Brazil: 24th January – 14th February 2013
Chris here to tell you all about our adventures in Brazil.
Rio de Janeiro: 24th – 28th January 2013
So when we arrived in Rio, boy were we excited! We were in Brazil! One of the most notable first impressions was the heat which was sweltering – a promising start!
As it was the run up to carnival there was a party atmosphere in Rio and plenty of events and street parades happening. There was also a free outdoor gig in the Lapa district, but half of Rio had decided to turn up so the crowd was densely packed. We instead found Caipirinha’s in the street and a bar with a live band playing rock covers that suited us just fine.
Coming to Rio we had to go and visit JC on his hill and Sugar Loaf mountain. Both cost quite a hefty whack to do, but do afford you impressive views of the city and both views are different. When we went to visit JC it was nice ‘n’ sunny, but alas very busy, even though we got up early to beat the crowds. Sugar Loaf has much more room to move around but we were unfortunate to visit on a slightly cloudy day, so Rio wasn’t shining in the sun.
We were also unlucky with the weather when we visited the famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches because it was again cloudy. The beaches were also quite dirty and we would find better ones later on in Brazil, but they were still much better than anything that London has to offer and there was a stall selling tasty sandwiches to provide an energy boost! From our time in Rio I imagine that living in a city with beaches must be great!
We also went to have a look around a couple of favela’s too. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but as the guide described it, the people might be poor and living conditions cramped, but it wasn’t misery. And it sure was cramped with people living in very close proxomity to each other. It certainly put into perspective how good we have it in the UK!
Being a huge Formula 1 fan, I was sad to learn that the Nelson Piquet circuit in Rio was destroyed at the end of 2012 to make way for facilities for the 2016 Olympics, so there’d be no going to watch some local motorsport there, which I had hoped to be able to do.
Wandering around the district of Santa Teresa in the hillside was an enjoyable afternoon and showed a different side of the city – you could completely forget that it was Rio, it was so different.
Food wise we were able to try lots of tasty dishes. We tried Feijoada which is a kind of stew with beans and pork and the one that we had was lovely. We also tried Brigadeiro which is tasty choclate in a form similar to truffles. Brazilians also like lots of small snack type dishes that could typically be beef or chicken with potato and covered in breadcrumbs. These were tasty and cheap!
Ilha Grande: 29th – 30th January 2013
When we were planning the Ilha Grande part of the trip we hadn’t quite factored in how long the boat ride to get there took and the fact that there were only a few boats per day, so our time there was somewhat limited. The short time that we did have though, we made good use of.
As it was raining on the first night, Sarah and I found a bar to take shelter in and decided to take pictures of each other and watch a plastic tub fill with water. Later on there was a man playing guitar and singing and it was mainly indie covers, so we quite enjoyed that.
Ilha Grande is another place where you have to earn the rewards that it has to offer. We made the two hour walk to Lopes Mendes beach and weren’t disappointed by it. The quality of the sand was fantastic, it was that really fine sand that squeaks underneath your feet as you walk on it and doesn’t get everywhere. Sadly the sea was a bit disappointing because the strong currents meant that the red flags and no swimming signs were out. Still, it was fun going into the water to get bashed about by the waves for a little bit before getting a boat back (walking the two hours once was enough).
In the afternoon we walked an hour in the opposite direction out of town, this time heading to see a waterfall. The walk was pretty uphill, downhill and pretty slippy thanks to the recent rain, so we were glad to have our walking boots on! We made it to the waterfall and it was really pretty. There were only about four other people there when we arrived and when they left we had the place to ourselves. We each enjoyed a shower in the waterfall with the cascading water proving to have a very massaging and relaxing effect. Suitably refreshed we walked back to our hostel, sadly there was no boat option for the return journey this time.
Paraty: 31st January – 1st February 2013
Paraty has a lovely town centre that has cobbled streets that are closed to cars (the cobbles and huge and the roads lumpy bordering on extremely dangerous if you’re not looking where you are going) and we enjoyed a wander around the shops there.
We decided to do some kayaking (having put in the practice way back in Chile) and spent a nice day visiting a couple of nearby islands and their beaches. We also had a tasty lunch on the beach at a third stop where we also had time to frolic in the huge mud patch at the end of the beach which was great fun! Sadly it was again a little cloudier than we would’ve liked, but despite that and despite wearing sun block I still managed to get a couple of pretty nasty patches of sun burn.
To help relieve the pain we found some pretty lethal 700ml caipirinha’s to enjoy with the group of friendly people that we had met at our hostel and soon the sun burn was all but forgotten about.
Trindade: 2nd – 3rd February 2013
Trindade was certainly one of the highlights of Brazil. It was a relaxing town with a great vibe and it nestled in amongst some of the most beautiful beaches. We stayed at Samblumba hostel which was really like staying in your friends house. The owners were so friendly and helpful and it was a fantastic place to stay, they even let me watch the Superbowl through their projector which was ace!
In the nearby hills, about a 15 minute walk from town was the “Stone that swallows” which is a waterfall that you can slide through. It’s a little bit unsettling going through the waterfall on your first attempt because of the slide into the unknown that you have to make, but once you have tried it you realise that it isn’t that much of a big deal. It’s fun! The weight of the water coming down onto you as you go through is impressive to feel.
Trindade had some beautiful beaches and we enjoyed a fine meal on the beach of Praia do Meio (our favourite beach) while watching the afternoon sun drop in the sky. There was also live music in the streets to enjoy in the evening and a few beachside bars and clubs, where even a power cut didn’t spoil the party!
Sao Paulo: 4th – 5th February 2013
Sao Paulo has a bit of a bad reputation, but because it hosts the F1 I was prepared to give it a quick couple of days before we moved on towards Florianopolis.
I was glad that we did because among other things we discovered some lovely brigadeiro cake! The first impressions of Sao Paulo were good. The man at the bus station tourist information point was super friendly and enthusiastic about answering our questions and providing us with useful information. I know that it is part of his job, but he was a perfect example of how all tourist information workers should be.
Sao Paulo has a thriving graffiti scene having given over a large area to urban art. We spent an enjoyable couple of hours wandering up Av. Cruzeiro do Sul admiring the works that have covered the concrete columns that support a road overhead. We even saw a car crash while we were there and thankfully no one was hurt!
Another enjoyable couple of hours was spent enjoying the Ibirapuera park where we hired cycles and did a couple of laps of the park.
Florianopolis: 6th -10th February 2013
Florianopolis is an island which has 42 beaches to choose from, so plenty of choice. We stayed in two different hostels, the first of which was a mere 200 metres away from the beach – perfect. We managed to get down there for a couple of surf lessons with the friendly Thor who managed the impossible and helped both Sarah and I to stand up on a surfboard for the first time! Yey! It’s such a great feeling!
Sadly it was also very rainy while we were in Florianopolis so we did get extremely wet one day when we made the trip into the town of Florianopolis. I learnt the hard way that my hard shell did a great job of keeping my body dry, but made the water run down and get my shorts saturated – not comfortable! Sarah fared much better with her umbrella.
Thankfully it did stay dry on the Saturday night when we again went into town, this time for the carnival celebrations, which turned out to be a lot of fun. The town was turned into a big party, with lots of roads closed and turned over to the townsfolk. It quickly became apparent that tradition also dictated that the men dress up as women because most of them were, which was pretty funny. There was also a street parade which we managed to join and while we were waiting around for it to start we met a man with a drum who let us have a go. It was pretty hard actually and I wasn’t very good, but it was fun trying!
Foz do Iguassu: 11th -13th February 2013
Thanks to a good tip from some friends that we made on our travels, we were staying in a camper van in a hostel garden in Foz which was certainly different and fun!
Thankfully, as it all turned out, we decided to visit the Argentinian side of the falls first then the Brazilian side the day after. For the Argentinian side the hostel offered a day trip with a man who they worked with to drive you across the borders, to the park and then the return journey and he was brilliant! There ended up being a group of six of us in total, two fellow Brits and a couple from America. We went around the park together, taking the fun boat ride that took us right into the heart of the falls, taking a trip over to the island in the middle of the falls and then taking the train and the walk out to see The Devil’s Throat. Thankfully the weather cooperated and it was a beautifully sunny day which meant that the pictures looked better and we could see the falls in all of their spectacular glory. The Devil’s Throat is incredible, it really is!
The next day the weather didn’t cooperate and it was pouring with rain, so we donned boardshorts and rain coats and made our way regardless. It was still good to see the falls from the Brazilian side because you could take in the scale of them more easily from a distance and with it raining it was probably quieter than it would have been in the dry, but lets face it, the photo’s would’ve looked better in the sun and no one likes spending the day in the rain.
We also managed to get a place on one of the technical tours of the nearby Itaipu Hydroelectric dam which was really interesting. The dam was a joint project between Paraguay and Brazil and it was really impressive to see. The scale and the size of the project was huge! You get to see inside the plant on the technical tour including a look at the rather dated looking control room and we thoroughly enjoyed it. There was a funny moment when they let us off the bus on the road overlooking the reservoir because the rain was still pouring down and there was quite a wind also. Sarah and I were eager to see it though and so jumped off the bus. Sadly we hadn’t really factored in how soaked we were going to get and so spent the rest of the tour drying out. Thankfully inside the plant it was pretty warm, so it didn’t take all that long and didn’t stop us enjoying the tour.
With all of that done we had ticked off all of the big “must sees” from our list. This was a good job because while we were in Foz I managed to to break a bone in my foot. I have since learnt that both Beckham and Rooney have suffered from similar injuries while playing football and that it is quite a common injury among footballers. Sadly, I didn’t do it playing football, or anything exciting at all. I took a fall down two steps in a restaruant that I completely didn’t see and so stacked it in front of everyone. I quickly picked myself up and tried to style it out and make it over to our table that we were being showed to. I took a seat and ordered a drink to try to take away the pain, but it swelled up and when I tried to walk back to the hostel it gave a lot of pain. I knew then that a trip to hospital was going to be needed. Thankfully the guy at the hostel reception offered to come with us because he knew where to go and spoke both Potuguese and English so was invaluable for translating. The emergency clinic that we went to was much better than I had feared. I was shown straight to a doctor who of course ordered an X ray. I went straight into X ray and then straight back to the doctor where he confirmed my fears and administered a pain killer (I won’t say where). I then had to take an ambulance transfer (my first ride in an ambulance) to another hospital where I would get put into a cast. All for free! It took about 3 hours in total and I was soon on my way to a 24 hour Pharmacy for some anti-inflammatory drugs and in bed (but now with my foot in a cast of course!)
The next day we had to go and buy some crutches because the hospital didn’t provide them but again the hostel receptionist (a different one) proved invaluable by taking us in his car to the orthopaedic shop where they had all manner of devices in the cabinets and a range of crutches to try. After trying several and finding a pair that suited we were good to go. That afternoon we had a bus booked to Buenos Aires, but thankfully we had decided to treat ourselves to the swanky, sleeper seats and they allowed me to keep my leg elevated and were really comfy, even with a foot in palster!
Brazil was really beautiful, we saw some great sights, met some more lovely people, stood up on a surf board, broke a bone and most importantly had some really tasty food! The only thing that we could’ve asked for was a little less rain, but that was our fault really for going in the rainy season (and maybe not breaking a bone either)!