This January I returned to Brazil to fully immerse myself in the beach life in the state of Rio de Janeiro. I had another two weeks in the city (I was there in November) before beginning my journey south. My general direction would take me back to the farm in Catuçaba; my little slice of cheese paradise.
Paraty was my first stop, a five hour bus ride along the coast from the city.
I didn’t see much beyond the quaint historical centre because not long after my arrival I got food poisoning, kind of a given when you’re travelling eh?
Enjoy looking at these picturesque cobbled streets. Somewhat impractical for walking (Lonely Planet called them ‘ankle twisting’) they are still worth a peruse as surrounding buildings are charming.
Every day the paths flood when the tide comes in and makeshift bridges are put up to help people get around. When the streets are not flooded, dozens of crabs nip in and out of holes between the stones. It was very endearing.
It was a bit of a schlep to get to, but the Bahá’í temple for South America is a sight to behold.
It is hidden away in the mountains, and you can only see the building when you arrive at the entrance. On days where there is no smog the view of the city is not too shabby.
It looks otherworldly; like it’s about to scuttle off. Rumour has it that it’s also the mother of drones.
The futuristic appearance is in part due to its materials which were chosen so they could capture the light; it’s skeleton is a steel structure, the inside cladding is made of translucent marble and the outside layer is made of cut- glass panels. As the Santiago sky changes at dawn and dusk, the building reflects this transformation of colour. The little legs are actually there to help the building withstand earthquakes. It was designed by Siamak Hariri and it took 14 years to be built.
I didn’t get any images of the interior because you can’t take pictures inside. It was beautiful enough to leave me gawping aimlessly at the ceiling for a while though.
The landscape architect was Juan Grimm. The surrounding gardens are really pleasant too.
Inevitably there was a good dog nearby who was of course having the time of his life, as all dogs in Chile seem to be. My photos always seem to rapidly decline in quality when a dog is about. I think both parties feel excited and frantic in that moment.
So this isn’t a visual story of our perils and triumphs of our gruelling hike to the base of Torres del Paine. These are the tourist snaps I took when we got there. My efforts were focussed on being present enough to make it to the top in one piece before nightfall. I didn’t want a camera dangling round my neck in the process either. Obviously these are just excuses, excuses. But they are my excuses anyway.
Perhaps a brief written description would suffice.
It took a good three and a half hours to get to the base. We were incredibly fortunate to have blue skies and minimal winds, apparently this is really, really rare. I was expecting biting gusts of wind that could blow me over. We had met a girl with a burst ear drum after doing the hike. Someone also said that often people endure the trek to the top only to find clouds and no view. The only winds we encountered were, unsurprisingly, in the Windy Passage. Here I witnessed our guide nearly topple over as the wind hit him with such a great force.
My favourite section of the walk was about an hour in, where we spent another hour going through a forest. It was ‘Patagonian flat’, so it was pleasant up hills and down hills in the shade. No one ever told us about this part.
The last section of the ascent was all we heard about. It’s about 1km of climbing up rocks. It was hard but it felt good because I knew the towers were getting so close. We got there in the end, and it was the most beautiful landscape I have seen my travels so far. I’m grateful to have spent the experience with my family and to share these memories with them.
We soaked it all in for a while. The highlights of the trip after that included a massive sandwich, which I inhaled whilst sitting on some rocks that were perfectly positioned to support my fully reclined self as I looked at the view. There were a few slips on the way down too (not from me though because I am incredibly nimble, like a gazelle).