Tag Archives: Assis

Full circle after 6 months – back in Peru!

Rio Branco to Assis

It was 11am when we got to Rio Branco, and we knew we had missed the 10am bus to Puerto Maldonado. When we asked around we found out there was only one bus a day, and since we didn’t have the luxury of waiting until the next day we had no choice but take a taxi to Assis, the city at the border with Peru. And another one from there to Puerto Maldonado.

The taxi guy charged us 25Reais each and he was going to pass us to someone else half way, but in the end we were lucky enough not only that he took us all the way, but that he even stopped for us to have our last lunch of feijao – it was a buffet and it was one of the best we’d had!

The locals don’t need a stamp in their passport when crossing the border, so we had to be careful about stopping to get one. I don’t think many tourists pass by there because the people at the border were very animated about chit chatting with us. After getting the stamps we were handed over to a Peruvian guy who was to take us to Puerto Maldonado for 35Soles. This was the time when my brain showed me proof of its power: in the space of a few minutes I had to switch among 4 different languages and I did it without feeling fainty or dizzy – Portuguese with the Brazilian, Spanish with the Peruvian, Romanian with Silviu and English with Boca. And probably a combination of the above with myself. What victory! 🙂

While waiting for our taxi driver to arrange all his business, we took a few moments to analyze how we felt about being back in Peru. Interestingly enough, we all had the same feeling: that we were coming back home. It felt so good to be back in this country that had captured our hearts from the very first minute…


Assis to Puerto Maldonado

The taxi was a 12 seater minivan and we were excited we were the only passengers when we started off. Three minutes later we picked up two ladies and a kid from the border, then stopped by someone’s house and picked up two more ladies and another kid. These guys seemed to be moving houses, because they had luggage enough to fill up the whole car. One of these bags was near our feet and every now and then it would move in a strange way, as it it had life of its own. Towards the end we found out it did. The life of a chicken!

We squeezed at best we could, and by the time we left Puerto Maldonado it was clear we’d be having a crowded 3 hours ride. Our guy was a maximizer too, as he kept picking up hitch hikers along the way, even after we thought there’d be no way he could fit anyone else in. He always found a way though, and we’d later find out this was the norm in Peru – every single place, sitting or standing, must be occupied for a car to be considered full. Some of these rides would turn out to be quite entertaining :).

As for this particular one, it was anything but a 3 hours ride. We were supposed to make it to Puerto Maldonado at 6, but at 8 we were still crossing rivers. It was already night when we got to the river just before Maldonado, and the bridge there is still under construction so we had to use the ferry, as they do on all bridgless rivers.

We waited in line for about half an hour holding our breath every time a car would get on board, as the ramp was nothing but 2 planks of wood. It was dark and a tiny mistake could easily find the car and its driver in the water. We were thankful all those we saw made it safely on board (not without hitches though), but when we got to the other side we saw a big car that had sunk by the shore. It had happened a while before and it seemed abandoned now. One thing for sure, we would have hated to be the owner of that vehicle.


Puerto Maldonado by night and day

When we got to Puerto Maldonado it was late evening but it was still incredibly hot and the city seemed very much alive. We asked the driver if he knew of any cheap hostel and he took us to one. It was dodgy to say the least, and the reception guy was going to charge us 70 Soles for a room. When we asked if internet and breakfast were included, he replied with a laugh followed by a grin: “If you want breakfast and internet, you are welcome to go to the hotel across”. We did not stay there, and the next two hostels we checked out, thankfully just meters away, seemed even dodgier. In the end we found a decent one where we were charged 50 Soles a night and even had our private bathroom. “Clean” was all we were expecting, and we were happy it was. As for the bed, after 3 nights spent on a bus anything that we could lie on was going to be “the perfect bed”.

We woke up early the next day to catch a bus to Cusco as soon as possible. We were looking at a 10 hour ride and this was the 30th now, so we only had one day to make it to our destination. We had a very good night sleep and when the alarm clock rang at 7am we were fresh and good to go. We got ready and half an hour later, when in the hallway, we caught sight of the clock on the wall: 6.30! How is it possible we thought, to get up at 7 and go back in time while getting ready? The mistery was soon solved: we had neglected to take into account the one hour time difference from Rio Branco to Maldonado, so we ended up being super morning people.

We adored being on the streets as the city was just waking up, and starting the day with freshly baked bread and quinoa drinks on the streets of Puerto Maldonado. By 8am, when we returned to the hostel, we had had breakfast, found the buses going to Cusco, decided on the time and gotten ourselves a ticket, finally found that ATM, had 3 glasses of fresh orange juice for 1USD and found a laundry place where they said they’d have our clothes clean and dry in two hours. We could not believe it! Usually at that time we’d just be turning on the other side, and now we had done all of the above and felt great about it too! Boy, was Benjamin Franklin right when he said “The early morning has gold in its mouth” :).

The earliest bus to Cusco we found was at 5pm, and we easily understood why. It was so hot during the day we just wanted to hide in a cool hole and not come out until sundown. Being on a bus without aircon on such weather could have made one capable of suicide. I think that someone could have easily been me.

We spent the day in the city, on the internet (after 5 days on a bus we had catching up to do) and in a cafe that seemed to be the gringos’ hangout place. It’s in the Plaza and they have really delicous fruits drinks. They have wireless too, but it doesn’t always work. Try the place out if you’re there, it’s got a nice atmosphere and the owner is the sweetest man!


The horrific bus ride to Cusco

We got on the bus with a take away lunch/dinner we had found at a vegetarian restaurant on the way to the terminal. It was a challenge eating it as the road was pretty bumpy and we were close to eating the food literally from our laps. The soup was the best, as they had put it in a bag so we ended up eating it with a… straw. It was pretty hilarious.

We had the “Panoramic seats”, as the lady who sold them to us so proudly called them, but it was all the same as less than an hour into the ride it was already dark. We had heard the scenery between these two cities was supposed to be spectacular, but unfortunately we didn’t have a choice about the time of day to be on the road. The bus was totally packed from the beginning and it was one of the worse we had been on in the past 6 months. It was smelly and dirty, and the closest thing to the idea of air conditioning was the tiny window we could open near the front seat. It was broken too, so the only two options we had was full open, with the air blowing directly on us and bringing with it huge grasshoppers and other insects that came straight in our face, or closed, leaving us totally without air.

If this were not enough, the drivers put a movie on and the TV was just by our heads. It was an extremely violent movie too, so the noise was so terrible it could have made one bang one’s had against the window in horror. That could have easily been me, but luckily Boca lent me her ear plugs and I managed to survive the 2 hours of torture. We couldn’t for the life of us imagine why someone would not only watch something so horrific, but actually buy it to play on a bus packed with people. Looking around we soon understood – the men were all watching fascinated, eyes literally glued to the bloody scenes. And since most drivers out there are men… it made sense they’d choose something they’d enjoy, thinking everyone would. The movie was so charged with negativity that all the evil in the world suddenly made sense to us: if you keep watching such filth you will soon want to act that way too… and that’s how we get ourselves heaps of serial killers and phsychopaths playing God.

The heat soon turned into chilly weather and during the night it became so cold that even our jackets proved insufficient in keeping us warm. “Are we there yet?” was the first thing that came to mind whenever the bus slowed down and we seemed to be stopping. We eventually made it to Cusco before 5am, and we staggered out of the bus happy we had made it to our destination sane and sound.


 Finally at our final destination

We were told it wasn’t safe to walk to the city center so early in the morning, as no police was yet on the roads plus nothing was open in town yet, so we’d be better off waiting in the terminal until 7am. We did just that and at 7 we took a taxi to Plaza de Armas, the central plaza you’re bound to find in every Peruvian city you go to. Once there we were approached by Jimmy, a hostel owner who was very excited to be meeting a Hungarian and Romanians for the first time in his life. He told us the restaurants open only at 8, but we could go to his hostel to use his wireless for 1.5 Soles if we wanted to. We agreed, and on the way we stopped by a bakery impossible to find if you didn’t know where it was hidden. We bought some delicious crispy bread, fresh from the oven, and had ourselves a lovely breakfast of warm bread and strawberry jam on Jimmy’s hostel’s roof terrace. He was kind enough to serve us each a coca tea as, in his own words “You might be young, but this is still 3500 metres high”. We totally appreciated his help and hospitality.

We were meant to be at the Valle Sagrada Ashram in Calca, the place where the Vipassana would happen, before 2pm. We found out it’d take about 1.5hrs to get there, so we had a second breakfast at a cafe in the plaza and then off we went again. On the way there we saw a guy carrying a blanket, so we suspected he was heading there too. He saw us carrying lots of toilet paper, so he knew we were going there as well (blanket, pillow and 4 rolls of toilet paper were the things we had been instructed to bring with us to the ashram). That’s how we met Steve, a most wonderful English guy who we’d end up spending some great times after the 10 days of meditation were over.

Half and hour after we had gotten to Vallle Sagrada and completed our registration, a more than pleasant surprise entered the gates of the ashram: Carmen, one of our friends from the Eco Yoga Park in Argentina. Boca and she were chatting on Facebook one day when she was in Bolivia, and upon hearing what we were about to do she was immediately interested. She was still on the waiting list 2 days before the start of the course, but she hopped on a bus from La Paz to Cusco anyway because … “just like that, for no reason”. When she got to Cusco and checked her email in the morning she found a message that said she was in. And that’s how we all embarked on the 10 days journey towards… ourselves.


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Saying good bye to Rio de Janeiro. Theft attempt in Sao Paolo.

Such a hard day it was, the day we said goodbye to Rio. It had been a completely unexpected experience, and that was exactly what made it so special. All three of us felt we’ve grown so much in those 6 weeks, learned so much and changed so much. Discovered parts of ourselves we were not aware of before. Did things we didn’t think we would or could. The time spent in Rio shed a new light on parts of ourselves that used to be dormant. We could not be more thankful to this city for facilitating our “evolution” this way.

We left Rio with the words of one of our friends still ringing in our ears: 

“From the moment I saw you I could tell you guys were different. I have traveled to 30 countries and worked in hospitality for many years, I have seen thousands of tourists… and i can immediately tell you are different, special. The way you carry yourselves, the way you talk, the way you interact with others, the things you are looking at experiencing…. you are not tourists at all, you are real world travelers!”

Indeed that was how we felt. And we were prepared to carry on globe trotting.

The plan to get to Peru

The plan was to make it to Cusco by the 31st of August, when our 10 day Vipassana silent meditation course was supposed to begin. From mid August we kept searching for ways to get there and we could not believe how expensive the flights were. After many an hour spent on the internet, we took a radical decision: we were going to cover the 5000km by bus, in less than 5 days. We found a bus going straight from Rio de Janeior to Cusco, but unfortunately it was only going twice a month and the next one was on the 31st, so didn’t really match our plans. We then found another one going from Sao Paolo to Rio Branco, a city close to the border with Peru, so that meant we’d be crossing Brazil from East to West in 60 hours straight. We got ourselves a ticket for that and got some basic info from Vitor, one of Vanessa’s friends, about the way from Rio Branco to Cusco (passing through Assis and Puerto Maldonado). It seemed doable, so we went ahead with it.

We didn’t know it at the time, but it would take us 5 buses, 2 cars, 1 minivan and 2 ferries to get to our destination. Four out of the five nights were spent sleeping on the bus, and one of them in a very dodgy hostel in Puerto Maldonado, a town in the selva (jungle) that could never complain of lack of heat and humidity. The last 10 hours of the trip were the most horrific hours we had ever spent on a bus, but overall the experience was much less painful, tiring and frustrating than we had expected it to be. So much so that when we got to Calca on the day of the meditation we were fresh, energized and looked like we had spent the past week in a luxury resort rather than on the road. Well, almost. In any event, those who met us then were shocked and impressed that after such a week, we looked the way we did.

Leaving Rio de Janeiro after a rough night

We started from Rio on the 26th in the morning with the first bus, the one that would take us to Sao Paolo. Since that was our last night in Rio we had to make the best of it, so we got home around 5.30am. We thought a short sleep would render us refreshed and ready to start packing at 7am, then leave for the terminal at 9. What a joke! We thanked God for Felippe’s mom that day, who shook us awake at 8am worried as she was that we’ll be missing our bus. We have no idea how we managed to switch off the alarm clock repeatedly between 7 and 8 and then not have any recollection of it either.

We packed hurriedly and got to the terminal in time. The 6 hours ride passed quickly as we were mainly catching up with last night’s sleep. In Sao Paolo we had a 2 hour layover, so off we went hunting for some feijao, not knowing if we’d have the chance to have it again before exiting Brazil. In the spirit of “it’s just down there”, we ended up walking for 20 minutes to find a place that served it. We took it away and ended up eating it in the bus terminal, sitting on the floor and watching people pass by. Some of them must have never seen 3 gringo backpackers eating take away feijao on the bus terminal floor, because they simply could not stop staring.

The theft attempt

Boca and I were sitting with our backs against the wall and Silviu was about 2 meters in front, facing us. Our backpacks were behind us and I hadn’t realised my back was touching my big backpack, but not the small one. As we were slowly eating our food and having the fun conversations we usually have, we saw some strange movement happening behind Silviu. Some guy had dropped his glasses and was leaning to pick them up; it had caught my attention because it was all happening so close to Silviu’s backpacks. As we all stopped to stare at the man, a voice appeared in my head out of nowhere: “Turn around, your backpacks”. The moment I turned I was shocked to actually see a guy there, so close to me I could touch him. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t sensed him before. He was facing the wall and was slowly moving away. I immediately saw he had a black backpack in his hand, and on the other side, glued to it was… my pink small backpack! Incredible! I was so surprised at the sight that all I could muster was an “Oi!”, the kind that rather said “Oi, excuse me sir, are you actually stealing my backpack?”. He looked at me with a “busted” look on his face and said (in English): “Oh… sorry, sorry, sorry” as he handed the backpack back to me. He then stepped away slowly, still apologising on his way away.

We were flabbergasted! First, that none of us had felt or seen him. Second, that he was this well dressed good looking man who you’d never imagine would go around stealing gringos bags. He was so well educated too, not only that he apologised for trying to steal my bag, but he even did it in English! Third, that we were all so slow in reacting. Fourth, that he reacted that way when caught red handed, as opposed to just taking the bag and running. Upon analysing we realised that was the smartest thing to do on his side, as the bus terminal was studded with policemen who had their hand on their guns at all times. Had he run he would have attracted too much attention and would have surely gotten caught. Fifth, that we, and especially I, could continue to be so careless even after the theft episode on Ipanema beach in Rio. Sixth, that my reaction was so calm and composed, as if I were tranquilised. It was the strangest experience and we were so grateful once more that it did not turn out much worse (having your passport stolen two days before you’re about to exit the country is anything but fun).

The 60 hour bus ride to the West 

Soon after, we boarded what was going to be our home for the next 60 hours. We could not believe it! It was one of the most basic buses we had been on for an overnight ride – not only that the TV was not working, but the chairs didn’t even have leg rests! Plus, it was packed. We wondered how we’d survive the 2 days and 3 nights trip to the other side of the country.

It was 7pm when we started the trip, and the first night passed uneventfully. The second day came and it became fascinating to observe the changes every time we stopped on the way. The more we moved East, the cheaper things became, and also the less luxurious the facilities were. We went from squeeky clean bathrooms with hot showers the first day (3 Reais for using the showers and 1.5 for the toilet) to free yet dodgy toilets that not only didn’t have showers, soap or toilet paper, but barely had enough water to be cleaned themselves.

The eating places changed a lot as well, from fancy buffes at 40 Reais/kg to basic restaurants where the buffes were 25Reais/kg. We were elated to be able to eat feijao every dinner, as we wanted to have as much of our favorite food as possible before leaving Brazil.

The bus never stopped being crowded, as even when people got off, others would get on and take their places. We spent 3 nights and 2 days on that bus and the only night we each had 2 seats to sleep on was the last one. Better than none, we thought. Even though this was supposed to be a direct bus, we ended up being woken up twice in the middle of the night to change buses. It was great fun being shaken awake by the bus driver at 4am and sent to wait outside for the other bus that would be there “in just a few minutes”. Fifty minutes and 2 carrots later we’d get our sleepy selves back on the new bus, thankful for another good night sleep.

Or we’d be awakened at 7am by an excited passenger: “Take your camera! We’re crossing the river”. So we’d get out of the bus and drag our feet to the ferry that would take us across the bridgeless river.  Not that we ever understood what was so exciting that would require a foto camera, but anyway…

That was how we made it to Rio Branco on the morning of the 29th, 5 hours later than we were supposed to and hence one hour too late for the bus that was to take us to Puerto Maldonado. We’d now have to find another way to get there…


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Még egy éjszaka buszon?? Neeee….

4 nap és 3 éjszakai buszozás után végül megérkeztünk Rio Brancóba, ahol rögtön mondták, hogy a busz már elment Inapariba, de taxi átvisz minket 20 Reiasért fejenként. Így nem volt más megoldás ezt választottuk. Útközben Assis-ban (Brazil határ város) megálltunk ebédelni, ahol a büfé 24 Reias volt, de 13 Reiasért annyit ettél, amennyit akartál. A második opciónál maradva, a számomra legfinomabb feijaot ettük,  ezzel végleg búcsút véve a brazil konyhától.



Délután 3ra már Inapariban is voltunk, ahol egy minibusz vitt minket tovább Puerto Moldonádóba csupán 25 Solesért (USD8). Ezt ott a helyszinen intéztük el kb 1 perc alatt, minden előző foglalás nélkül. Este 8körül érkeztünk meg, s három hostel megnézése után a legNEMlepukkantabbat választottuk, ami nem volt egyszerű, mert mindegyik hostel olyan állapotban volt, amilyet még nem láttunk utazásunk során. Bár arra rá kellett jönni, hogy ez valószínű azért volt, mert túristát itt sem nagyon láttunk, s hostel helyi munkásokkal volt tele. Ez az árban is megmutatkozott, mert csak 50 Solest fizettünk egy 3 ágyas szobáért (USD17), amiért Rióban nem egy szobát, hanem egy ágyat adtak 🙂

4 napos buszozás és 3 éjszaka buszon alvás után megfizethetetlen volt ágyban aludni. Reggel 7 kor már talpon voltunk, s mikor kiléptünk a szobából 7.45kor, hogy fölvegyünk pénzt, reggelizzünk és megtudakoljuk mikor megy busz Cuzcóba, kiderült, hogy csak 6.45van, mert rióhoz képest itt 2 órával korábban van, amiről mi elfeledkeztünk (csak 1 óra különbségre gondoltunk). Így reggel 7kor már a helyi kis piacon ettük a friss kukorica kenyeret és valami meleg italt, amiről később kiderült, hogy Quinoa ital volt, ami egy búza féleség. Engem a Szingapúrban előszeretettel fogyasztott Barley italra emlékesztetett, s nagyon ízlett 🙂



A busztársaságnál kiderült, hogy csak éjjszakai busz megy Cuzcóba, így még egy éjjszakát a buszon kell tölteni, amiért érthető módon nem repestünk, de legalább spórolunk a szálláson 🙂  Másik indok amiért nappal akartunk menni Cuzcóba, az a szép tály volt, amiről előzőleg hallottunk.

Internetezéssel, ruháink mosodába adásával s evéssel telt a nap hátralevő része, s este már a buszon is ültünk, amiért 35 Solest fizettünk.

Mikor a buszra szálltunk megértettük miért csak éjjszakai busz megy, mert az utcán amúgy is 36 fok volt árnyékban vagy 80%os páratartalommal, de a buszon ez majd megduplázódott. Persze légkondi nem volt, s a kisablak, ami mellettünk volt csak szitakötőt, legyeket és szöcskét sodort be az ölünkbe, így szinte kibirhatatlan körülmények között telt el az első 3 óra, mikor végre leszállhattunk és kicsit megmoshattuk magunkat.
A buszon Iunia odafordul hozzám: Van valami az arcomon?
Nem, miért? – Boca
Mert undorítóan érzem magam – Iunia
Én már magamhoz se merek érni – Boca

Mikor a szitakötő az arcomba repült a buszon, aminek angol neve (Dragongfly) sárkány légy, így szóltam:
„Megtámadott egy sárkány légy a buszon!?! … Hmmm, még mindig jobb, mintha egy igazi sárkány lett volna…”

Vicceldések mellett, az éjszaka gyötrelmesen telt, arról nem is beszélve, hogy időközben fölmásztünk 3500m magasba, s a levegő olyan fagy pont körül volt már kint, kellően hideget teremtve a buszon is.

Reggel 4.30kor jött az ébresztő, hogy megjöttünk Cuzcóba, le lehet szállni. A buszpályudvaron várakoztunk reggel 7ig, hogy mégse az üres utcán bolyongjunk hajnalban.

De legalább megjöttünk!! 5 nap buszozás, 4 éjjszaka buszon alvás és 5000km megtétele után végre Cuzcóban voltunk!!! S az egész túra összesen csak USD284be került, ami a lehető legolcsőbb opció volt. Sokat gondoltam kamionos ismerőseimre, hisz most egy kicsit át tudom élni, milyen lehet napokig a kocsiban ülni, buszpályaudvon fürdeni és kajálni, s ráadásul nekik még vezetni is kell! Le a kalappal!!

Meg is állapítottuk, hogy 5000km buszozása után gyakorlatilag akárhova el tudunk már menni busszal még európán kívül is (Magyarország India pl 6000km), szóval lehet következő kalandozásunk európából busszal fog megtörténni 🙂

Szóval itt voltunk, magunk mögött hagyva Riót, új kalandok elé nézve Cuzcóban. Az elmúlt 5 nap alatt sokat gondoltunk, vagyis legalább én a Rióban eltöltött napokra és a barátokra akiket hátrahagytunk. S meg kellet állapítanunk immár sokadszorra, hogy ez az utazás erről szól: megismerni új barátokat, együtt tölteni velük pár napot, hetet s aztán búcsút mondani nekik. Persze azért nem búslakodunk, mert tudjuk, hogy sok szép és életválltoztató élmény áll még előttünk.

Mi is az a Vipassana meditáció? Hamarosan itt olvashatjátok majd…


Posztjainkkal szeretnénk minnél több kérdéseteket és kiváncsiságotokat kielégíteni, így légyszives írjátok meg visszajelzésként (Leave a Reply) vagy akár emailben, hogy miről szeretnétek még hallani egy – egy országgal kapcsolatban.