Oh the disappointment, in the end, I sulkily quenched my hunger with some un appetising bread and jam.

In summary, today’s walk was great, brilliant views, easy walking and sunshine. We met some lovely people on the way and in the evening, it’s just a shame my pizza treat was enjoyed by the local wildlife instead of us.

On 13 May 2019

We had a very pleasant start to the day with a walk alongside the River Tees, we have actually paddled the lower stretches in Stockton but the river along this stretch would be too fast flowing shallow and rocky to paddle.

We passed several waterfalls, high fell and low fell then the route ventured further from civilisation but still following the River.

We got lost at one point and added a mile to our day, which was very frustrating.

We came to a massive waterfall and had to scramble up the rock face which was not easy with backpacks on and in hindsight very dangerous.

In the afternoon we had a long trudge across a moor with military firing ringing out next to us, this walk seemed to go on forever but once at the top we were treated to a spectacular view of high cup, this is a huge valley created in the ice age that is like a giant skateboard bowl hundreds of feet tall.

By this stage, we were both very tired but wanted to push on to the camp site and village of Dufton which was only 4 k away. The last stage of the day is always the hardest and this day was no different.

We didn’t get in till 7.30 pm so a pretty hard and long day.

We camped alongside the Australian lads that we met today and a Swiss couple we met a few days ago.

A good nights sleep, well it’s easy when you’re knackered.

The morning included a lot of hill climbing which We really enjoyed, the sun was out all day and we had a clear view across Cumbria. We walked over the highest point of the Pennines passed an observerstory. We met a couple an uncle and nephew team from Essex they were resting at the top we stopped for a quick chat and realised we would probably see them later in the evening.

The afternoon was not so good, we still had good views but we had 10k of long gravel road to walk along which was a bit of a chore. The only thing keeping us going was the thought of a cold pint In the local pub.

We reached Garrigill at about 4 pm which was good however the pub was closed for refurbishment and the only shop was shut. Much to our surprise whilst sitting chatting to the Pennine Walkers from Essex we were offered a cup of coffee from a guy at the nearby B and B for free.

We pitched our tents outside the village hall, they had an honesty box, £7 a night with access to showers, a kitchen and a bunkhouse.

The Swiss couple we have met several times on route also camped here along with the two Essex guys. We have had a great evening sitting and chatting with them all night.

The generous B and B man came around to see us, as there was nowhere to eat he offered to take us to the next town to the fish and chip shop. This meant we had a great meal along with sweets, beer and wine. All curtesy of another’s kindness.

Ginette and I set the tent up but opted to sleep in the bunkhouse in the warm.

On 16 May 2019

We had a good nights sleep in the bunkhouse at Garrigill and breakfast was the standard porridge and coffee but from the luxury of a kettle and proper plates.

We walked 4miles to the next town of Alston. We restocked with food, purchased new poles for Gary to replace his damaged ones and even treated ourselves to a hot egg burger from a cafe. This was all lovely and relaxing but we didn’t leave the town till after 10 am which really hurt us later as we didn’t finish the day till 7.30.

It was an undulating walk across the farmed countryside and also over moors some of which were very boggy. The sun was out and it was an enjoyable day.

We wanted to get into Greenhead, it had a campsite and a pub so we pushed on, so much so we were both knackered as the day was so long.

We considered wild camping earlier in the day on top of the moor and late regretted our decision to push on.

Just outside Greenhead Ginette’s head had told her it was time to stop, normally this was me so it was unusual for Net to be like this. We actually started to put the tent up then realised we had drunk most of our water (it was a hot day) so we packed it away again and pushed on to the town.

We opted to stay in the local youth hostel and had it pretty much to ourselves but I think someone else arrived in the night.

The beer and conversation in the pub was nice we sat with the two men from Yorkshire that we have met several times on route and the Australians. Unfortunately, 2 of their group had pulled out of the walk due to injuries. One of those that had dropped out had organised the trip he’d been inspired by the Santiago Camino Pilgrimage but after researching the route realised that there would be lots of road walking and that due to the American film the route had become very popular with westerners. After researching other walks he had opted to do the Pennine Way. He was walking with his father, who was very gaunt, his friend (we pulled out within days of starting the route) and his friend. It was a shame that Tobias didn’t complete the route but we saw him at the finish and he was happy with his decision, he’d hired a car and toured the local area.

The lounge and kitchen on the YHA made it seem worth the effort of pushing on for so long, but we planned to have a shorter day the next day.

On 16 May 2019

A good nights sleep (although the pain in our feet woke us a few times) rattling around in the huge YHA all on our own, we thought we had someone else but if they were around, we never met them.

Breakfast was left over rice from the night before with onion and tomato plus 4 poached eggs (we bought the raw eggs from the pub’s restaurant the night before).

My feet were aching all night especially one of my blisters, I had to peel off the compede plaster to investigate and the smell under the plaster was rancid. I have decided not to cover again with a standard plaster and have treated it with antiseptic then covered with gauze and tape so that I can air it easier in the evening.

In the night I thought that maybe we would have to have an enforced rest day or even abandon the walk but by morning my foot had dried out and was looking a lot better.

We opted to do a short day of 8 miles to a YHA in Once brewed.

We spent an enjoyable morning walking along Hadrian’s Wall. We had walked this stretch before but it was a while ago and at a much quicker pace. We walked all of Hadrians Wall in 3 and a half days for charity with good friends from the Ring O Bells pub.

The walk along the wall was pretty hilly and we were glad of the shorter day, or at least I was. Ginette has been in a black mood this morning as a short day doesn’t fit in with her competitive nature. She also thought we were off route and didn’t enjoy the slower pace. It later transpired that she had also been concerned because she hadn’t bough5 anything for m6 birthday the following day. We have decided no5 to buy gifts whilst we are travelling bu5 it does go against the grain because she enjoys making my birthday a special day.

The YHA was fully booked by a school group. We stopped at the pub for a couple of pints (they did a great Porter) and walked the short distance back up the road to Windshields farm camp site near Twice brewed (on the map it’s called once brewed).

The owner was great, he gave us the bunkhouse to sleep in which had been newly renovated. We had a kitchen stocked with teas, coffee and bread. He has sold us some wine and chocolate plus gave us a couple of cans of local beer for free.

Ginette – I think he took pity on Gary, he looked really tired, walking with blisters and foot pain is really taking it out of him.

Gary – I actually had a sleep in the afternoon which is rare for me. We spent the late afternoon chilling in the sunshine, making the most of the toast, tea and relaxing

17th May

Yesterday I was so sore and tired I thought that maybe this was the end of the walk for me, I was so pleased to wake up feeling a lot better. My feet were still very sore but pain killers for breakfast helped slightly.

I don’t give up easy so decided to carry on to the next town and reassess there. This is supposed to be fun and although I would normally enjoy walking and pushing myself it’s hard when every step reminds you that you are bruised and blistered.

When you talk to the other walkers they are also feeling the pain so I am not on my own. Although we don’t have to do this walk in one go as we have time on our hands, in my head I know that I need to do this with no breaks to feel I have completed it.

We started the day with about 2 hours walking along Hadrian’s wall, we are lucky as the Pennine Way takes in the best bits of the Hadrians wall walk, this, however, means we had quite a few steep ups and downs to do but with good views either side.

We played spot the British today, we had read that only 4% of foreigners complete the Pennine Way but in our experience, it is much more than this. I would guess that during the Hadrians wall section over 70% were from other countries such as Canada and the USA.

Once we left Hadrian’s wall the foot traffic became much lighter, in fact, we only met one other walker all day, an 82-year-old man out on his own for a 5-mile walk, respect.

The rest of the day was walking over the slightly undulating ground of boggy moors and fir tree forests.

We stopped at a farm with a “pit stop”. This used to be run in the ’80s by the owner’s mother who used to great the walkers and makes them tea. To keep the legacy going they have set up one of their barns so that any walker can shelter, boil the kettle and make tea or coffe and help themselves to the free mIlk from the fridge. They even had snacks such as waggon wheels. You are asked to make a donation but they also invite you to help yourself if you have no cash. These little stops are really good, not only do you get the nourishments you need but the generosity of people really lifts your spirits.

There was a visitors book which made interesting reading. The day before a couple had signed the book at 7pm stating where their day was to end which meant they still had another 2 hours walking to do that night, yuk.

I had planned to stop early at a bunkhouse ( much to Ginettes dismay, she had a target for the day and she is a driven woman) but as the day was sunny and clear and the pain in my feet was being managed with painkillers we continued to finish at the town of Bellingham, getting in at 6pm.

We stayed in the bunkhouse, a rip of at £22 each but comfortable, warm and kitted out with a nice kitchen. The bonus was we ended up with the place to ourselves.

As it was my birthday we had a meal out in a local pub, then a big bowl of Ben and Jerry’s back at the bunkhouse.

It was good to end the day knowing we only had 45 miles and that we would finish the walk even if Ginette had to drag me over the finish line. There was no way I was giving up now.

On 18 May 2019,

We made good use of the bunkhouse kitchen and had eggs on toasted muffins for breakfast.

We stocked up for a couple of nights wild camping at the local CoOp then set off.

We set our dIl6 target at 16 miles, we wanted to reach Forest view at Byrne’s village as we had seen in a write up on the internet that they allowed camping provided you ate there.

The walk was not too strenuous, we had heather moors to cross, some farm land and some large pine forests.

At one stage we were walking along a yellow stone track, so the songs started to come all from the wizard of Oz. We also discovered this area had a brilliant echo so if I sang the songs louder then the echo sang them back to me. This amused me for a while we felt like we had backing singers accompanying us.

In the afternoon tHe weather turned on us giving us a bit of a soaking, the good news is that my feet although still sore, felt better than they had done for days.

We passed a campsite at the 14-mile mark and although wet and cold we pushed on as we wanted to find the pub, this was another 2 miles further down the track. We average 2 miles an hour which mean5 at least another hour in the rain. We couldn’t get any wetter and we were in good spirits so trudged on. We arrived at Forest View only to be told he was full, and his wife was not well so he was having to do all the jobs, he did offer us a room at £60 each including dinner and breakfast but this was out of our budget, when we told him we will move on and wild camp he decided to let us camp on his back garden, £22 each including dinner and breakfast. The Inn was not what we expected at all it was more like a licensed bed and breakfast.

The two Yorkshire gents we had seen a few times along the route were also staying at the Inn. It turned out they’d stayed the previous night and had taken the hotel deal where if you stayed two nights you were provided free transport to and from the half way point of the last stage. William and Andrew had planned their walk very carefully, booking accommodation in advance, arranging for their luggage to be transported and arranging for their wives to meet them at the end of the walk. On previous occasions when we had met them they’d been a good company but unfortunately, they had had words as on the Hadrian Wall section of the route they’d got lost and had to take a bus and a taxi to their destination. This meant in theory they did not complete the full walk. This bothered William far more than Andrew and it meant a fractious night still enjoyable as there were others staying bu5 a little uncomfortable.

We only had 28 miles left and planned to do this in two days which will mean wild camping as there is nowhere else to stop.

On 19 May

We learnt last night that the Inn is up for sale and it was clear that both the husband and wife have had enough.

They were both very particular about how things needed to be done, especially with the way the wet kit is laid out in the drying room, they had good systems going but it was clear they were irritated easily.

The good thing was the food was great, baggies and neaps for me, mushroom risotto for Nettie and we got to meet more walkers. The two people on our table were friends walking the Pennine Way the opposite way to us. One of the men had completed the walk before, but his friend had done very little long distance walking.

I managed to set off with no pain killers and no plasters which was the first time in a while, however after an hour I had to start popping the pills again.

The walk was initially up a steep climb which also involved some bouldering, but once at the top, we then had an undulating plateau over the Cheviot hills to enjoy.

Ginette spotted a group of walkers behind us, we have been looking out for our other weary walkers but it turned out to be a squad of armed foot soldiers on patrol. We walked on the edge of Oterburn army training area and firing range, as well as spotting this squad we could hear artillery in the distance.

We stopped just short of a hill called Windy Gayle and camped with some great views, we ate well and treated ourselves to a hot toddy made with rum. Which we supped knowing we only had 13 miles left so about 7 hours walking, then we are done. It was lovely to be on our own and to share our thoughts about the walk. Nettie has enjoyed it far more than me. We have had a bit of a role reversal which has been interesting and hopefully will make both of us more tolerant on the next stage of our adventure.

On 20th May 2019

We both slept fairly well but woke early and had packed up and set off-by 7 am.

We only have 14 miles to finish the Pennine Way.

My feet felt much better, the pain was bearable with the aid of painkillers which made the walk more enjoyable.

This last stretch over the Cheviots we found this stretch very scenic, we had some steep climbs to go up and down, a bit like Cornwall’s short sharp hills. We also had views over the Scottish plains to one side of us, it was a refreshing change to see flatlands with the different colours of crops such as rapeseed.

Towards the last few miles, we caught up with the Australians and walked with them into Kirk Yetholm.

We finished walking down the gentle slopes into Kirk Yetholm, no fanfare or welcoming party but a nice meal and beers in the local pub of this little Scottish town.

The Aussies were kind enough to give us a lift to the train station at Berwick upon Tweed as the buses from Kirk are few and far between.

We copped for a huge bill to get the train to Manchester, we had made the mistake of booking an apartment in the city without fully researching the costs, we could have bought train tickets for half the price the following day, shit happens.