A Travellerspoint blog

Panning for Gold

And then there was one...again


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I felt like I was starting all over again on this day. Our bus arrived in Sao Paulo with plenty of time to get to the airport, where I had decided to go to wave Becky off. We had breakfast (or lunch?) together, and then it was time to head to security. This time, it was Becky heading through the scanners, leaving me behind in the vast check-in area, weeping and feeling pretty miserable. I had a few hours to kill before I needed to catch my next bus, so made use of the airport wifi, until it was time to head back to the bus terminal.

A little advice for you: don´t take two night buses in a row! It is horrible, and your body will not forgive you for a really long time. 11 hours later, I unfolded myself from my chair, and staggered out into the early morning in Ouro Preto (Black Gold). I had been recommended this place by Becky´s host family in Rio, as a historical, and picturesque town to visit. As a former colonial mining town, with cobbled streets, winding lanes, and steep climbs, this made a change from my past few weeks. Somehow, on my walk into town to find some accommodation, I ended up in the company of a French man, and a very overbearing Spanish lady. It was decided we would hunt together (not by me), and I regretfully found myself checked into a dorm, with only the Spanish lady for company. (French man disappeared along the way). The beauty of travelling solo is that I can pick and choose when I want to be burdened by others (too harsh?) and this was one burden I did NOT want to carry. I have never been irritated by someone quite so immediately, but I shall refrain from ranting here.

One of the many hills of Ouro Preto

One of the many hills of Ouro Preto

After checking in, we were still early enough to be the first at breakfast (provided free by the hostel yay!), so tucked in, and were soon joined by various other guests, including the French Olympic Dive team coach and his girlfriend, a very lovely couple. We were all rounded up together and taken off for a tour of one of the now-closed local mines. The tour was delivered in Portuguese, so I´m sure it was very interesting, but I didn´t understand most of it. Still, we crawled along the old tunnels, and squeezed through narrow gaps, and I of course, banged my (hard helmeted) head several times. Thinking about the children who worked, and died, down there, hurt my heart.

Back in the fresh air, we were treated to a tasting of chocolate cachaca (although I wouldn't use the word treated, to be honest!) before being led around the town for a bit more sight seeing. After lunch, we all drifted our separate ways, and I took a well-earned nap!

I passed a couple more days in this quiet little town, visiting their mining/slavery/furniture/fashion museum, having tea-for-one, exploring the many artesan craft shops, and making a flute with a German guy; and no, I don't know how to play the flute. It's on my to-do list.

With not much left to do in town, I decided to move on, more specifically, to the coast of Bahia. Everyone I spoke to about Brazil told me I "simply must" go to Bahia, especially for the beaches, and as I am not one to turn down a good beach recommendation, it was next stop on my journey. I bought my bus tickets, and returned to the hostel to pack up.

This next journey, was actually the longest so far, taking a grand total of 22 hours. But I was prepared, and before I left Ouro Preto, cooked myself a mountain of tuna pasta, packed into a variety of empty tupperwares and pots. I actually cooked far too much pasta; I had three meals for my journey, and had enough left over to eat dinner before I left and feed two guys at the hostel. Ha, I hadn't got the hang of being solo again, yet.

Posted by rcally 12:01 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

MY FAVORITE THING THAT I DID


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I`m actually kind of nervous to write this post. Because I already know my words aren`t going to be enough to explain what we saw, and express how I felt. I just want to stick a bunch of photos on here, and tell y'all that if you want to do one amazing thing for yourself: jump on a plane, and get yourself to Iguaçu Falls!

Totally dramatic, totally over the top `introduction`, but so totally deserved. I´ll try and write a little bit at least, if I can manage to keep a hold of myself.

Okay so first we had a full 24 hours of travelling to do to get us from the coast, to the other side of the country. For once I had accommodation booked in advance, thank you for organising me Becky, so all we had to do was arrive. That was rather more of a challege than it sounds...I was feeling pretty rough from our boat party the night before, but thankfully our first bus (to Sao Paulo) involved a beautiful lunch stop in the mountains where we rehydrated and filled up on the appropriate amount of greasy food. Slight panic, as our bus took nearly twice as long to get to Sao Paulo, and we only had a short window of time to catch our next bus, for which we didn´t yet have tickets. So as soon as we arrived in Sao Paulo, I ran off the bus to find the relevant ticket office. I literally bought the last two available seats so was feeling rather smug. Until that is, I met Becky again (who had been charged with getting our backpacks off the first bus) and realised too late I had left my beloved poncho on the bus in my frantic dash. I cried. Seriously.You don´t understand a bond between a person and their poncho, until you´ve experienced it for yourself. Anyway, I musn´t dwell, I´m still a bit emotional about it. Only twenty minutes to wait, and we boarded our overnight bus to Foz do Iguaçu.

RIP Poncho

RIP Poncho

As soon as we arrived, we jumped into a taxi to our Air BnB, in order to dump our bags, freshen up, and head straight for the falls. Home for these few days was an Air BnB with Luiz and his lovely dog, Shambo. The house was a lovely old wooden cabin, albeit a bit neglected. Luiz seemed to live out of a room at the bottom of the garden. However, there was a great kitchen for our culinary prowess, and a swimming pool! (Although sadly the weather was not ideal for swimming). Luiz was very helpful, and we shared lots of interesting, if not a bit odd, conversations. But, this is all the fun of staying with locals, and meeting people from all walks of life.

Two EXCITED Sisters

Two EXCITED Sisters

We were beginning our Iguaçu experience in Brazil. Once inside the national park, you are shuttled to the start of the waterfall trail by bus, passing several optional points, for longer walks, and boat rides. We went straight for the trail, which winds beautifully through the trees, high above the river, offering just glimpes of various falls along the way, and providing plenty of opportunities for photographs.

Our first photo op.

Our first photo op.


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You can also see across to the other side of the river, which is Argentina, and just about make out the tiny people on the walkways. The Brazil side is a lot smaller than the Argentina side, but no less spectacular. The main attraction on this side, is a walkway right underneath/in front of/next to one of the huge falls. Just before you reach it, you can buy a waterproof poncho, but where´s the fun in that?! It´s honestly too hard to find the words to describe the views, and the sheer size of this place, it is simply breathtaking. We stood, got drenched, and generally soaked up (pun intended) the incredible-ness. We attempted photos, but they don´t do it justice. After lots of looking, gasping, and exclaiming in delight, we breathed in our last deep breath, and headed back to home for the night, ready to tackle the Argentina side tomorrow.

Rainbow in the Spray

Rainbow in the Spray


Becky being a waterfall babe

Becky being a waterfall babe

Me...not so much

Me...not so much

So the next day we were up early, this time to cross the border into Argentina, to see the falls from the other side. Luiz had advised us not to get off the bus at the Brazil exit, but simply get an entry stamp for Argentina. We were thankful for this information on our return journey! 3 months entry granted, and we were in! After a little trouble at the park entrance (my Rough Guide listed the wrong entrance amount, so we didn´t have enough cash, they ONLY accept Argentinian pesos, no cards, and the one ATM wasn´t dispensing anything, so we did a little shady cambio with a group of taxi drivers) we were ready for our second day at the waterfalls!

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A much larger area of park is covered, so you can easily spend all day here, which we did. Once again you are directed down woody trails, which turn into metal walkways as you near the river. Everywhere is signposted to ensure you follow the correct route, providing plenty more photo-worthy views, nicely building up to the main star of the show. La Garganta del Diablo, or the Devil´s Throat, is the most incredibly amazing, terrifying sight. The walkway here takes you up to the very edge of this huge cascade, so you feel as if you are hovering, and it wouldn´t take much to plunge off the edge into the churning waters below. It is a vast horseshoe shape waterfall, and you only get glimpes of the other side when the wind briefly blows away the clouds of billowing spray. It is breath-taking. I actually felt scared. In awe of the power of Mother Nature, and the strength of just this small part of her. It makes you feel tiny, insignificant. I think everyone should experience this, maybe it would help with our over-inflated human egos, seeing what true, raw, natural power really is. But, I digress.

The Devil´s Throat

The Devil´s Throat


Natural Wonder

Natural Wonder

I don´t really know how much more I can put into words how this place made me feel. But I cried. Both Becky and I cried. So maybe that in itself tells you how it made us feel. It´s like nothing I have felt before, and I have seen a fair few spectacular natural sights in my travels.

The Most Spectacular Panoramic View

The Most Spectacular Panoramic View

We rounded off our last night in Foz, (and our last night proper night together, sob) and Becky´s time in Brazil, with a culturally-appropriate trip to the local Chinese restaurant. Hey, can´t help cravings! We (okay, I) got ridiculously soaked in the rain walking the couple of blocks from the house, laughed a lot at me dripping everywhere in the restaurant, and tried not to be too sad about our impending separation. (Again, overdramatic?) Our final hours together, were of course, to be spent on another delightful night bus, back to Sao Paulo, for Becky to catch her return flight home. We made full use of these hours, and strung up our laundry to dry, it had been non-stop raining in Foz and we needed those clothes! The life of a backpacker: some say poorly planned, I say resourceful.

Posted by rcally 15:33 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Paddling in Paradise


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After lots of indecision about our next stop, we eventually agreed on the destination of Paraty (can´t not read this as PARTY), about four hours south of Rio. We packed up, and said our goodbyes (rather teary on Becky´s behalf) to the family, and jumped on our bus. The stretch of coast between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo is called "Costa Verde" or Green Coast, a name it most rightfully deserves. It was the most breathtakingly beautiful drive, winding our way along the coast, bright blue waters and white sandy beaches to our left; steep mountains, covered in ridiculously green jungle, to our right. I normally pass out on a bus as soon as it starts moving, but for once I stayed awake on this journey, purely to enjoy the views.

Being sensible planners, and forward thinking travellers (new concept for me!) we had looked up a few hostels to try once we arrived. Our stroll through the town to find "Leo´s Clan" turned into a bit of a frantic dash, after failing to find a public toilet I was feeling a wee bit (pun intended) concerned. Especially when Becky told a particularly filthy joke, which had me in stitches, and desperately crossing my legs. (Too much information?) We found Leo´s, and thankfully his toilet, checked in, dumped our bags, and headed out for a stroll around the town. Straight away we knew we were going to enjoy it here, cobbled streets lined with colourfully painted shops, restaurants and bars, brimming with tourists, and most excitingly, pudding carts! (More on those later). This evening, we just had time to wander down to the seafront, along the groyne (?), before it got dark. We cooked dinner back at the hostel, and then headed out for a drink, ending up sat outside a bar, where we could hear two live musicians at the same time! The perfect way to enjoy our happy hour caiprinhas.

Beautiful little Paraty sunset

Beautiful little Paraty sunset

The next day we opted for a lazy day by the beach, but not before two hours of strenuous paddle boarding. We must earn our relaxation! We headed down to the beach and collected our boards from the very chatty Ian. We set off around the headland, in the hopes of reaching the next beach. Thankfully the sea was relatively flat, as I find it hard to keep my balance when it is wavy! After working out a few steering issues, we were soon well on our way. I love paddle boarding, it is so peaceful and relaxing, and it´s not until later in the day you realise quite what a workout you´ve had! We made it to the next beach, and decided to have a little break, complimented by some fresh fruit juices from the beach bar. Gosh, what a hard day we were having. After a little recovery, we headed back around, a little more challenging with the breeze and waves pushing against us as we rounded the headland. Once on some calm water we realised we simply must take a selfie, so delicately maneuvered towards each other, being ever so careful not to knock each other in... HA! Sorry Bex!

Just after Becky`s impromptu swim, good job my camera is waterproof!

Just after Becky`s impromptu swim, good job my camera is waterproof!

We always have time for a beachside sister selfie

We always have time for a beachside sister selfie

The rest of the day was spent lounging at the beach, enjoying a couple of beers and generally doing nothing. That night, Becky treated me to a delicious meal in the hostel, the most culinary cuisine I have eaten in a hostel, followed by the obligatory caiprinhas in one of the bars in town. This night we ended up practically sat in the band, I actually had to move my chair so the bass player could sit down. Becky even attracted a delightful admirer who promised to dedicate a song to her the following night. What a lucky girl!

Up early again the next morning, this time to jump on a short bus ride to the nearby national park, for a spot of river wading and waterfall chasing. Is there anything more satisfying than walking up a river, coming across more waterfalls, more hidden pools, slipping and sliding your way up rocky rapids? "NO!" I hear Mama C cry! After watching some spectacular (-ly stupid?) rock sliding, we made our own way further up stream, clambering up falls, until we found a lovely, quiet, shady little pool to swim and enjoy our picnic lunch.

Monkeying around on our hunt for waterfalls

Monkeying around on our hunt for waterfalls

We headed back in the early afternoon, to make the most of the afternoon sun for some more town exploring, photo taking and a little bit of shopping! My photos definitely don`t capture this little town at all, but it is honestly so picture perfect. This evening we decided to treat ourselves to a meal out, and after perusing every menu in town, ended up in a lovely little restaurant, which we had all to ourselves! There was even a 4-piece band playing, and they kept going the whole time we were there! After our private dinner, we finally gave in, and indulged in the sweetest sugary somethings from one of the many pudding carts in the street (these should exist everywhere). Stomachs well and truly full, we headed back to the same bar as the night before. We had been invited to a forro party on a boat in the harbour, this is a style of dance that originates from further north in Brazil, the state of Bahia, but you can bet your ass everyone here knew how to dance it too. Several hours, and hundreds of spins later, we eventually stumbled (because of the cobbles, I swear) back to the hostel at 4am. 2.5 hours sleep later, and I was definitely not raring to go for our next marathon bus journey...

Who said paradise?

Who said paradise?

Posted by rcally 15:53 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Ri(o)unions

Okay, so my play-on-words doesn´t quite work...


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That long-awaited hour finally arrived. Like a dramtic movie airport scene: two sisters reunited after (three) months apart, clutching each other tightly and sobbing tears of happiness into each others´shoulders. This might sounds like an exaggeration, but seriously, this is what happened. We love each other okay.

After this emotional greeting, I was introduced to Becky´s host brother and cousin (I think?) who had kindly driven to the bus terminal to collect me. We were quickly ushered back to the car, and taken to Becky´s house, to be introduced to the rest of the family. Let me tell you something...there is nothing quite like being welcomed into a new home with a Brazilian asado. Plate of barbecued meat in front of me, a fresh caiprinha in my hand, and my sister sat next to me, I was content to say the least. This was one of those houses where different people turned up every day, and I was never quite sure who was related, who was friends, but it doesn´t really matter because the house was always full of laughter, love, and the smells of cooking. Did I mention I love the Brazilian food? After 3 months of chicken, rice and potatoes in Bolivia, I was finally enjoying the food in front of me, maybe too much, as my waistline expanded at quite an alarming rate. (Note to self: must stop behaving like I´m on a two week holiday and can therefore eat whatever the hell I like). Anyway, for the time being, I was happy to enjoy everything on my plate, including chicken hearts, seriously, they´re delicious.

Becky had several shifts left as an Olympics volunteer, so we fitted our Rio sightseeing, and sisterly catching up, between her busy days... We climbed the mountain Dois Irmaos/Two Brothers, which gave us incredible views over the city and sea.
Two Sisters on top of Two Brothers....this joke will never get old

Two Sisters on top of Two Brothers....this joke will never get old

We ate pastels. We lay on the beach, drank cocktails and got hit on by Argentinians. We swam in the sea, okay, Becky swam, I tried, and very nearly failed, not to drown (lost my bikini top and flashed several other beach-goers in the process). We ate brigadeiro and drank banana flavoured beer (that was weird).
Caipi-vodkas and chat-up lines

Caipi-vodkas and chat-up lines

We cheered at the heats of the canoe and kayak sprints. We ate acai. I watched/Becky worked the women´s modern pentathlon, and surprised ourselves by how excited we got, the run/shooting was pretty intense! We ate sushi.
Beautiful location for an Olympic venue

Beautiful location for an Olympic venue

We visited Christ the Redeemer high up on his hill, again, with beautiful views. Rio is so huge, even from the top of one of the many surrounding mountains, you cannot see the whole city. It´s amazing to see from this perspective, as the favelas and the ´developed´districts press right up against each other, in a rather shocking contrast.
Redeeming ourselves

Redeeming ourselves

We successfully tracked down a new charger for my camera (after the theft in Bolivia I hadn´t had any luck in finding one, and my camera battery was on its last legs), and were both so relieved/overwhelmed, we cried in the store, sorry Mr Shop Man.

We drank more caiprinhas, more beer, and we danced.

We talked and talked, and laughed and laughed. We cuddled.

And eventually, we planned.

Phew.

Ten days in Rio. Done.

Posted by rcally 15:03 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Food, Glorious Food

(I could name all of my Brazil posts the same to be honest!)


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Ariving early by train to the border means one thing in Bolivia: you have to wait for the border control office to open up. And that seems to depend, not on the hour as suggested by the clock, but when the employees decide to roll out of bed, put down their coffees and make the grand effort to start working. Really, it was only a two hour wait after their stated opening time, so I don´t have much to complain about.

Crossing into Brazil was not as difficult or strict as I had heard. In fact, I didn´t even see the Brazil border control, just handed my passport to a man, (he DID have a police cap) who returned it ten minutes later with my stamp.

Crossing over

Crossing over

For the first time, I had vaguely planned ahead, go me! I had a couchsurfing host arranged in Campo Grande, and I even had my transport booked. Albeit, somewhat vaguely, catching a ride with a stranger who I had agreed to meet at the station (using an obliging backpacker to write in Portuguese for me). This sounds a lot worse than it is, I swear. I had recruited an additional traveller to join me, he also needed to get to Campo Grande to catch his next bus, and we were thrilled when our driver turned up in a great big land rover, with the luxury of air conditioning! Our driver was a very nice Navy pilot, who thankfully spoke very good English, so it wasn´t as bad as I had thought it might be. A six hour drive later and we arrived in Campo Grande, where I met my lovely host family- Daniel, his sister Raquel and their fabulous mum!

As soon as I arrived I was welcomed into the family, and they insisted that I stayed longer than the two days I had initially requested. Although Campo Grande is not a known tourist hotspot in Brazil, they assured me I had plenty of things to...taste. The next few days were spent flitting between places to eat, drink, and snack. Obviously I was not complaining at all!

Once my stomach was filled up on Campo Grande specialities, I moved on to Sao Paulo, to sample their local declicacies of course... 15 hours on the bus and I arrived in the biggest city in South America. Once more I had another couchsurfing host lined up, so I navigated the metro to find my next home! This time I was staying with Paloma, her boyfriend Caca, and their pomeranian fluffball Clara. Here I was even treated to the luxury of an outdoor swimming pool, shared by the apartment block, but as it was 16 degrees, I was the only person crazy enough to brave the cold water. Worth it though!

Gorgeous little Clara

Gorgeous little Clara

Once again, I was instantly made to feel at home and treated like a friend from the offset. Paloma and Caca are both musicians, and I was swept along to various gigs to watch them perform, and children´s parties, where I actually ´joined in´on the tambourine. Musical talent at its finest.
Paloma was also incredibly generous with her time, showing me the sites, and of course, ensuring I tasted the best of Sao Paulo food. Sao Paulo is huge, I mean really crazy big, so I feel I barely scratched the surface, but did manage to get to the historical centre, and its beautiful Ibirapuera Park, which is a gorgeous green break amongst the thousands of skyscrapers.

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Batman Alley, home to everchanging graffiti

Batman Alley, home to everchanging graffiti

As before, Paloma and Caca allowed me (insisted) to stay an extra night than planned, in order for my onward travel to be better arranged...they quite quickly sussed that I am not one for forward planning! But as my next stop was Rio (and Becky´s arms), Paloma was concerned that I was not arriving at night, with no idea where to go...so I made sure I booked my bus in advance, and arranged with Becky to meet me at the terminal, yay! This is what I love about couchsurfing, not only have people opened their homes to me and given me the best, local experiences of life in XYZ city, but they have all been interested in my travel, concerned for my safety, and extremely helpful in my future plans! I much prefer this method of travel and meeting people, than staying in hostels.

View across the lake, from Ibirapuera Park to the city

View across the lake, from Ibirapuera Park to the city

And finally, the day came for me to board my bus to Rio, and travel the last few hours (six) to meet my darling sister! I was beyond excited.

Posted by rcally 13:06 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

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