A Travellerspoint blog

South America - Week 3

Brazil

35 °C

We finally stayed another 3 days in Rio before heading into the Pantanal. We stayed at our friend Rafael and enjoyed the beach, the food (mostly cheese and chicken pastries), the drinks (fresh natural fruit juices and of course some more caipirinhas) and a bit of night life in Rio (from what we remember, the night out in Lapa was really good... but everything got a bit hazy after only 2 caipirinhas on empty stomachs).

The 22h bus journey to Campo Grande went very well. We ate and slept most of the time in this comfy bus and felt fine when we arrived.

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We expected travel agencies to fight to enrol us on a tour into the Pantanal as described in the guide books but instead of that we really struggled to find any kind of tourist information or tours companies to arrange our trip. We found some leaflet, got to the wrong place to arrange for the transportation to the place mentioned in the leaflet but fortunately someone helped us there and we managed to sort everything out for a 4 days / 3 nights package into the Pantanal starting the day after. Campo Grande was quite uninspiring and the only sight of interest was probably this phone booth pictured below.

Allo! Allo!
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On the day after, we left for the Santa Clara lodge in the middle of the Pantanal where after another 4-5h bus journey we were greated by our guide for 3 days. The activities there included boat trips, piranhas fishing, trekking safari and horse riding.

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This area was very rich in wildlife and we got to see Toucans, Macaws, Caymans, Monkeys and numerous other type of birds. A group saw jaguars but we were not lucky enough to spot one. The photos below will give you a better idea of what we saw:

Toucans:
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Macaws:
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King fishers:
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Tuiuiu (the symbol of the pantanal)
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Caymans:
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Capybara:
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We had a really great time in the heat of the Pantanal spoting wildlife in the morning and relaxing by the pool in the afternoon.

We are now in Bonito, an important center for ecotourism in Brazil (or shall I say a big money-making business center?), where we have been on a snorkeling trip floating down rivers with crystal clear water and "abundant" fishes. It started raining heavily again here and we are now thinking about heading into Paraguay one day earlier than planned (to save money and escape the rain) or just take a rest day here in Bonito to chill-out and plan the rest of the trip.

Posted by lebrunfo 14:50 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

South America - Week 2

Brazil - Ilha Grande/Paraty

sunny 26 °C

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Ilha Grande is a tropical island about 2/3 hours South of Rio de Janeiro. We had booked 4 nights in a Hostel and wondered on the first day whether this would be a good idea given the poor weather upon arrival and the very loud reggae party just next to our 4 bed dorm. We later found out that only a handful of people were still out until the early hours of the day and that no one could sleep that night. The next 3 days were almost perfect with several hikes through the jungle and up some steep mountains, sleeping on the beach in some really beautiful coves, ... The landscape looked like the one from the Island in the series Lost but luckily, we managed to leave the Island without any problem (or at least, without much problem as you'll be told later).

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The hike up the Parrot's peak in particular was quite fun. We set up at 10 in the morning with our new french friend Cédric from the island of "La Réunion" ( our next holiday destination?) and - despite the warnings from all local agencies - we didn't hire a guide. We made it to the top and back in about 3 hours without much difficulties i.e in 3 to 4 hours less than what was indicated by the signs and local guides. We were glad not to pay for that!

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On Saturday evening, the day before leaving the island, we bought tickets for the fast boat to Angra dos Reis at 9am where we wanted to get on a bus to the old colonial town of Paraty further South on the coast. Come Sunday morning, we leave our hostel at 8.30 to make it to the pier at about 8.50 where the guys tell us that the boat had already left. We try to make ourselves understood (not that easy in Portuguese) by showing our watches to the guys who do the same to reply to us and we realise that we are not on the same time anymore. We only later found out that Brazil changed to summer time overnight but there was no one to tell us that. Nice !! We had to buy 2 other tickets for the next slow boat. I (Franck) was upset all day because of that! We finally made it to Paraty where we wandered the nice paved streets with colourful colonial houses.

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We stayed there for two days but were a bit frustrated by the wheather and the heavy rain on the second day. We did meet by chance our Canadian friend Christian and German friend Lena who we had met previously on Ilha Grande and spend some time with them cooking food in our hostel and playing cards waiting for the rain to end and waiting for our bus back to Rio where we are back again.

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We are now preparing for our next trip, a 22 hours bus journey from Rio to the city of Campo Grande, the gateway to excursions into the Pantanal, the biggest wetland area in the world with its share of fauna and wildlife....

Posted by lebrunfo 14:02 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

South America - Week 1

Brazil - Rio de Janeiro

overcast 24 °C

We didn't expect our first problem to happen before we even started our journey... but after an uneventful trip from Greenford to Heathrow -thanks to Frank & Caro for hosting us for a few days and giving us a lift to the airport - the journey almost ended prematurely. We had the great idea of buying a cheap one way ticket and take it from there with our travel plans but the brazilian immigration office didn't see it that way and made us buy a return ticket to prove that we would eventually leave Brazil and return to lovely London. The cheapest fare being Sao Paulo - London for £800 each on Xmas eve. Ouch! We are £1600 poorer already but we should be able to get a refund and only loose the airport taxes. For now, we'll keep the flight just in case we have the same problem at other border crossings in the next 2 months. Hopefully we will be able to get the refund from Buenos Aires when we get there.

12 hours laters we are at last in Rio where the immigration officers have stamped our passports after hardly looking at them and without asking any questions about our travel plans! The taxi driver was waiting for us and took us to our hostel Harmonia in Ipanema, which is a nice suburb by the beach not far from Copacabana. In the dorm, we met our two young Swedish room mates Piers and Lars.

Ipanema
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On the first day, we met our brazilian friend, Rafael, who gave us a lot of tips and things to do. Our first impression of Rio is somewhat altered by the few Caipirinhas that we drank, the overcast weather and the jet lag.

Of course, we saw the touristic places: Copacabana, Sugar Loaf mountain and Corcovado, the famous statue of the Christ overlooking Rio. We also liked the little trip to Santa Theresa in the very small street car. The night out at the Melt club in Leblon was interesting: Samba, free caipirinhas and techno music left our Swedish mate crawling back to the hostel, bare foot on the beach in the middle of night against all safety recommendations from the guide book. We however did not feel unsafe at any time while in Rio, which does not seem to be the no go area described in the news; except maybe in the favela Rochino where we were welcomed by a drug dealer riding a horse with guns hooked up to his belt (this was part of a tour in the slum www.bealocal.com, which we highly recommend).

Charlotte Coco
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Favela
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Corcovado francko
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France-Brazil
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Copacabana
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Posted by lebrunfo 20:17 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

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