Things we forget as tourists…

A Peruvian protest

This summer I had the amazing opportunity to visit one of the wonders of the world, Machu Picchu in Peru. Our three-day Inca Jungle Trek was fully-packed with activities including biking through the Andes Mountains, mountain hiking and the infamous Inca city of Machu Picchu. However, our trip was full of unexpected surprises too due to the recent protests in Peru which brings me on to my next little rant about things that happen whilst travelling!

 

Our first occurrence with the protesters was on our first journey to the mountains. We had no idea what was going on when the minivan stopped in a road rammed with traffic and was held there for nearly two hours! Turns out the protesters were actually Peruvian teachers fighting for higher wages. They’d been protesting for over 20 days all over Peru, and their main destination were the tourist roads to Machu Picchu which disrupted travel for days and lasted for weeks. Fair enough!

  

Would you work for that?

The teachers were on strike, placing rocks, stones and wood in the roads and on the train tracks leading up to Machu Picchu. They were angry about the fact that the government who receives millions of US dollars thanks to the tourism industry, but Peruvians don’t see a single bit. We ventured out of the minivan to see the lines of hundreds of teachers and protesters and ended up speaking to one teacher who explained how they care, clean and teach doing jobs that they shouldn’t be doing and all for the monthly wage of 210 Peruvian Soles. That’s equivalent to £50.

 

By the last day of our trip the protests had got so bad that the teachers had apparently derailed the train tracks which meant that after a day of mountain hiking and walking around Machu Picchu, Becca and I trekked for another three hours along the train tracks in the dark to the next village to then catch a 7-hour minibus back to Cusco.

 

I won’t lie, the whole thing was pretty tiring, but I was disgusted by the cheek of the tourists around us who had every right to be annoyed by the slight inconvenience, but to display it so openly to the locals and people who tried so hard to help? Who do you think you are? Not forgetting the idiot guy who thought it would be funny to shout to the protesters and joke about whilst juggling in amongst the police and crowds.

 

Think about the teaching staff in our own westernised countries and how we think they get paid pennies (which they do in my opinion compared to some not as deserving occupations!), and then think about receiving 50 bloody pounds a month for all that love, care and demanding work. Nah, sit back down in your air-con minibus, on your £3,000 two-week trip and think hard before you speak.

 

Waiting for karma…

It’s funny, and there’s literally always one person who just never fails to shock you with how they even made it this far out in the world without karma knocking them out first, but the ignorance of some people when they’re in someone else’s lands and lives is unreal. Who do we think we are? Aren’t we forgetting something? That this is their country. And their fight is extremely worthwhile and incredibly important. And at the end of the day, who cares if we had to walk through the jungle and see fireflies with a couple of Peruvian people (turned out to be a highlight of the trip!), the thing that matters is that their voices were heard and that they get to exercise their rights with complete freedom.

Thanks for reading my little rant guys!

You can keep up with my adventure on instagram @vanishamay

Happy travels!

Vanisha

The troubles of travel. Do you have what it takes?

Thanks to social media and mobile phones, it’s easy to see the glam side of travel. But what you don’t usually see or hear about are the downsides. And although there are many beautiful positives, there are of course many downsides to choosing a life out of a backpack! 


So in my 32nd country and new home of Mexico, I present to you my 3 main pros and cons of travel:

Lack of connection to life back home vs a connection to the world 

Although it’s easier than ever before to sit down in front of your laptop and see your mum from the other side of the world, the connection and life from back home is definitely lost and missed whilst travelling. Being around your friends and family is completely different to constantly being surrounded by strangers and new people. While you’re planning your next trip around the world alone and what backpack to live from, your friends are growing up, settling down with partners, children and in homes for life. Life doesn’t stop back at home and the daily conversation and closeness to the people that I love is one of the only things I miss while I’m away. 

However, you do gain a whole new connection to the world and countries you travel to and people you meet along the way. People change your life and ways of thinking on a daily basis (as well as the few the completely test you!) which is amazing, and inspiring and so worth missing a Sunday dinner or drink down the pub for a while!


The constant need for adventure vs the absence of normality

My last three years in London was the most settled I’d been in a long time and it still wasn’t very settled with a summer in Asia and three house moves! But I loved my routine of work, uni and social life. And it was something I really took for granted before I travelled. It’s a lovely feeling being settled and having a routine, knowing what you’ll be doing next week and having an unpacked room with all your belongings in it. It’s normality that you miss whilst travelling. The ease of being able to pop down to costa for a coffee or doing a food shop in Morrisons, and the little things like a proper duvet and going to the fridge for food! (Lol that my main normalities revolve around bed and food). And then the big things like a monthly pay and regular income…!

But during these days I’d find myself longing to get on a plane again. I loved my life in London but the need to see a new city or two, to be around more exciting and inspiring people, the need to try something new always takes over my need for normality. And so again, I venture across unknown streets and into new shops for cups of coffee. I walk the streets listening to people speaking unknown words and wonder what will happen today. Whether it’s excitingly life-changing   or completely bad luck, every day brings something and someone new which is worth the risk surely?


Wanting to go home VS never giving up

We all have bad days but it’s the home comforts and people around you that always seem to make things better. So, when you’re travelling, all these bad things are quite literally more complicated and harder (because you’re a million miles away!) and always feel 10x worse. Losing my debit cards and camera was tough, inconvenient and gutting, and being ill whilst away is incredibly testing too. Honestly, some days, all you want to do is give up, book that flight home and run into the arms of mum and dad. But at the end of the day, all that’s really lost is a few objects and a few days in bed which could happen back at home too. The experiences and memories that I’ve gained trump my GoPro pictures any day. And alongside that, it makes you realise what’s important, makes you 10x stronger and so much more independent. So, if you can get through these times with a smile on your face and the determination to keep going then guys, you’re smashing it! 

People rarely tell you that loss is a fundamental part of travelling. You’ll experience feelings of loss of normality, chances of love and settling down, opportunities of a normal 9-5 paid career. You’ll feel lost, alone and question what on earth you’re doing. But you’ll find new ways of living, loving and working. You’ll never get the experiences of travel by never leaving your doorstep. And so far, through all the tests and difficulties that I’ve faced, I’ve learned that it’s always worth the risk. 



Catch up with my adventures here on instagram @vanishamay

Thanks for reading guys!

Vanisha

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Machu Picchu and the wonders of Peru

One of my favourite countries in South America so far is Peru and definitely a top place to visit!
We headed straight to Cusco by a long bus ride from La Paz, Bolivia and we spent a lot longer than planned in the historic city of the Incas. We loved it so much! The city itself is pretty and quaint, full of friendly happy people and we finally had hot weather and blue skies every day! We were happy gals! So what did we do? How did we do it? And what makes Peru so special?


How to do Machu Picchu…

So there’s tonnes of different ways to visit the incredible wonder of the world from day trips to four day treks along the inca trail. We booked last minute and committed ourselves to a 3 day adventure trek called the Inca Jungle Trek. It was so much fun and a completely different way to work your way up to Machu Picchu. By bus we passed through villages in the sacred valley and the Andes mountains, we walked, mountain biked, zip-lined, white water rafted and hiked up to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain. Whilst mountain biking we passed through clouds, we zip-lined across rivers and on top of the mountain we saw Machu Picchu city in all its glory surrounded by the valleys and mountains. It was amazing and all at a pretty good price of around £200 which was a huge relief as average tours to Machu Picchu cost around £500-£600.It was all incredible and was made better by staying in hotels rather than camping. Aguas Calientes is the main starting point when visiting Machu Picchu and even that little town is full of wonder with a train track running through it and the mountains surrounding it. 


We only stayed in Lima, Aguas Calientes and Cusco but Peru was one of our favourite countries for so many reasons. And there’s so much more to do! I’ll definitely be visiting again in the future to conquer rainbow mountain, sand board down the famous dunes and to visit pretty little Arequipa. But thanks to the people that we met there, the hostels we stayed in, the yummy food we ate, the amazing sights and finally the sunny weather, Peru definitely left it’s mark on us. 


Here’s a little list of places to visit in and around Cusco:

 • Visit Machu Picchu, obviously.

 • See the llama’s! They so funny. They so cute. 

 • Go shopping for the colourful clothing, alpaca jumpers and accessories in the cute markets with the cholitas.

 • Check out Cusco’s chocolate museum where you can get classes, freebies and chocolate liquers!

 • Stay at Inka Wild Hostel in Cusco! Good location, good vibes and good backpacker prices!

 • Visit the sacred valley, and pretty Aguas Calientes but avoid day tours and make your own way around. Our day tour around the valley was ridiculous and rushed all day with the guides shouting ‘vamos’ every five seconds… Lol.

 • Party at Chango’s and dance the night away to the amazing Latino music! 


You can use this code to get £10 off when booking through booking.com 🙂 http://booking.com/s/vanish15
Follow my adventure here on instagram @vanishamay 

Thanks for reading guys! 

Vanisha  

Umoja, Kenya

Umoja: The man-free land.

Looking for a different kind of adventure? Interested in travel? Passionate about society and women’s rights? Then you need to make this inspiring community a priority for your next big trip! Where are you going…? The fascinating lands of Kenya!

 

For more than 500 years tradition and culture have dominated the lives of Kenyans women. Living in patriarchal communities where men make the rules and women have few rights. Where rituals such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriages are common even today. This means that girls as young as 12 years old are being mutilated and married off to lives as wives and mothers. Though, this isn’t an essay or a lecture, but an informative and interesting travel article of why I think you should visit this land like no other, the land with no man, the inspiring village of Umoja, North Kenya.

 

Tourism is Kenya’s second largest industry which attracts millions of tourists travelling in hopes to see the wanders of the wildlife, exploring the safaris and holiday on the white-sand beaches with the exotic marine life and exciting activities. Meanwhile in the dry lands of Northern Kenya, the women of Umoja are transforming lives and changing their own fate.

 

Umoja (meaning unity in Swahili) is a safe haven for women who have been abused, raped, and who are fleeing from the oppressive formalities of their culture. Located in the Samburu region, Umoja is home to almost 50 newly-empowered women and their hundreds of children. The village that is inspiring women all over the country to make possible and influential changes is also a village that has a no man policy. This is one of the first communities in the world to run as a matriarchal society prohibiting men to live there. How interesting is that?!

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The woman behind it all is Rebecca Lolosoli (pictures above by The Guardian) who created the movement 25 years ago and formed the village with other women who revolted against their rapes committed by British soldiers and discriminating communities. Fifteen women spoke up about their horrifying abuse and decided to make change. Now they support other women living in fear of FGM, early marriage and domestic abuse from the men of Samburu. In an interview, Rebecca explained how much power the men had;

 

“If the husband wants to kill you, he has a right to kill you, because you are like property.”

-Rebecca Lolosoli

(you can watch the short documentary here at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrnmBLB-UX4)

 

So, what better idea than to just leave and form a whole new village where women have rights, freedom, a voice and more importantly, safety.  The women of Umoja are living completely independently without a man for the first time in history. They’re building their own huts, forming their own businesses and they’ve even created a school for the children. And for those thinking “but how do they even have children? How can they keep this going?” as one Umoja resident explained to a Guardian reporter;

 

“We still like men. They are not allowed here, but we want babies and women have to have children, even if you are unmarried.” – The Guardian

 

Completely inspirational.

 

Depending on tourism, the women welcome visitors and usually with a very big, all singing and dancing celebration! Handmaking brightly coloured jewellery, clothing and gifts to sell to tourists, the money helps fund their communities and gives the women the opportunity to earn their own income and stand on their own two feet.

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So be inspired and take a trek off the beaten track! Visit the wonderful women of the village and adventure to the worthy and incredible no man’s land!

 

Here’s how you can visit:

  • Book a tour! Agencies and tour operators offer safaris like the Samburu National Reserve Safari which usually include visits to the village. Convenient if you want to pay a short visit.
  • Camp in the village! To provide further income to the village, the women of Umoja have created a campsite adjacent to their homes for guests and tourists to spend the night or two. The Umoja camp is perfect for budget travellers and has a bar and restaurant, along with traditional entertainment of singing and dancing with the women.
  • Stay in a lodge. There are many lodges around the area so for those seeking slightly more luxury but want to stay nearby, this option is the best one for you!

 

List of useful websites, news articles and information on how to get there:

 

 

Hope you enjoyed it and let me know if you’re planning a trip to Umoja or have been before!

Follow my South American adventure here om instagram @vanishamay

Thanks for reading guys!

Vanisha Sparks

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San Pedro De Atacama

Things To Do In Chile

Reading time: 5 minutes

Country #28

 

When did I go? 24th June – 1st July 2017

Where did I go? Santiago, Valparaiso, San Pedro De Atacama

How much money was spent? Between £200 -£250 max

Highlights: Bus drive through the Andes, wandering the streets in Bellavista and Valparaiso and visiting the desert town of San Pedro De Atacama.

 

After being stuck in Argentina due to the border being closed because of heavy snow, we were really happy to finally arrive in Chile! First stop was a shopping day to buy warmer clothes in Santiago, and after plus a bit of sun, we were happy gals again. Chilly Chile was really enjoyable with lots to see and do! We didn’t do any day tours and spent little money so it worked out really well especially because there’s so much to do for free which was great for our budgets!  Thanks to the friendly faces and people we met along the way, our time in Chile was full of fun times all round! Here’s my little list of my fave things that I recommend for you to do when you visit Chile….

  • Take a bus from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile. The bus drives through the Andes mountains and round winding roads with no edges and steep drops. It was pretty crazy but the views were phenomenal and the ticket was pretty cheap (£25!). I highly recommend it!
  • Wander the streets! In Santiago and Valparaiso there’s an overwhelming amount of street art, coloured houses and graffiti. In Santiago visit Bella Vista and just spend the afternoon wandering around and enjoying the art. It’s pretty cool stuff.
  • Hang out with the locals! We were really lucky because we stayed with my friend in Santiago where we all spent the night drinking wine, eating cake and practising our Acroyoga. But even in Valparaiso, we went out with a few other travellers to the local bars and spent the night drinking there. Hostels are a really great place to meet people and hang out where the locals would. Spend time venturing out, making friends and drinking their national drink of Pisco Sour!
  • Visit the desert and San Pedro De Atacama. We didn’t stay here for long because it was just a stop before we did the 3 day tour to Uyuni, Bolivia, but the pretty little town was like nothing I’d seen before. Set in the desert and surrounded by mountains, the town literally looks like something from a movie set. We took a long 24 hour bus journey which ended up being a lot longer due to a fault with the bus but the drive through the desert was pretty cool, the stars at night were amazing and we saw some of the best sunsets that filled the entire sky. Depending when you go, take warm clothes. The desert reached temperatures of -15 degrees while we were there, it was insanely cold!


I’d love to visit again to explore more of the country and visit Patagonia which was too cold for this trip. Chile is a cool country and the people are lovely. It literally has everything from snowy mountain regions, big cities, seaside towns and desert life so go book a ticket and explore!

Here’s a little list of some of the places we stayed:

You can use this code to get £10 off when booking through booking.com 🙂 booking.com/s/vanish15

 

Let me know if you plan on visiting Chile or if you want to share any thoughts or your own experiences!

Follow my adventure here on instagram @vanishamay

Thanks for reading guys!

Vanisha

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Travelling Argentina

How Not To Travel Argentina

Reading time: 5-10 minutes

Country #27

 

When did I go? 16th – 23rd June 2017

Where did I visit ? Buenos Aires and Mendoza

How much money was spent? Between £200-£300

Highlights: Thermas Cacheuta, Wine Tasting in Mendoza, bus trips through the snowy Andes Mountains and La Recolecta Cemetery.

 

So I’ve been pretty lazy with blogging since I’ve been away. Finding it hard to take time to sit at my laptop and write, plus so much is always happening! It’s rare to have even half a day where no plans have been made. It’s been pretty go-go-go. But here’s my thoughts and a bit about my time in Argentina. The first country that I’ve actually kind of disliked. Possibly down to bad timing, possibly down to preference, but have a read about why I disliked it and the things I did like!

 

Avoid Going In The Winter!

So it’s officially winter in South America right now and although we were fully aware of this, we didn’t realise just how cold it would get! Prepped for a summer trip, our warm clothes literally consisted of ankle socks, a jumper, leggings and Becca bought a hat and gloves. Minus the pretty snow-topped Andes mountains, it was pretty grey and miserable while we were in Argentina which automatically put a dampener on things.

 

Coming from sunny Brazil, the huge differences between the countries were pretty obvious. Walking around Mendoza and Buenos Aires especially, we could have been in Europe again. The colours of South America disappeared and the city streets felt far from vibrant, happy Brazil.

 

Along with a European feel, the places we visited also had a European price! With an abundance of pizza restaurants, the food choice was pretty pants and similar to prices back home (Brazil we could have dinner for around £5 but prices almost doubled in Argentina).

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Things Not To Miss…

Don’t get me wrong, we had some really good days out. La Recolecta Cemetery in Buenos Aires was amazing. The city of the dead holds over 6400 tombs all with their own style and design. I’m so fascinated with how other countries, cultures and people treat the dead (pretty morbid I know) so this incredible cemetery was right up my street. You can also see the final resting place of the infamous Eva Perón whose fascinating story is worth a research! Also check out El Ateneo Grand Splendid, the worlds most beautiful bookstore rated by The Guardian.

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Mendoza was a sleepy little city which in all honesty, I wasn’t very fond of either. But again, I don’t think the weather helped much considering we were stuck for three days longer than hoped because the border was closed due to heavy snow and it was just very cold! However, one of the highlights and a huge recommendation would be to visit the Thermas Cacheuta, a variety of outdoor and indoor thermal spa pools set in the Andes mountains. There’s two to visit, the more expensive thermals which is adjoined to a hotel and includes a buffet lunch, towels etc, or the cheaper one more famous with the locals and the one we visited. It was a lovely day out, we took a local bus, a picnic and a bottle of Argentinian wine, and it was perfect!

We also had a wine tasting day and visited the family-run wineries. It was a good day out and we had lots of wine, bread and different types of olive oils to taste so definitely can’t complain about that!

 

Call Me Debbie Downer…!

I do sound like a Debbie Downer in this blog about Argentina but it is important to remember that it’s just based on my opinion and experiences. I’ve met people that really love the country so do your own research and perhaps  go in the summer!

 

Places we stayed at:

You can use this code to get £10 off when booking with booking.com 🙂 booking.com/s/vanish15

 

Follow my South American adventure on instagram @vanishamay

 

Let me know your experiences and thoughts on Argentina!

Have a good day guys!

Vanisha

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5 reasons to travel Brazil

5 Reasons To Travel Brazil.

Brazil. My first stop of my big South American adventure. And what a good start! I really loved everything about Brazil. It ticked all my boxes from sun, nice beaches to black beans, buffets and tall, dark, good looking guys! General good vibes all round. So here’s my 5 top reasons why everyone should visit beautiful Brazil. If you’re thinking about it, do it. I’ll definitely be visiting again! Happy reading!

  1. The People

As soon as we landed, we felt good vibes. Every person that we met was friendly, smiley and super happy to help! Though not many people spoke English, they were still eager to help us with directions, carrying our bags,  and being our tour guides. I’m not sure if it’s the sun, sea or Caipirinha’s but the Brazilian people are some of the nicest and happiest that I’ve met! They were also some of the best looking I’ve ever seen. Literally every other man and woman were good looking, tanned, physically fit and full of charm. Why wouldn’t anyone want to be surrounded by that?!

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2. Stunning Natural Scenery

Brazil has so much to offer and despite only being there for a few weeks and only visiting a tiny part of the country, the landscapes and scenery that I did see were amazing. With its jungles, nice beaches, mountains, hiking, islands and huge cities, Brazil literally has everything!

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3. The Sights

Along with all the natural scenes, Brazil has the hotspots of touristy sights which were pretty banging too. Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, Mountain top city views, Iguazu Falls, Paraty Historical Town and so much more. There classic must do’s and perfect for the pics!

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4. The Nightlife and Caipirinha’s

Not gonna lie, if I go a few more months without drinking a caipirinha, I won’t be sad, but they’ll forever remind me of Brazil and partying. Famous for being lively, carnivals and sexy samba dancing, Brazil was a good place for nightlife. Different to party places like Ibiza, Magaluf and even partying in Thailand, Lapa in Rio De Janeiro in particular was a new and fun experience. Unlike popular party destinations, Lapa was filled with locals and not catered for tourists. With people drinking, dancing and partying in the bars, clubs and all over the streets, Lapa was representative of the country and its people. Fun, lively, and full of culture and authenticity.

5. The Weather

Okay a bit of a boring one but think it’s worth a mention that although it’s their winter, the weather was perfect still. Currently in Argentina and I’m wearing every possible layer I can. I’m a walking Michelin man, it’s so cold. But Brazil was still sunny and warm in the day, so no matter what time of year you go, you’re pretty much guaranteed sun and blue skies! No wonder the people are so happy all the time!

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So that’s my 5 top reasons to travel Brazil. Fairly straight to the point but if anyone has any questions about anything, feel free to ask away! Here is a helpful list of the hostels and hotels I stayed at:

You can also use this link to receive £10 when booking with booking.com 🙂 https://www.booking.com/s/vanish15

 

Thanks for reading guys!

Keep up with my adventure on Instagram @vanishamay

Have a good day wherever you are 🙂

Vanisha

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