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?!

2B7473AD00000578-3201960-image-a-33_1439892944194

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.

Umoja-women-009

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

X

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

X

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).

img_3521

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.

img_3053

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

X

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?!

img_2116

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!

img_2176

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!

16999170_10154672530668201_6094859811603933001_n

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!

19149051_10154672527778201_5497285288948829171_n (1)

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

X

Sunrise in Rio at Copacabana Beach

Backpacking South America. First stop: Rio.

Reading time: 5 minutes

Country #26

 

When did I go? 1st – 6th June 2017

Where did I stay? Secreto Hostel, Copacabana

How much money was spent? Too much (oops)

Highlights: The people, drinking caipirinhas in Lapa, being washed away in what seemed to be a tidal wave, watching the sunrise on Copacabana beach and the city views from the mountains.

Playlist: Rio – Netsky and obviously Copacabana – Barry Manilow 

 

Rio De Janeiro was a super exciting place for me and my best friend who I’m travelling South America with. We’ve just finished studying at a university in London and have been dreaming of cocktails, sun, sea and sand for months. Our first stop in Rio gave us all of this and more….

 

Is Rio safe?

Rio is a huge city with almost everything that you need. We stayed in a hostel in Copacabana called ‘Secreto’ which was in perfect walking distance of the busy streets, restaurants and the beach. It was a home away from home and although the city has a reputation for being dangerous, we felt quite safe and comfortable. This was probably down to the people. Everyone we met was extremely friendly and helpful regardless of the language barrier (not many people speak English and our Portuguese is horrendous!). We heard some horror stories even while we were there, but as long as you’re sensible and avoid walking through the favelas at midnight with your iPhone out and wallet hanging out your pocket, you’ll be more than fine. It’s expected in a city where so many live in poverty, don’t let it ruin your travels.

Me at Copacabana Beach, Rio, Brazil
Here I am, loving life in the sun on Copacabana beach in Rio De Janeiro.

Lapa, Salsa and Caipirinhas 

Staying in a hostel is great for meeting people and we even made friends with the staff. Our real taste of Brazilian life was a night out in the party area of ‘Lapa’ where we spent the night with our new friends drinking way too many caipirinhas and dancing to salsa music. The people are incredibly sexy and some of the best looking I’ve ever seen… and they’re amazing dancers. They’ve got it all!

 

Our partying days in Rio didn’t stop there. We also spent a night on a party boat which was just as fun and full of caipirinhas. The nightlife was wild and an experience, but for girls on a budget and considering this was our first stop; we were pretty naughty with our time and money.

Things to do

Luckily, Rio has lots more to offer. We spent one of our days doing classic tourist-y things that included a visit to Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, Selaron Steps, five other popular spots and an amazing lunch buffet. The views overlooking the city were amazing. We paid around £50 and the tour lasted nearly all day (8:30am-5pm). Similar tours cost more and lasted half the time. We got our package from a man selling from the beach so look around before you book for better deals. Unfortunately, we missed other sights like the favelas due to cancellations, bad planning and hangovers, but there’s lots to see and do around Rio. It’s easy to spend a long time there for sure.

Tourist day and Christ the Redeemer in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Tourist day and Christ the Redeemer in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Overall, our first taste of Brazil has been non-stop silliness and fun. Rio is amazing for beaches, chilling and partying. Do not let the dangerous reputation put you off, the city is full of history, culture and happy people. We can’t wait for our next stop!

 

Feel free to ask me any questions and share any stories or advice you may have!

 

Have a good day guys!

Vanisha

x

Follow my travels on my instagram @vanishamay

 

You can also find our hostel at this website: http://www.secretohostel.com.br

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a land of beauty. Unlike India, Sri Lanka has all the wonder and culture but without the crazy busy and bustle. I visited Sri Lanka in 2014 after six months living and working in China. It had a perfect balance of relaxation and with enough things to do and see. Plus, it was incredibly cheap and luxurious!

Our amazing view from the hotel room, what’s not to love with this?!

Colombo

Colombo was the typical hustle and bustle capital you’d expect. I stayed in a cool hostel where the staff were lovely and helped me out a lot (can’t remember the name of it so not much good to ya) but Colombo itself was just okay. I went to the zoo one day, and that wasn’t a great experience, and I didn’t see much else to be honest! Maybe I missed out on stuff, but Colombo wasn’t one of my highlights. Also, as a young female traveler, I did feel unsafe at certain times and wouldn’t have felt safe wondering around at night. There was one incident in day light where a man followed me for a while after stopping me and trying to talk to me, I had to get in a tuk-tuk back to the hostel. People were otherwise pretty friendly!

 

Tangalle

Luckily, Tangalle and all the other places we visited changed it all. We stayed in an absolutely stunning hotel with the most amazing staff, but the area was secluded, there wasn’t much to do locally and the sea at that time of year was too dangerous to even put a toe in! However, if a perfect hideout is what you’re looking for, Lagoon Paradise Beach Resort is the place for you! We were warned by the staff to stay out of the sea and rightly so because one man almost drowned with his son and needed rescuing after going in, and I erm, also got caught by surprise while I was walking along feet depth, attacked by an under-current, swept away with a wave, fully clothed and wearing my backpack which had my passport, purse, phone and Ipod in it… not ideal but I can laugh now! RIP Ipod.

I was quite lucky making friends with our tuk-tuk driver, who arranged for me to visit a local school one day. The ride there was lovely, we passed through rice fields and beautiful scenery. It was a lovely little experience; the children and teachers were so welcoming and allowed me to sit in on some of their classes and played games with me. They were all so excited to see me, but so keen to learn still. It definitely puts things into perspective.

img_1576-1
Sitting in on a class at the village school I visited for the day.
Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary

The day at the elephant sanctuary was incredible. We got to see loads of elephants being washed, fed and walking through the towns and rivers. The scenes were just like from jungle book! It was lovely just to watch them and be around them, highly recommend this sanctuary.

img_1571-1
The elephants at Pinnawala!
Udawalawe National Park

This was another day trip, and it was spectacular, but a slight let down at the same time. We did see a black bear, mother and baby elephant and snakes in their wild habitats, which was amazing, but for a day in the scorching sun and in the back of a jeep, it was a pretty longgg day!

img_1577
Our beautiful hotel and them views….
Kandy

We just spent one day in the city, with a hired driver who knew all the sights, how to get there, where to eat and how much to pay. He drove us to the top of the mountain to the huge Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue which overlooked the city and Kandy Lake. We also spent time at the temple of tooth and temples around it, and watched a local show. The country is full of culture and religion, it’s beautiful.

img_1572-1
Buddha overlooking Kandy, Sri Lanka
img_1573
Kandy, Sri Lanka
All in all, Sri Lanka was lovely. For a chilled trip surrounded by beauty and culture, it’s perfect. I’d love to go back one day and explore more, I feel like it has so much more to offer still…

Me finally enjoying the sea!