So it’s a bit late, but this is our last blog post from our 6 months traveling and training across North and South America.
We started New York and ended in Chilean Patagonia, saw some of the planet’s most beautiful regions and trained in some of the top gyms in the world. I’ve written about our last few weeks in Brazil and Chilean Patagonia below, but first here’s a quick #1secondeveryday video of our trip – thanks to everyone who was a part of this amazing experience!
After leaving the beautiful beaches of Rio de Janiero, we headed up North to Salvador in Bahia for a few days. Salvador is the old colonial capital of Brazil, and is famous for its strong Afro-Brazilian culture. In the Pelourinho old town, the buildings are a riot of colour and the cobblestone streets give off a nostalgic, colonial atmosphere, but the city really comes to life at night time. Especially on Tuesday nights, when everything turns into a big street party, starting with the weekly mass at the historical Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos and ending with drumming troupes like Olodum roaming the streets and loads of people drinking and dancing on the sidewalks. And you can’t leave Salvador without trying the moqueca (seafood stew), we literally had it for lunch and dinner everyday until we could handle no more.
All our friends in Rio warned us that Salvador was not safe (which is funny because all our friends from São Paulo warned us that Rio was not safe!) but as expected, we had no problems whatsoever. We stayed in Barra, which has the most famous city beach in Salvador (Porto da Barra), a beautiful but relatively small stretch of sand which can get crowded on weekends. The best beaches were on the East side of the city we’d been told (Stella Maris etc) but far from the touristic sights.
We asked the BJJ Globetrotters community for a recommendation on a place to train, and were pointed to the gym of Marcos Lira (ML Team in Boca do Rio). We got in touch with Marcos on Instagram and he invited us down to train. The gym was on the other side of the city from us and Salvador has loads of traffic but we decided to give it a go. When we finally got there the mats were full and about 40% of the class were women; it was a pleasant surprise – particularly for Alessia and we realised the long journey had been worth it. Everyone seemed excited to have us there – guess most of the visitors head to Rio and São Paulo. Marcos is a De la Riva black belt so, on that night he went through a couple of nice DLR sweeps. Rolling in the heat of Salvador really took it out of us though, especially after a day baking in the sand at Porto do Barra. Even though we were used to training in the Brazilian heat by then, I swear we lost half our weight in sweat that first night training in Salvador.
After Salvador we headed further North to the Ceara region, as Alessia had agreed to teach yoga at an ecolodge there called Castelo Vendom for a few weeks. So we found ourselves in the tiny fishing village of Parajuru is a tiny village on the coast of Ceara, a few hours drive from Fortaleza. It’s popular with kitesurfers due to the steady wind and protected lagoon with flat water, but apart from that, it is a great place to chill and enjoy some real peace and quiet. After the hectic few months we had been having, a bit of downtime was just what we were after.
Besides Alessia’s daily yoga classes, we had plenty of free time to relax in hammocks, read, swim in the natural pool and enjoy the tranquility. There were no gyms in the area, but we managed to acquire some mats from the village and create a little space for us to drill and spar so we could keep up our training a bit. It was good to focus on drilling and gaps in our games we had identified over the past few months sparring at so many different gyms with so many different styles of fighters. We focused on leg locks and passing drills and had a good 2-hour training session every day.
With that quiet time resting in Parajuru to recharge us, we were ready to head back to São Paulo for the tail end of our 3 month stay in Brazil (visas ?). We spent that last week getting in as much training as we could. We visited NS Brotherhood a few more times and finally got to share the mats with Leandro Lo (he was in Finland for ADCC last time we were in São Paulo). His competition class featured some of Brazil’s best competitors and very intense sparring, in particular Alessia really enjoyed training wth Luiza Monteiro ?.
The rest of the time we made sure to hang out and train again with our friends Marcio and Marcelo at Body Tech (we were there for the end of year grading too which was great) and to enjoy the last few days together as Alessia and I weren’t going to see each other for a couple months after that.
Her sister just gave birth, so she had to cut the trip short a few weeks early to go back to Europe and spend Christmas there with her family. Meanwhile, I was continuing down South to Patagonia to do the W trek in Torres Del Paine, which had always been a dream of mine.
Patagonia, Chile After a long day of traveling by plane, waiting in airports and long bus rides, I arrived in Punta Arenas in the far South of Chile at 6am in the morning and managed to grab a couple hours sleep somehow. Punta Arenas is a small town and I had only planned to spend a few days there on my way to Torres Del Paine national park, but has its own sort of beauty – the whole region really does feel like a windy frontier at the edge of the world. Feeling absolutely wrecked, I had no intention of training that day, but as I was wandering around town with my RGA hoodie on (the temperature down south was a big change from Brazil!), I was stopped by no less than 3 different jiu jitsu guys asking me to come train with them. It turns out there are quite a few gyms in Punta Arenas! With nothing else to do, I dragged myself to training at Cicero Costha Punta Arenas which was just around the corner from my hostel, so I had no excuses. The team, under the black belt Luis, were super welcoming and I had some fun rolls (I slept well that night!), so I made sure to go again the next day for no-gi. Apparently there is also a gym which is in a big igloo-style tent, would have loved to train there as well, just for the experience! The day after, I left for Puerto Natales, the gateway for Torres Del Paine.
Puerto Natales was even smaller than Punta Arenas, but I loved the vibe and the atmosphere of the corrugated iron roofs and windswept waterfront. Being so far South and under the hole in the ozone layer, the sky is a brilliant blue and the chill air feels crisp and clean. I spent the first few days collecting the gear I needed for the trek – Torres Del Paine has limited number of visitors allowed to camp in the park and I was lucky enough to have somehow managed to get bookings in advance. I met many people who weren’t so lucky and had to change their plans.
The classic W trek is a 4 night, 5 day route, carrying all your own camping gear and food for the entire trip, so my backpack was incredibly heavy the first day but progressively lighter as I tried to eat as much as I could as fast as I could.
The wind is incredible and constant, I had been warned beforehand but it is still surprising just how strong it is – enough to literally blow you over completely with unexpected gusts. I met one girl who had brought a drone to the park and had lost in the wind (she didn’t think that through). The wind also makes fire a huge risk in the park – in 2011 40,000 acres of the park was destroyed by a fire which spread quickly out of control, started by a stupid tourist, of course.
That first day, I was kicking myself because after all my careful packing, I had forgotten my knee brace for my dodgy knee in my gym bag, probably the most important thing for me to bring on a multi-day hike. I think it affected me mentally more than physically, and after hiking 6 hours with a full pack the first day my knees were wrecked. But it got progressively better and I barely even felt it as I saw the seemingly endless Glacier Grey, the most vivid blue waters of Lago Pehoe, the pristine beauty of the Valle Frances (which was ‘closed’ on the day due to high winds, but I went up anyway and it was my favourite part of the whole trek) and the snowy Torres themselves. It was some of the most amazing natural beauty I had seen in all my travels ?.
After the trek it was time to say goodbye to South America and head back to Australia for Christmas with my family – my brother also had a new baby girl I had yet to meet. Over the past 6 months traveling and training, I had somehow managed to lose 7kg from training loads and not eating properly (budgets, ya know), so I was looking forward to mum’s cooking and the hot Australian Summer, catching up and training with old friends.
Alessia and I are meeting back up in late January to continue our travels in Asia – so stay tuned ??
Marcus and Alessia