Coffee & Quinoa

Rick and Mallika's journey

Valparaiso and Casablanca, Chile

What to do and where to stay, eat and drink

Leaving Argentina, we took a morning bus from Mendoza to Valparaiso leaving at 9.30am and arriving at 5.30pm, for ARS400. We had heard from many friends that Valparaiso was a quaint bohemian seaside town. On arrival to the bus station not realising there was free wifi, we walked around for 30mins and then after consulting the very helpful tourist office in the station (that provides free wifi) we were pointed in the right direction. After another half hour walk to the tourist district, Concepcion, we were greeted by a graffiti clad neighbourhood adorned with hipster bars and fancy restaurants… just our cup of tea!

Dinosaur word game #chile #valparaiso #encantada #pisco #travelling #geeks #goofs #cocktails #sunshine

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We stayed at Hostal La Colombina. Situated right on top of the hill, it had a great view of the sprawling city that presides over the undulating coastline. Be sure to book in advance as it is often full, particularly on the weekend. We had provisionally booked 2 dorm beds over the phone (9000 CLP for a dorm room), but on arrival they said that an online booking had come through for our beds. They very kindly bumped us up to a private double room for the same price, score!

There are many places to choose from to eat and drink in Valpo, particularly in Concepcion. Bar del Tio boasts artisan beers on tap, great cocktails and a yummy tapas menu. This was our favourite place by far that we revisited a few weeks later. It was also where we received the news that Rick’s migration visa had been approved for Australia, so will always be a pertinent place for us. We highly recommended their Empanadas de Mariscos (seafood). 

The bars in this town stay open quite late, so if you are looking for a bit of a party, especially on the weekend, this is the place. Everything generally kicks off from about 10pm so it may be wise to have a siesta if you are arriving after a long trip to be able to enjoy the city to it’s full potential.

Amongst the backstreets of this area, there are many hidden little gems, one of which is Café Vinilo that does excellent food with good music.


Casablanca was our closest town to where we volunteered for 5 weeks. On a couple of weekends we explored what the surrounding area had to offer. For a decent pizza, go to Cafe Santo Valle. For good artisan beers on tap, just down the road you will also find El Patio de Casablanca.

La Campana

This was one of the best days of walking we have had in South America; estimated to take 4 and a half hours to the top, we conquered it in 2 and a half. The terrain was very well trodden and although there were quite a few tourists, there was enough space to not feel too overcrowded. The walk up is almost all shaded with just the last km being in the sun. We had a fantastic array of different terrain ranging from bamboo forests and dusty trails bathed in mottled sunlight through the tree canopy, to open rock pathways that hugged the mountainside with steep drops the other side. The views at the top are amazing… a picnic comes highly recommended!


Casablanca is predominantly wine country, particularly famous for it’s Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. There are many wineries to visit, but our favourite was Bodega Re

“Pioneers of wines of modernity and elegance, allowing a combination of fundamental elements to come to conceive RE wines, where history is the basis of modernity”.

We sampled some unique blends here such as Pinotel (Pinot Noir and Muscatel), Syragnan (Syrah and Carignan) and Chardonnoir (a revival of a blend made for centuries in the Champagne region of France by blending Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). Having experienced quite a few wine tastings in Argentina, this was definitely the most interesting journey for the palate, but did come with a fairly hefty, yet worthwhile price tag, of CLP 20000 per person to try a small amount of 5 of their wines.


Our first volunteer project in South America!


Volunteering on the farm: Entremontes Organic Farm

Our first volunteer project in South America, we were very excited! After having a full month in Mendoza, we were looking forward to having a change of pace. Cecilia and Alvaro (our hosts) picked us up from the small town of Casablanca in a big white Hilux, with two massive Akita dogs in the back.  Here’s one of them below, Hugh.

What a poser!

We immediately felt at home; Cecilia cooked us a delicious dinner and we shared a bottle of red wine together. We knew we had made the right choice, especially after quite a few people had damningly told us that volunteering at a poultry farm would only involve a lot of shovelling shit and not much else. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that the shit shovelling was only going to be 1 day a week. (As it turned out we only did it once in 5 weeks).

The farm:

Our first day of work involved cleaning the pens of the quails; we were given overalls, masks, a wheelbarrow, gloves, shovels and we were on our way. The work was hard and smelly, but only lasted 3 hours and it was satisfying to see the job finished and the pens clean afterwards.

There is only one permanent employee of the farm, Roxanna, who we named the chicken whisperer. Every day we could hear her shout chicken, duck, quail and goose language from all over the farm. This mainly consisted of high pitch squawking, that in reality comprised of incomprehensible Spanish, too difficult even for our native speaking hosts to understand!!!

We watered the garden daily and soon saw the farm as our responsibility, taking full care of it as much as we could in a day. The hours passed by rapidly.


Apart from caring for the birds we again were thrilled to find out that we were to be doing a lot of cooking, and I mean a lot of cooking.

After Argentina, where the diet mainly consists of white bread and meat, we were feeling a bit clogged up inside. So we proceeded to go on a carb free diet. After explaining this to our hosts they were excited to join us. This meant we prepared all the meals to ensure the diet was followed. The great thing about the diet was that we had 1 cheat day per week, El dia de trampa, where we were allowed to eat anything we wanted as long as we did 40 squats before and after eating! Our first Saturday was hilarious, for dinner we ate a delicious dinner of polenta, duck magret and home made preserves. Before and after dinner the 4 of us were seen to be squatting around the dining table, an excellent bonding experience and the start of a fantastic friendship.

Our second weekend we hosted a late lunch for 9, including ourselves. This was of course incredibly enjoyable for us, as the farm had the freshest gourmet ingredients from the land and local producers. We had cocktails, wine, starters, mains and 3 deserts! We were chuffed and stuffed!

During our stay I was given the task to make sourdough bread and after the 4th attempt I was making bread like a pro, even though I say it myself. We had 2 French volunteers with us on the last week who said that my bread was like the country bread you get in the south of France. Result!


While we were at the farm it was prime harvesting season. Apart from having a Kale forest, there were trees dropping thousands of peaches per day, which was a little too many for us to keep up with. A lot went to the chickens. We made Pear Butter – my favourite by far, and a mix of different preserves with quince, pears, peaches and kumquats. I am pretty sure in 5 weeks we made around 25kg of preserves. Those days were filled with washing, peeling, coring, boiling, mashing, sieving and jarring! I will forever have a new found respect for home made preserves and their respective price, as the amount of hours that go into them are exorbitant! We found out that the reason that so many preserves needed to be made, was not only to preserve the fruit, but to accompany the delicious duck from the farm! We enjoyed duck a few times in our stay and it was the best duck I have ever tried in my life… they are very well cared for and have a nice life.


The 7 Akita puppies were adorable and definitely helped us through our long days! One day we had to take them all in the car to get vaccinated which was hilarious. Our car broke down, the puppies were peeing all over the place and we attracted a lot of attention.


We made posters for them to be sold and one by one they went. By the time we left they were as big as normal, medium sized dogs, but they were only 3 months old! Akitas are huge.

Our favourite Fleur in the middle: the runt of the litter

Nearby towns:

The closest town with a beach was Algarrobo, we would go there to use the internet or swim at the “safe” beach. The Chilean coastline has dangerous rips that suck you straight out into the ocean, the nearest country would be Australia! So we only swum at this beach, even though the coast lines were magnificent, we didn’t want to risk it. We took long walks along the vast jagged coast line and enjoyed the glorious sunsets.


Our time at the farm was a very humbling experience that we will cherish forever. Our Chilean family will be in our hearts for years to come and we hope to see them again soon.

Thank you Cecilia and Alvaro!



Malargüe, Mendoza: What to do, where to stay and what to eat

Where to stay…

Upon arrival in Malargue, we were greeted by the most spectacular sunset that we have ever seen; pink, purple and peach hues painted the sky. After the glorious sunset we had a significantly less glamorous walk in the dark for an hour with our heavy packs and barking dogs. For the first time on our trip, we had booked into a hostel, Ecohostel Malargue and we arrived in one piece to be greeted by the friendly staff.

What to do…

We had seen online that there were many stunning places of natural beauty near Malargue, however did not realise that they were 30 to 206 km out of town and totally inaccessible without a guided tour or your own vehicle! We provisionally booked through our hostel, thinking that the tour was quite expensive at 1050 ARP (around £50 each).

Later that afternoon we hitched into town, not wanting a repeat of our night hike, in the heat of the day. We found out that the tour we were booked on was to visit only one cave. In fact we found all the tours on offer in Malargüe to be prohibitively and unnecessarily expensive. Weighing up our options and determined not to leave with a bitter taste in our mouths, we decided to rent bicycles the next day. We found a great bike shop on Avenida San Martin that rented good quality mountain bikes for 200 ARP for a half day, 4 hours. They also supplied helmets, water bottles, puncture repair kits and a lock.

We proceeded to cycle 27km to the nearest site, Castillos de Pincheira,. a natural rock formation that looks like castles growing out of the mountain. The roads in town were all paved and of relatively good quality. However as soon as we left town, on the only route to our destination, our hearts sank as we suddenly were faced with a rough dirt track leading to the horizon. Again we had chosen a poorly conceived departure time of 12.30 pm, so the going was gritty and unreasonably hot. Huge trucks passed us and showered us in clouds of dust… it’s fair to say that we were both feeling like we had made a bad choice.

After a gruelling 2 and a half hours, totally exhausted, we made it. We had only 100 pesos on us, reserved for a well-deserved glass of wine. To our horror, to enter the site cost a mandatory fee of 100 pesos per person. Luckily, the staff took pity on us, clearly realising that we had endured a challenging journey, and let us in for half price. Sadly this meant no celebratory drink (although in the end this didn’t matter as their restaurant/bar seemed totally deserted).

Thankfully we had brought a picnic and tucked in, followed by a nap in the shade with the perpetually friendly ducks. After a couple of hours we gritted our teeth, got back on our bikes and prepared for another few hours of unpleasant cycling. However, as soon as we started riding, much to our delight, we realised that the first leg of our trip had all been on a slight up hill gradient. The way down was surprisingly enjoyable and flew by.


Where to eat…

Malargüe is known for Chivito, which is goat meat cooked in various different ways. We sampled a couple of these dishes, Chivito al horno, which is essentially roast goat at El Bodegon restaurant. The meat was tasty, however it was a little dry and was served with only potatoes and no sauce. We were yearning for gravy! We enjoyed a much more satisfying dish at Vairoletto, on a corner of the clock tower crossroads. We opted for the casserole, Cazuelo de Chivito, which was delicious and went very nicely with their malbec rosé.

It’s fair to say that Malargue was not a favourite place of ours. If you do decide to visit, be sure to have your pockets well lined with dinero and be prepared to pay for your experiences. Or have your own car. Next stop Valparaiso, Chile!

San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina

San Rafael

Well I am not going to lie, upon arrival I thought we had come to the wrong place and that the photos on Google were that of San Rafael in California. My heart sank. The bus route into town was far from charming; passing abandoned houses, empty lots and scattered litter. From the photos, we had assumed that the town was by a lake, and by a lake it definitely wasn’t!

Luckily, it was the right place, but all the natural beauty was 30km out of town… PHEW!

Our couch surfing host Lucas was lovely and even picked us up from the bus station. He lives in a beautiful house with fresh fruit growing in his back yard; grapes, plums and apples.

What to do:

Valle Grande – Hiking

Day 1: We woke up at 6am to catch 1 of the 3 buses that go to ‘Valle Grande’ each day. It was 4km to the bus station so we decided to run there. All was fine except feeling slightly unfit after a week of doing no exercise in the mountains! As we ran through the empty streets there were a few growling dogs, but we didn’t think much of it.

That was until 2 dogs leapt out of the shadows, one of which promptly attached its mouth around the back of Rick’s knee! Rick in shock stopped and roared at the dogs and they backed down slightly, enough for him to regain his pace and make his escape. I kept running. Wounded Rick needed to stop as he was in pain from being bitten and was struggling to keep running. However, I was not ready to stop until we had put enough distance between us and those dogs, much to Rick’s frustration! Looking at the damage when we did finally stopped, we realised Rick had been very lucky and the wound was pretty superficial… mainly bruising and only a couple of punctured layers of skin, but no blood. Scary and tense none the less.

We finally got to the bus stop and waited and waited and waited, but the bus never arrived. A kind man named Hugo on his way to take a minibus tour gave us a lift, then a hotel employee took us a bit further, then some guests from the hotel took us the last stretch of our 30km journey that morning. Finally we had arrived at Valle Grande and the reward was worth all the effort.

Cycling and Wineries:

Not two things that you would think go well together, cycling and drinking, but it’s one of the tourist musts for San Rafael, the heart of Mendoza province. There are vineyards everywhere and conveniently most are in close distance of each other. Hire a bike and go winery hopping. Free tasters are available in almost all, along with free winery tours. Our favourites were Murville for their sparkling chardonnay and La Abeja with their chilled Tempranillo rose.

Early evening Aperitivo:

We found an absolute gem ‘El viejo almacén’ on Av. San Martin, for an early evening glass/bottle of wine and mixed charcuterie known as picada. For just £10 we got a delicious malbec and generous mixed board of meat and cheese. The owner Herman was very hospitable and his recommendations were great.

Next stop Malargue!


Mendoza to Las Vegas!!!

After a very successful, albeit lengthy hitchhike from Chile, we arrived late at night in Mendoza. We went to a local pizza restaurant for some wine and empanandas. We had been in contact with our couch surfing host sporadically through Whatsapp and finally met up with her at 1.30am!

What an amazing host and contact Vicky turned out to be. She took us out for some local drinks the following night, where we stumbled upon some gypsy jazz musicians busking. I jumped up and played an impromptu song with them too!

The following day, she invited us to visit a friend of hers in a small town called Las Vegas (no casinos there) in the local mountains; a couple of hours drive away. I spent a lovely evening playing tango and gypsy standards with our host Julio, a fantastic guitarist.

The morning after we went for a little hike up in The Andes, with the amazing El Plata Mountain as a focal point in the distance. The terrain here is pretty dry, dusty and easy to walk on. We donned our boots, but you can climb fairly high in just a pair of trainers during the summer.

Later that afternoon, we went to swim at the glorious Potrerillos, a man made reservoir that is the main water source for Mendoza, but doubles as a swimming spot for locals  and tourists alike. You can get there and to Las Vegas by bus in about 1 and a half hours from the Mendoza central bus station for around 58 pesos. The water was a beautifully refreshing temperature, but ensure to take sun cream with you as even at 5pm it was scorchingly hot.

With no solid plans of what to do next, we decided to stay a while longer in the mountains with another musician called Ariel. Life there was very simple and a much slower pace than we are used to! The change of pace, gave us the time, peace and quiet to spend a good 4 hours a day studying Spanish, our self appointed target towards the goal of fluency in 6 months time. While we were there, the small river pictured above flooded and the water supply in Las Vegas was cut off for 3 days. This was the first time we had experienced no running water and it made us both realise how precious a commodity it is.

Later that week, we had the opportunity to play on a local radio station, my first ever air time as a 3 piece swing banda locale…

Following this, we enjoyed a weekend of fiestas where we heard a fantastic variety of musicians. With Julio, Ariel and two other musicians from the street band Bici Swing in Mendoza, we made a 5 piece group to play gigs over a few days of Argentinian carnival. The most notable gig we played was at a local bar in Potrerillos, with the most amazing vista behind us (pictured below). During our sound check a magnanimous storm approached out of nowhere and we were eventually rained off. Not deterred, we continued to play unplugged amongst the crowd in the only covered area of the bar. IMG_2700

After a great weekend of gigs, we decided to move on to San Rafael… more to come soon!


Santiago to Mendoza

Santiago is the epitome of a city, IT IS HUGE. We stayed with a beautiful couple through couch surfing, Yanet and Oscar, in the bohemian, arty area called Bellavista. It hosts many cafes, and places to go out to catch live music or dance.


The streets of Bellavista are filled with colourful street art, walking around feels like an extensive art gallery. One of the top 20 things to do on a Sunday in Santiago.

I can’t say much about eating out, although there is a market with everything you need for a great meal at home and literally mountains of avocados! Cheap avocados. I was in heaven.

For under £10 we made steak, salad and potatoes for our hosts. There was a power cut though so we made dinner by candle light, it was very romantic. Rick played his violin for our hosts, which made them very happy. We drunk fantastic Chilean wine and then ended with pisco sours made by Oscar.

There is a great walk to view the city up ‘Cerro San Cristóbal’ however if your legs don’t feel up for it they have a chair lift. Once up there you can really get a feel for how big this city is. Unfortunately the park only opens from 8:30am and then closes before sunset so watching the sunrise is not an option for your morning run! We eagerly went out just before sunrise one morning to find 4 police vans guarding the gates of the park. We later found out that they are there every night as a precaution.

A few days here was enough for us so we planned to hitchhike to Chile. Allowing couch surfing responses to lead our way. We got a YES in the city of Mendoza.

All of our hitchhiking questions were answered here! THANKS HitchWiki

We found the big petrol station just 10min ride on the main road towards Los Andes was a great place to hitchhike as there is a lot of trucks heading to Chile that stop to refuel here. PLUS petrol stations are good because they have facilities!

After 8 hours, with a two-hour wait at the border we arrived in Mendoza, first things first, Malbec and empanadas.

The Sunshine Coast, Australia

Our journey through Asia came to an end when we arrived in Australia and headed to Mallika’s dad’s property; a beautifully secluded oasis of serenity in Yandina the heart of the hinterlands of the Sunshine coast, Queensland. This was our base for two months and the pace of life slowed to a calming tempo.


All of the delicious food we had eaten in Vietnam had taken it’s toll on our bodies and I was certain I had picked up some parasitic friends along the way. We proceeded to fix the problem with a super clean fresh veg and fruit organic diet of salads and smoothies.

After a couple of weeks, still in pain after almost all meals we decided to get a bit more extreme. We did a 3-day water fast, no food, only alkalised water. It was pretty tough, but definitely did the trick. Before doing the fast I had read that long term ailments in the body can disappear as a result of stem cell production being increased. For many years I have had a pain in the middle of my back and lo and behold after 3 days of no food, it had magically vanished! I would highly recommend this to anyone!

The next couple of months we helped out on the land, made use of being in a kitchen again and of course sampled many of the local coffees that were available in the area. Here are our favourites in the order of preference:

1. Clandestino Roasters (at Belmondos Organic Market),
59 Rene Street,
Noosaville 4566

2. Extraction Artisan Coffee,
3375 Pacific Hwy,
Slacks Creek,
Brisbane 4127

In the middle of industrial areas, these two roasteries had great food and coffee, unlikely gems that are worth finding!

For amazing breakfast with your coffee on the coast itself, go here…

3. The Velo Project,
19 Careela St,
Mooloolaba QLD 4557,


Another day we checked out the quaint little town of Maleny and had this delicious afternoon treat:

4. Shotgun Espresso
2/48 Maple St,
QLD 4552


Brew Café & Wine Bar
Burnett Ln,
Brisbane City QLD 4000


We found this place down a little alleyway in Brisbane in the heart of the CBD. Great coffee and wine and really cheap chicken wings in happy hour!

And Lastly:

Little May Espresso,
174 Main Street,
QLD 4560


With family coming to visit, we wanted to find some great spots to show them while they were here. Montville is up in the hills of the Hinterlands. It is most famous for it’s Kondalilla National Park and waterfalls. We stumbled across an amazing swimming hole here called Obi Obi Creek. The water was deliciously refreshing and there were great rocks to jump off! Be sure to check the water for rocks though as some places are more shallow than others. This became one of our favourite spots, returning twice with family and friends. We even became friendly with a local water dragon, a large indigenous lizard!

If you are after some refreshment, a tucked away bit of paradise is a café called Secrets that boasts a stunning view of the nearby lake, but they close at 3, so good for brunch or an early lunch.

After an amazingly relaxing 2 and a half months we prepared for the next part of our voyage, flying to Santiago, Chile!


Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam; what to do and street food

Hanoi city is lively and fun, and although at first it might appear pretty hectic, the city has a certain light heartedness about it. There is a lot to explore and eat so a few days here is needed. We really enjoyed it.

What to do:

Get a blind massage: for a relaxing start or end to the day support the blind community and get a blind massage. There are a few around Vietnam, this one was recommended in lonely planet. We went there for a 1.5hr massage and we were very impressed. A spine tingling experience. Booking is a must, we wanted to extend our massage to 2hrs but they were fully booked!

Karaoke: We went into a busy bar, with Bia Hoi (local beer) on the walk back to the Old Quarter from our massage, couldn’t tell you what it was called, but it was full of locals on a lake. We ordered a pork dish that was delicious but turned out to be incredibly expensive and we immediately thought we had been given tourist prices – it was 4 x as much as we had been paying everywhere else. We questioned the waitress, to our embarrassment a kind man, slightly intoxicated inquired into what was the problem. Vietnamese people are extremely hospitable and do anything to ensure you leave liking their country. Instead of getting the bill changed he insisted on paying our whole bill, which we tried to refuse profusely, but he was most insistent. With his mind made up, we offered him a seat at our table so we could at least buy him a beer. This escalated quickly and before we knew it we not only had the old man but the owner of the establishment sitting at our table. The beers kept on coming…

The owner looked like a Mafioso, donning huge jewels on his fingers and a tiger’s tooth on his chest. He had seen a lot in his time and we really didn’t want to piss this guy off.

Unknown bar drinking bia hoi with a mafioso and an engineer

We kept drinking beers until we thought it was time to call it, and head back to the Old Quarter, with the other tourists.
They would not let us leave and insisted on taking us to Karaoke. They called a cab and before we knew it, there were 6 of us squashed into it. The old man was sitting on Rick’s lap, then Rick was sitting on his lap. After trying to get into the good Karaoke places that were all full, Rodrigo got a turn on the old man’s lap too! It turned out the old man was very affectionate (i.e. a bit of a groper)!

Finally we found a place that had space, and they took us to a private room with a selection of fruits, snack and comically light beers (2.9%). We sang the few English songs they had available and then listened to them sing many more in Vietnamese. The old man turned out to be a fantastic singer! It was a hilarious night. Karaoke is not really our thing, but if it’s yours about 25mins out of the Old Quarter there are literally 20-30 huge Karaoke places all on one road. Fun for a big group of people, ensure to book ahead as they seem to be fully booked 24/7.

The Local Market: Full of fruits, vegetables, dried animals, alive animals and many other wonders. Definitely worth a wander. The dried squid is fantastic!


Drink Bia Hoi, Old Quarter: This locally brewed and really cheap Beer is made daily, but runs out fast. From early evening the streets diverge into absolute madness as patrons sit on the street on little plastic stools drinking 40c jugs of beer. However the laws states that no stools are allowed on the road before 8pm so its like a Mexican wave every time the police do the rounds; bar owners frantically collect the plastic stools at lightning speed to avoid being fined, while patrons are left juggling drinks and food. Not everyone understands what’s going on as their seat gets whisked away and hidden inside. When the police have moved on, the staff just as swiftly return all the stools and service resumes on the road. A fantastic spectacle.

Where to stay:

Staying in the old quarter is a must if you want fast access to cheap eats, street food tours and of course the abundance of bars.

The streets become alive from mid afternoon until the beer hoi runs out. Although the old quarter has a curfew people tend to start early and finish early. So a good night sleep is still very possible. Although with a bit of searching, you can drink to the early hours if you so desire. We found a luxurious double room (for our low budget) for $14USD/night but there are a lot of cheaper places, air BNB and couch surfing are also all around the city.

Street food:

Theres no shame about it, we ate our way around Hanoi!

Bánh xèo: This was the best one we had in Vietnam, unfortunately we didn’t find this place again after our first visit!

Egg Coffee with Bánh mì

Bánh rán: Fresh vietnamese rice donuts. Literally translated to fried pie, can be filled with yellow bean, or plain.  Really nice with a coffee in the morning, or afternoon.

Bún chả: Rice noodles, pork patties and slices of Vietnamese pork, in a delicious sweet and salty broth, served with fresh herbs

Bia Hơi: Draught beer with many different kinds of bar snacks; below we have dumpling and fried crabs.

A selection of different rice based sweet things… we stumbled across this and it happened to be one of the most popular places in Hanoi for the locals to eat.  We just pointed at other peoples food and ordered what looked interesting!
Che 4 Mua (tea for the seasons): 4 Hàng Cân, Hàng Bồ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

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