Endings can often be more difficult than beginnings. Despite the trepidation we felt, heading out into the blue back in 2016, there was an imperative that drove us forward. We’d packed our belongings into a lock-up in Essex, our flight was booked to Trivandrum in India, we’d had countless ‘goodbye’ celebrations. We were off!
And now we are back. Back home in London town, with all the comforts you forget, hot water, cooking for yourself, knowing where light switches are in the dark – the little things. And the big things too – family and friends, smiles and hugs, the embrace of a city we’ve called home for over 30 years. So there is no doubt the ‘Big Adventure’ has ended – we have no flights, hostels or buses booked, no research needed, no visa applications or packing required. We are home.
But of course it’s never that simple. We are readjusting, settling in, and re-discovering our home. Walks around Alexandra Palace or Hampstead Heath, with the golden Autumn leaves and clear blue wintry skies – such a contrast to tropical rainforests. We are seeing our old place in new ways. We don’t have a plan for the future yet – we’re still coming to terms with our new present. It’s still a journey.
So this is an attempt to draw a line at the end of the blog. I’d originally planned to leave it with Farewell Brazil, but as the end of 2018 approached I thought it best that it came full circle.
And with all the images, smells, sights, joy and adventure we’ve experienced over these last two years, the most wonderful thing about travelling is the way your lives coincide with people you would never otherwise meet, doing things you never thought you’d be doing in places that you only dreamed of going to.
So thank you to all of those people we have met along the way for enriching our experiences and our lives. We are lucky indeed to now call so many of you friends.
Look by for a beer if you get the chance!
As it says in the introduction to our blog,
‘Here are the thoughts and pictures from two people in their sixties who have left London to travel and explore. The blog is intended as a personal reflection, a scrapbook and a way of keeping in touch with family and friends. If you are a visitor from elsewhere in this wonderful world, hello and enjoy.’
Now two years later, we’re astonished its been seen over 12,000 times with visitors from more than 60 countries.
Wherever you are from, whoever you are, if you are thinking of going travelling – do it, you will never regret it.
Saying goodbye to Brazil was going to take a little time. Choosing an island paradise as our final destination in South America really was a no-brainer, but getting from Barreirinhas in the Amazon to the remote, beautiful island of Fernando de Noronha required careful planning and complex transport arrangements. Sometimes the journey and the destination seem to merge. It certainly felt like that for part of our final three weeks in Brazil.
A taxi, a five hour bus ride and another taxi took us to the old quarter of São Loís, 250km in the opposite direction to where we were heading; travelling northern Brazil is like that. With a journey of well over 2,000km to go we intended to stop off, explore and rest up along the way.
We’d booked two nights in São Louís, staying in Casa Frankie where a Danish guy Frank had spent time and care restoring the colonial Portuguese house that had once been a brothel.
Although São Louís is (another) big Brazilian city, the old quarter of hilly cobbled streets is relatively compact.
Many of the World Heritage listed buildings show signs of their former regal splendour. In the early nineteenth century, due to slavery and sugar plantations São Louís was one of the wealthiest cities in Brazil, but the majority of these charming structures are now crumbling slowly beneath the weight of neglect and tropical decay.
We were reminded of how Galle in Sri Lanka (see our blog from January 2017) used to look before it’s its restoration and tourist development.
Our visit to São Louís coincided with Brazil’s Independence Day (7th September) so many places were closed. We did get to visit the Centro de Cultura Popular Domingos Vieira Filho and see the fascinating masks costumes and drums that reflect the Afro-Brazilian and indigenous culture of the region.
Exploring São Louís further was curtailed when Anne was struck down with food poisoning. She had barely recovered (a grim 36 hours) before the next stage of our journey – a flight to Fortaleza and a two hour cab ride to Canoa Quebrada.
We’d chosen a good spot for some much needed rest and relaxation. Canoa Quebrada is a seaside town, popular with locals and has a relaxed feel with a central pedestrianised street complete with small bars restaurants and shops. We’d also picked a great Pousada with a comfortable spacious room overlooking the sea, a pool and fantastic breakfasts. The owner of Pousada California comes from Liverpool and was super helpful and friendly. Time on the beach, reading in hammocks and by the pool, it was just what we needed. Plus we got to go on a beach buggy trip across the sands.
I also had a go at paragliding, while Anne watched from solid ground. I ended up doing three trips as the winds kept varying, it was a sublime experience.
Feeling relaxed and revitalised we headed back to the airport at Fontaleza for a flight to Recife and from there to our final destination, the island of Fernando de Noronho.
Fernando de Noronho
Set around 500km off the Northeastern coast of mainland Brazil, Fernando de Noronho holds an almost mythical spot in the minds of many Brazilians. It is a tropical island paradise where pristine beaches meet crystal clear waters, where the natural environment is unspoilt and cooling breezes create a year round summer climate.
For a country so famous for its idyllic beaches, three of the top ten are on this tiny island. The water is warm and visibility is 30m plus. A large part of the island and it’s surrounds has been a national and marine park since the 1980s (astonishingly it was once a penal colony and a military base) and rules regulate and restrict development.
But paradise in Fernando de Noronho has a cost, and the majority of Brazilians will never be able to afford to visit. Flights, accommodation, food and drink are at least double that found anywhere else in Brazil and there is an environmental tax when you enter and a park fee to pay (around £240 for us, but cheaper for locals). For those lucky enough to get to Fernando de Noronho, it really is nourishment for the soul.
We booked some diving on the second day, but found the process a bit disappointing. The dive outfits are efficient and well organised, with good equipment but it tends to be a ‘one size fits all’ operation. A group of twenty people with varying levels of experience on a dive that lasts for forty minutes just didn’t seem worth the cost. Instead we went snorkeling and over the week saw stingrays, turtles, sharks, in fact more marine life than we’d found on our dives.
We booked a boat trip and an island tour during our week on the island and these really gave us a chance to explore the place.
But the clouds lifted and we were visited by a large pod of spinner dolphins
And then there are the views, and the beaches
And so our big adventure is coming to an end. After nearly two years on the road, by the beginning of November we will be back in our home in London town. Right now our minds are racing, excited at the prospect of seeing our wonderful daughter, family and friends. Now does not seem the time to reflect on all we have explored and enjoyed together. Nor does it seem the moment to consider what next.
One thing does remain as true now as when we started.
The Amazon basin is immense – it constitutes half of all the tropical rainforest on earth. It contains the greatest biodiversity of plant species in the world and is home to more than 2.5 million species of insects and thousands of species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles.
It’s a truly global ecology, with around 27 million tones of sand from the Sahara desert, carried by winds and dropped on the Amazon each year. This replaces the phosphates taken out of the soil by the staggering amount of plant growth and the rainforest would be unsustainable without it.
So we knew there was no way we could ‘explore the Amazon’, but we did come across some astonishing and unexpected landscapes and environments in our journey 3,000 km north and west from Recife.
Alter do Chão
A pal in Rio had recommend Alter do Chão in the Amazon basin, on the banks of the Rio Tapajós. It was a good base for exploration.
Having said that we had trouble finding the accommodation we had booked. It was way out of town and up a dirt track that the taxi driver couldn’t even attempt to drive up. Luckily, and before it got dark, we found an alternative, a Pousada – Coraçāo Verde in town just a two minute walk from the town square. Friendly and helpful people. We signed up for a boat trip early the next day to the Canal do Jari – up the Tapajós and on to the Amazon river itself.
By happy chance the other people from the Pousada who signed up to the trip were two independent, English-speaking, young women travellers, Eloise and Ambra. They both had very different travel experiences and were great company, plus Eloise was fluent in Portuguese and Ambra very capable in Portunhol – the combination of Spanish and Portuguese.
The waves picked up as we entered the seemingly boundless Amazon river. Silt and sandbanks are places where trees and humans seem to cling on, with other land points distant on the horizon.
We stopped at a point on the riverbank where a local biologist/guide took the four of us walking through the forest. Her knowledge and sharp eyesight ensured we saw plants, fruits, butterflies, monkeys, birds and sloths.
The sloths were wonderful …
In the gloom and shadow of the rainforest we saw much more than I could photograph adequately or identify; any ‘birders’ out there, feel free to comment!
On our way back down the river we were lucky enough to come across a pod of pink freshwater dolphins. The boat stopped and for about fifteen minutes they swam in the river around us.
Outside of the dense forest, around the giant lillypads, the birdlife was easier to spot.
The following day Anne and I spent the afternoon on the local beach, not something we expected to find in the Amazon. But the sandbar just a quick rowboat trip from Alter do Chão is thought by many to be one of Brazil’s best.
Certainly swimming in the cool freshwater waves and sitting on the soft white sand was pretty idyllic, as was the sunset.
I went on another boat trip the following day with Ambra, this time to the Floresta National do Tapajós. It’s a 9km hike from primary to secondary forest and our guide showed us some of the rainforests unique plants. We also spotted what he called a honey monkey and a female tarantula with her egg.
Throughout our walk there was a beautiful, evocative soundtrack of bird calls echoing through the treetops.
After the climb up through the rainforest it was wonderful to be able to swim in a cool clear river.
We had lunch at the local village before heading back under threatening skies.
Barreirinhas and Lençois Maranhenses
The journey to Barreirinhas from Alter do Chão was not easy. The lovely people at our hostel Caraçáo Verde dropped us off at the airport for a night flight to Belem. Arriving at 1.30am, but with a twelve hour stopover, we checked in to a hotel for some sleep, then took another flight to Santarem and finally a four hour minibus ride to Barreirinhas, where we pulled up to our Pousada late at night and pretty worn out.
While Barreirinhas is not a spectacular town it had some nice restaurants and bars and an efficient taxi service in the main square that meant we could negotiate the dark unmade roads back to our hotel at night. In any event, we were there to visit Lençois Maranhenses National Park. It was a stunning other-worldly experience.
Four wheel drive trucks take you along a maze of rivers and sand tracks to the national park itself.
The landscape is surreal, it’s wonder is magnified by the feeling of walking barefoot through the purest, softest fine white sand I’ve ever encountered. Lençois Maranhenses translates as the ‘bedsheets of Maranhão’ and that’s a perfect simile for this undulating white terrain. As you walk this silent landscape you can find yourself sinking up to your knees in soft sand, causing mini avalanches that, like your footprints soon disappear in the constant breeze off the sea.
The sand, carried down through the tributaries of the Amazon basin, is picked up by winds and blown inland, forming stunning pure white dunes. When rain falls, it collects amongst the dunes as there is impermeable rock beneath and creates vivid blue lagoons that are great to swim in. By the end of September most of these temporary lagoons have evaporated.
As the day progressed the sun cast shadows and the sand colour grew warmer.
The final trip from Barreirinhas was by boat to Caburé, down the Rio Preguiça. This journey felt more like the stereotypical boat through the Amazon, with rainforest and mangroves up to the waters edge, and scarlet ibis in the trees.
Soon, as we approached the Atlantic Coast, sandunes began to appear once more.
We stopped at the village of Farol Preguiças to see the lighthouse and it’s views of the river, Atíns and the Atlantic.
At one spot on the riverbank there were monkeys amongst the palms, although I don’t know what species.
And now we are in Canoa Qebrada. To get here from Barreirinhas meant a five hour bus ride to São Luís (in the opposite direction), where we stopped for a couple of nights, then a flight from there to Fortaleza, followed by a two hour cab ride to here. The overland distance is only 1,300km, but the logistics of travel in this part of Brazil are complex, disjointed and expensive. Often on-line booking grinds to a halt if you haven’t got a Brazilian tax ID (!) and flights depart in the middle of the night. These factors, plus our lack of Portuguese and an almost universal absence of English mean even simple things become a challenge. With the exception of our lovely pals in Alter do Chão, we have not come across any European/English-speaking travellers or tourists. Yet we have seen some amazing, breathtaking sights that have made this part of our adventure more than worthwhile.
We’re having a brief rest for a few days here and then we’re heading East and South again. The next post will be the final part of our journey through Brazil.
The journey from beautiful Itacaré to Salvador worked well – despite the five hour bus ride, the ferry and the taxi, we travelled to Bahia’s capital Salvador without any major hassle.
We’d chosen to stay in the old quarter of Pelourinho, which proved to be a wise move. Salvador is large city with glinting shopping malls, wealthy high-rises, poor favelas and a population of around four million people. Travelling around this sprawling city is hard work. Our lodging was in an attic room with a tiny little roof terrace and views over the streets and church towers of Pelourinho.
Salvador. Brazil’s original capital under the Portuguese, the first slave port in the Americas with its historical centre, Pelourinho. Named after the pillory or whipping post where slaves were punished, the streets in the old quarter are alive with history. And, as the centre of Afro-Brazilian culture in Bahia music, art, religion and dance are everywhere.
As with other large cities in Brazil, alongside the joy and celebration of culture, there exists poverty and crime. The World Heritage streets of Pelourinho are guarded by armed police, tourist police and military police. Locals warned us not to walk down quiet streets, and conscious of our experience in Rio, we took their advice.
A huge part of Bahian life centres around religion, not only the colonial Catholicism brought by the Portuguese, but the beliefs and traditions that came with the huge numbers of African slaves. The medieval religious orders, Franciscans, Carmelites and Dominicans all built churches, monasteries and convents, but alongside these grew ‘brotherhoods’ organised around class and race as support organisations for this widely diverse society. There appears to be a church on every street.
Most of these grand colonial structures were built with slave labour and their baroque interiors are dripping with wealth and spectacle.
Portuguese Azulego tiles are everywhere, often glorifying the colonial conquest.
The Church of Sao Francisco is drenched with gold.
A slave Brotherhood built the aptly named Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of Black Men.They were banned from entering other Catholic churches (that they themselves had built) and could only work on this building in their ‘spare time’. It took around 100 years to complete.
The highlight of our stay in Pelourinho was a visit to see the Folklore Ballet of Bahia with its exhilarating dance and music bringing together the cultures of Africa, Europe and the Indigenous peoples. The displays of Capoeira were astonishing in their grace and athleticism, the music was intoxicating and the packed audience responded with a roar of approval at the end.
We left the beating heart of Brazil with fond memories and headed north to Recife and Olinda.
We loved our time in Olinda. It’s hilly cobbled streets have charm, and it has a common passion with Salvador – carnival. Although dwarfed by it’s neighbour Recife, artistic Olinda with its restaurants bars and music is a perfect place to explore both.
Our accommodation in Olinda was an excellent choice. Not only did we have a beautiful room in the heart of Olinda, but our hosts at Cama e Café Olinda were wonderfully kind and helpful – they are fluent in four European languages and provide the best breakfast we’ve had in Brazil.
There are some fantastic, often impromptu, music venues, with all sorts of bands practising for carnival. As the only European tourists around we felt welcome everywhere. These events usually spill on to the streets where beer vendors and foodstalls fuel the revellers. Any night of the week seems to be party night.
Olinda also lays claim to some rather beautiful colonial churches.
Carnival, and preparing for carnival is always on the agenda.
The giant carnival dolls had their origin in Olinda with the Man of Midnight in 1931. Kim Jong-un, Superman and ET are modern additions.
We headed in to Recife late one Sunday morning (a cheap cab ride is easiest). The roads around Marco Zero (the spot where the Portuguese first landed in 1537) are closed off on Sunday, foot-volley nets are strung up, market stalls and skateboarders appear, and carnival blocos gather on every street to practice their performances. It’s also the area for street art, galleries and museums, and for wandering around in the sunshine with everyone else.
Frevo music and dance emerged from Afro-Brazilian culture, which is particularly strong in this region due to the historic importance of sugar cane as a crop and the slavery that went with it. Religious and military music bands at the end of the nineteenth century gave Frevo its distinctive character with plenty of brass instruments, and Frevo dance came from the fights that ensued as these bands clashed on the narrow streets and battled for space.
At the front of each band marched capoeirstas and fights, usually involving knives ended up with many dead and wounded. When the police began arresting the capoeirstas they started carrying umbrellas instead of knives and disguising the capoeira movements as dance movements. The frevo dance was born.
From Recife we travelled north and west, heading towards the Amazon. Although we are now in the last month of our big adventure, there’s still plenty to see.
Back in South America after thirty five years, it’s immediately clear that there is so much to see on this vast and varied continent that we would have to be traveling for another year at least if we wanted to experience it properly.
So for our few remaining months we’ve set ourselves the task of exploring a few regions of Argentina and Brazil, with the ambition to return – but maybe with a shorter interval between visits next time.
Landing in Buenos Aries after a long flight from New Zealand gave us the chance to adjust to a new continent. All the basic things work – water, money, transport, eating, pavements, accommodation. Indeed it’s considered the most European of Latin America’s big cities, and though of course Spanish is universal there were plenty of locals who took pity on us and helped out with English.
We’d booked a room in Milhouse Hostel, a good choice in the heart of the city with lots of organised activities, including a walking tour of the barrio of La Boca. A traditional working class area, with a history of European immigration and radical politics, it is famous for its colorful tin covered buildings and walkways. These are said to have been inspired by one of its most famous sons, artist Benito Quinquela Martín who used his fame and wealth to provide medical care and facilities in the area.
A large mural reflects continued anger and continued protest for The Disappeared, victims of Argentina’s Dirty War in the 1970s
And of course La Bombonera football stadium is in the heart of La Boca, where large sections remain standing areas, ensuring a ‘waterfall’ of fans when Boca Juniors score.
La Boca, despite the tourist visits remains a vibrant community.
We spent the rest of our time in BA, visiting museums, watching a Tango performance and walking through the eerie streets of mausoleums in La Recoleta cemetery, where Eva Peron is buried.
Salta, in the mountainous north west of Argentina, with its Spanish colonial buildings and Andean culture, was a real contrast to cosmopolitan Buenos Aries. It is also a popular destination for Argentineans, and we had trouble getting accommodation in the local holiday season. Luckily we found an Airbnb place in the centre of town (Posta del Àngel) and our plan was explore the city for a few days and then hire a car and drive into the mountains. The town square, elaborate churches, yummy empanadas, cold Salta beer and local restaurants all gave off a very relaxed vibe, and the Andean culture reminded us of Bolivia, all those years ago.
We also visited the museum of High Altitude Archaeology, where the three mummified bodies of the Children of Llullaillaco are kept. They were discovered in 1999, at 6,800 metres on the border between Argentina and Bolivia. The mummies are Inca child sacrifices from the sixteenth century who were sacrificed to appease the gods and it was usually the children of the elite who were chosen. They were taken to Cusco and then sent high up in the mountains across the Empire where they were drugged, froze to death and then entombed. Seeing these mummified children was a sad, poignant moment, and to me a reminder of the insanity of religion.
Our planned journey in to the mountain regions around Salta quickly fell apart when we turned up at the local Hertz car hire, only to be told they had no cars, despite having booked the car a week in advance and visiting the office twice beforehand. There were no other cars available in town. Luckily, even though we had checked out of Posta del Àngel, Marta was kind enough to let us back, and we then spent hours booking day tours of the area, which it must be said turned out to be well organised and informative.
North to Humahuaca
The tour ran along the Humahuaca gorge and the Rio Grande, once part of the Inca trails across the altiplano, connecting the vast empire.
The startling colours of the sedimentary layers, twisted and thrown up in dramatic patterns were a striking feature of this journey. The village of Purmamarca set at the base of the seven colour hill also had a busy artisan market.
The village of Humahuaca is dominated by a large statue, commemorating the native chasqui in the fight for independence.
The Pukara fortress in Tilcara is impressive, because of its size and because it is the most extensive example of the pre Inca society that existed before the mid 16th century. It’s a harsh landscape, with giant cacti growing down the valley.
The next day we were to head high in to the altiplano, following the original route of the ‘Tren de Los Nubes’, the train of the clouds, with some track, viaducts and switchbacks still in place. This region is important for its mining, as you get higher, very little grows in this immense dry climate.
Lower down we spotted some ostriches that had come off the mountains in search of water, a Vicuna and a heard of llamas, brightly tagged and running across the path of our van.
From a high point of 4,170m (around the height of the Matterhorn), where the air is thin, we dropped down to the Salińas Grandes at 3,400m (Ben Nevis in Scotland comes in at 1,350m).
We tried some fun pictures with two great people from Barcelona, but I’d say I need to work on my technique🤣
On our third day out of Salta we headed South to Cafayate. Again we encountered dramatic rock formations and vast empty landscapes, particularly as we headed through Quebrada de Las Conchas, the gorge of the shells, with 60 million year old sedimentary rock.
We saw a condor soaring above our heads at Tres Cruces, visited a winery in the quaint town of Cafayete and headed for home before an early morning flight down to Puerto Iguazú and the falls.
The Iguazú National Park covers an area of subtropical rainforest on the border with Brazil. Within the park on the Iguazú River, the Iguazú Falls encompasses over 200 separate cascades, including the iconic Garganta del Diablo or ‘Devil’s Throat’.
It is, first and foremost, an experience of the power and wonder of a natural phenomenon and, as such descriptions and photos cannot do it justice. The Argentinean park is brilliantly designed to bring you close to the falls on accessible tracks through the rainforest. If you can, go!
On our second day we explored the lower area and took the boat through the rapids and into the falls. It was a great way to get close and appreciate the waterfalls intensity. You also get very wet!
Brazil – Foz de Iguaçu
It’s just a short bus ride to Brazil, though our driver abandoned us at the visa checkpoint, and we had to catch the next one to Foz de Iguaçu. As a town it lacks the charm of its Argentinean neighbour, but we were there to see the falls from the Brazilian side, before heading to the east coast – Rio and beyond. They say that Argentina has the falls, but Brazil has the views. While it certainly is an impressive perspective, we preferred the varied experience from Argentina.
We also caught some wildlife in a sanctuary near the park.
So our plan is to head to Rio, then up the coast to Bahia, Salvador and beyond. After nearly two years on the road it feels strange to have an end date – a flight out of Recife at the end of September.
It would be hard for a traveller to not enjoy Fiji. Over 300 islands, clear tropical water bursting with life, remote palm fringed beaches, and a vibrant culture that is positive, friendly and welcoming. This belies it’s previous decades long history of ethnic conflict, military coups and expulsion from international bodies. Indeed, now, according to some international surveys Fiji is rated as the country where its population is happiest.
We landed in Nadi, on the main Island of Viti Levu and took a two hour bus ride to accommodation we had booked in Pacific Harbour, arriving at night. In Fiji we found that backpacker dorms tend to be located within holiday resorts, meaning private rooms proved relatively expensive, especially as we had arrived in the Australia/New Zealand school holidays.
With blue skies the next morning we explored our surrounds and spent quality time in hammocks, planning our journey in Fiji.
Locally, we booked some diving with Aqua-Trek Beqa Dive Centre (old, badly maintained gear), and on my birthday had two dives with beautiful soft coral and clear water teeming with life. We came across around a dozen tawny nurse sharks asleep on the sand, reef sharks and a big bull shark, moving fast, clearly on the hunt.
The area is renowned for shark feeding displays, and even though we had avoided this, it was clear that the practice impacted on how sharks and other underwater life behaved. A remora (a fish that hangs around sharks hoping to grab some food) took a painful bite out of Anne’s little finger, something we have never encountered before.
Heading back to Nadi, we checked in to Bamboo Travellers on Wailoaloa Beach, an old-school backpacking haunt, where you can relax in the bar on the beach, swim, eat good food, drink cold beer, watch sunsets and talk into the night with fellow travellers. My kind of place.
Bamboo Travellers also had an efficient travel desk that meant we were able to sort out all our Fijian travel and accommodation arrangements with minimum fuss, something that we had found near impossible till then. Our next stop was the southern Island of Kadavu.
Our fifty minute flight south to Kadavu was on an eighteen seater De Havilland Twin Otter, with passengers distributed according to their weight.
We were met at the airfield and taken through Vunisea, with its government buildings, post office and local school.
The boat trip to Matava resort took around ninety minutes in some heavy swell (despite the protection of the Astrolobe Reef), and poor weather characterised our time in Kadavu. Strong Trade Winds from the south-east can develop at any time between May and October in Fiji, and this clearly affected activities such as snorkeling and kayaking. We were able to enjoy some good diving on the reef however, with colourful soft coral, unique macro life and massive cabbage and brain coral sitting on brilliant white sand. On our first dive Anne spotted a leopard shark asleep on the sand, who then woke and circled us a few times.
The company of other guests was enjoyable, the staff lovely and the view from our bure was transformed by different light on the bay. But those trade winds kept on blowing.
Among the staff at Matava were two O’Connors … very distant relatives
On the day before our departure from Kadavu the plane tried to land twice, but the strong winds meant it had to return to Nadi, so we were unsure whether we would be able to leave the island. All turned out well on the day however and we were soon back in Nadi, rushing around withdrawing cash from ATMs before our trip north to the Yasawas.
The Yasawas are an archipelago of around twenty volcanic islands, scattered along the north east of Fiji. At one time they were remote and visited by only the most determined backpackers but these days island hopping is popular with travellers, budget-backpackers and those seeking luxury resorts.
We’d selected two islands and travelled first up to one of the northernmost islands, Nacula, aboard the Tavewa Seabus.
One feature of touring the Yasawas is that you frequently bump in to people you’ve met on the boats on other islands and because you share meals, activities and travelling tales, a shifting community soon develops. Add to this the friendly and enthusiastic engagement of local Fijians and you get a relaxed and entertaining journey. While we enjoyed snorkelling, visiting caves and chilling in hammocks, for me the best part of our time in Nabua Lodge was the visit to a local village where we got a real sense of how the community live, work and play in an isolated environment.
Our second stop in the Yasawas was at Korovou Eco-Tour resort in Naviti. Lovely beaches, blue skies and sunsets – classic Fiji.
Special mention should go to Abu in Korovou, who involved everyone with demonstrations on coconuts and herbal medicine, quizzes, games, singing and dancing.
It felt appropriate for us to spend our final night in Fiji at the Bamboo Travellers, bumping in to people at the bar who we’d met along the way.
Then, with that abrupt transition that modern travel brings, we’re suddenly back in Auckland, staying once more with good friends who we’d said our ‘final’ goodbyes to last April.
We’ve now made our final plans and booked our flights. We’re off to Argentina on Sunday and then plan to travel overland to Brazil and along the North East Coast. We have a flight booked out of Brazil and will be home in London by the beginning of October. There is still plenty of travelling to do and there are adventures yet to come, but we are slowly heading back. Inevitably, over the next few months I suspect we’ll both be posing the question, ‘What next?’
And finally for this post, a few pictures from Muriwai, just an hour from Auckland. We saw this colony of gannets on a beautiful winters day. They are themselves great travellers, making the 4,000km journey back and forth to Australia.