Friday, September 18, 2009

Rio De Janeiro

In some ways Rio hasn't been quite like we expected it to be. I think we probably thought it would be more vibrant and maybe more tropical or exoctic or something. Maybe the fact the weather wasn't all that great until yesterday has something to do with it. It's a huge sprawling city, that's kind of worn around the edges for the most part. But in other ways it's just like the postcards with the beautiful long sandy beaches, including women in skimpy bikinis. (All the women wear thongs to the beach, regardless of age, shape or size.)

We took a very steep and very scary cable car ride up to the top of SugarLoaf mountain, where we really got to see just how big the Rio is. It just went on and on as far as the eye could see. It's really unusual how many little mountains/big hills are dotted here and there, right in the middle of all the highrise development. We got to see how busy Rio is as a port too, there were loads of huge tankers and cargo ships all milling around the bay. There were great views of the beaches up there as well. It's amazing to have such spectacular stretches of sand just beside busy built up areas.

We took a spin up to the top of Corcovada, to see Christ the Redeemer. It was a bit cloudy, so he was appearing and disappearing at will. Sometimes we could just about make out his outline, and then the clouds would blow over and he'd be unveiled again.

We had a trip to Rochina favela yesterday. It's one of over 1000 slums in the city. The conditions there were unbelievably cramped. It's just house upon house with barely walking space between them. It really reminded me of India.

Besides all the sightseeing we've been enjoying Brazil's rodizio cuisine too. Rodizio basically means all you can eat. We've been to a few BBQ type rodizios where theyhave buffets of veg, salad, rice, potatoes etc. and then they come around with meat on skewers, and slice it off onto your plate. Pizza rodizios are fairly popular too. As long as you're there the waiters just keep coming around with different pizzas and you can take slices of whatever ones take your fancy. When they notice you're slowing down, or look like you're going to burst, they roll out the dessert pizzas. The white chocolate and strawberry went down well, but the banana, cinnamon, and cheese wasn't such a hit. They put cheese on everything over here, so we should have expected it.

Today was Fossie's birthday and after having Happy Birthday sung to him and his candles blown out by the nutters in Carrigmore, we hit Copacabana. Chilling out will a beer on the beach in the Brazilian sunshine isn't the worst way to spend your birthday.

This morning we said goodbye to Emily and Andy who had been our travelling companions for
the last 2 weeks, and tomorrow we fly to Campo Grande for a trip to the Pantanal. Hopefully we'll spot some wildlife there.

Jan and Paul

Sunday, September 13, 2009

South America 1 - Santiago to Rio

Way back on the 27th of August we decided we'd had enough of regular travel so we tried our hand at time travelling. Only managed to go 5 hours back in time but still...
Since we left Auckland flying at 5pm flying in one direction, and with the sun going the other, and crossing over the international date line and all of that, we actually arrived in Santiago 5hours earlier than our flight took off. At 40 hours, it was literally the longest day of our lives.

We didn't spend too long in Santiago so just explored the city a bit. It was really nice and more developed than I was expecting.

From there we caught a bus up and over the mountains and the Argentinian border to a town called Mendoza. It was really nice there too and just as developed as Santiago had been.

Then it was the first of our night buses as far as Buenos Aires. It was great. We had fully reclining seats with footrests, that basically folded into beds.

We got dinner and breakfast on board, and we were even offered a nightcap (although we didn't make use of that because our Spanish was very rusty so we didn't know what we were being offered).

In Buenos Aires we walked around a lot of the city and did lots of sightseeing. One of the evenings we went to a tango show, and even get some tango lessons! It was great craic, although we weren't much good.

We also visited Recoletta Cemetery, where Evita is buried. Well, actually she's not quite buried. It was really strange there. It was like a miniture town, with loads of little streets and alleys, that were all lined with these one room buildings that are mausoleums. So these little buildings have doors into them (glass doors in a lot of cases) and on one side they had shelves for all the coffins. It was a bit spooky and very wierd that you could actually see them.

We managed to get to the Boca Juniors stadium too, although we just missed a game there.

Another night bus brought us to Puerto Iguazu, the Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls. On that side we got to walk along the top and the bottom of the falls, and did a boat ride underneath them too.

Then we crossed over to Foz do Iguacu, the Brazilian side. The national park there is on the opposite side of the river to the falls, so you're further back from them but that means there were some really amazing panoramic views of the whole falls. they were pretty impressive, definitely a whole lot more to them than Niagara.

So from there we cut out to Florianopolis, on the Brazilian coast. The evening we arrived there was a gay pride parade going on so we went to have a look at that. It was great fun, just like a big street party.

We managed to get to the beach there one day, and it was lovely just to be able to lie out in the sun again (the weather has been very mixed most of the time, a bit like summer at home).

We also did a little bit of sandboarding on the sanddunes there - great fun.

From Florianopolis we headed up along the coast to a really cute little place called Paraty. It was so quaint with its cobbled streets, lined with white house with brightly coloured windows and doors. We loved it there, and probably more so because it was one of the first small towns we'd been to, everywhere else was big and busy, but Paraty was small and quiet and laid back.

Next destination was Ilha Grande, and island about 20km off the coast. Like Paraty, it was small and laidback. There are no cars on the island at all. We got really lucky with the weather and had a scorcher of a day at Lopes Mendes beach on the island. It was beautiful.

Tried our hand at a bit of surfing but realised we forgot everything we learned about in Australia - we were awful at it but at least the surfboard looked good.

So now we've just hit Rio this evening, fingers crossed the weather holds out for us to get a day a Copacabana!!!

Jan and Paul.