South & Central America

May - November 2015
A 198-day adventure by Ruth Read more
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  • Leaving UK

    May 6, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Flights were booked in Sep to Rio, out from is up to us, eek!!!
    STA Travel. £900.
    The time has arrived, our bags are packed... I've opted for a small 40l, Anna has opted for 65l for everything but the kitchen sink.
    Let the adventure begin!!!!

    Accommodation is quoted per room per night; buses are per person; taxis are per ride; food is per meal for both of us.
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  • Day 1

    Babilonia favella

    May 7, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    NB 5R = £1 (ish).

    After 17 hours on 2 planes (via Madrid) with no inflight entertainment but plenty of empty seats, we arrived in Rio. The landing flight path is stunning, skimming across the lit up city, then descends across water and just when you think you're going to crash a runway appears.
    Shuttle Rio met us and we battled through rush hour to get to Leme beach (R25). From the raised roads you can literally see through some of the poorer houses.
    We were dropped off at the bottom of Babilonia favella and then it was a 10 min hike up a steep hill, lots of steps, several stops to ask for directions, some more steps (190 in total) to the top of the favella & our airbnb room (R70 per rm per night).
    Our host Julio Cesar met us with a cold beer (Anna was instantly happy) and showed us around. Wifi yes, windows and hot water no. Using a mixture of our limited Portuguese / Julio's pidgin English we settled in.
    Julio left us bread, honey and cheese, a flask full of super strong coffee and a toasty maker - he was now Anna's new best friend.
    The favella seems completely safe...there is a police station at the bottom with ~10 policemen standing outside in the mornings (in fact a huge police presence everywhere in the city) and the residents are all very friendly. There is constant noise from dogs barking to neighbour's music to concerts but its completely charming rather than annoying.
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  • Day 2

    Day one of our big adventure

    May 8, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    Jet lag helped us with an early start - up at 7, taxi to Cosme Velho (R20, metered) to get the little red train that goes up the mountain (R51???). It takes 20 mins through the rainforest & strangely makes several stops along the way in deserted places.
    At the top you get 2 short escalators (presumably introduced for Americans?!) to the statue of Christ...fairly underwhelming as with most top tourist spots. Despite getting the first train up there were too many people, not much room and the weather was a bit murky so the views weren't too mesmerising. After the obligatory photos it started to rain so we headed back down, missing a torrential downpour on the train.
    It was still drizzling when we got back down so we headed to a small Naif art museum next door (R6) which was surprisingly good and had a great section showing the history of Rio.
    Then we hopped on a bus (R3, turnstile-operated) to Parque Lago which is an impressive building with a pool in the middle surrounded by lush grounds including a small stone grotto with an aquarium inside plus a large neon sign??
    A short walk down the road took us to the Jardim Botanico (R9???) which were beautiful... trees, ponds, waterfalls and 2 types of monkeys.
    Anna was flagging & wanted to get the bus home by 2pm. Knowing my wife well I sussed she needed fuel so we went in search of lunch. We came across a pay by kilo place which is very popular and R18 bought us a plate of various local food which was delicious. A can of coke later and she was raring to go!
    So we walked back home via the big 7.5k lake to Copacabana, stopping for a coconut en route. About 3 hours later we struggled up the hill and were home.
    We had a cheese toasty for starter and reheated the main dish of Brazil which Julio had made for us... Feijoa = beans with chunks of salted pork & sausages - delicious.
    Julio then took us to watch his Capoeira class which was great...2 people pair off & fight / dance with no contact whilst the others sit in a ring around them and play instruments and sing before swapping. Our favourite bits were when they went wrong and whacked each other!! It was lovely to watch but after an hour or so I couldn't keep my eyes open. Eventually we went home and had a long sleep.
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  • Day 3

    Sugar loaf mountain

    May 9, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    Awoke to a beautiful day. Feeling tired after yesterdays walking but Julio said was the perfect day to do sugar loaf.
    Walked to Urca (25 mins) and got tickets (R62), went up first cable car and the views were stunning! Without doubt the most beautiful city I've ever visited... the combination of beaches and mountains is breathtaking.
    Suddenly we were surrounded by tons of little monkeys who were quite happy to pose for photos...think Anna wants a new pet.
    Took the second cable car to the top and wandered around the paths through the trees. Had a pay by weight fruit salad which was lush to revive us in the heat.
    Contrary to many guidebooks, we both rated sugar loaf as far better than Christ Redeemer - helped by the sunshine no doubt but also there is more space to wander so it doesn't feel so touristy and just another place to tick off the list.
    Took a bus to Centro as Julio was doing a Capoeira performance. Took a while but eventually found them under a pretty archway doing their thing. Didn't see Juilio though.
    Took metro (4R) back and wandered to start of Ipanema beach (4km) and back.
    Chose a place to eat on the beach near the end of Copacabana but they didn't have the first two things we tried to order. So walked to next one about 100 yards away which was across the invisible border to Leme and prices were a third cheaper for exactly the same food! Crazy. Poty Leme soon became our fave place to eat. Rice, beans, farofa (toasted flour mix) and tomato & onion vinaigrette cost R16 and was enough to share (the waiter actually told us to share whereas the previous place laughed at us for wanting to share food). About £3! Plus a further £1 each for the obligatory coconut :) And Brazil is supposed to be the most expensive county on our list...bodes well.
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  • Day 4

    Copacabana / Leme beach

    May 10, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Spent the morning at Leme beach, perfect temperature. Played in the surf, really strong crashing waves which sent me into somersaults when I tried to bodysurf. Awesome :)
    Then Anna got sunstroke so we cooled off under an umbrella with a coconut (me) whilst Anna opted for a cheeseburger. Hiked back up to the favella for Anna to have a cold shower & lie down, which did the trick.
    Headed back out to walk along Copacabana beach (4k) to Ipanema and back for dinner at same place as previous night...very chirpy (/drunk?!) tramp came and had the dregs of Anna's beer and took the can away to be paid for recycling.
    Anna zonked out by 9!
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  • Day 5


    May 11, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    Lazy morning sorting out travel and hostel for Ilha Grande.
    Walked to Ipanema beach via shops searching for adaptor, bank and money exchange. On our way we found the greatest place on earth - a pay by weight ice cream parlour with over 50 flavours of ice cream, toppings and sauces that you helped yourself to. Needless to say we put in a good effort!!! Yum!
    Ipanema is a quieter, smaller beach. We sat in the shade reading due to Anna's sunburn but then it clouded over anyway. We wandered to the rocks which separate Copacabana and Ipanema beaches which is apparently the place to watch the sunset...however there was little sun to be seen and then it chucked it down so everyone ran - first outing of the ponchos!
    Walked back and finally found the right adaptor, plus a delicious orange and strawberry juice - juice bars are everywhere here.
    Ended up at same restaurant again...didn't find any others as cheap or nice. Francisco, the old waiter was pleased to see us, a tramp came and ate our left over falofa, and as fitness boot camp set up in front of us in the beach so we watched poor souls doing circuits in the rain.
    Got home and Julio said he had leftover dinner for us...I was stuffed but piggy Anna tucked into another plate of lentils, marine algae and rice.

    As we are leaving tomorrow, my impressions of Rio (in no kind of order):
    Rio is an amazing city, much larger than expected. Brazilians are lovely, friendly, smiley people... a lady stopped us in the supermarket & welcomed us to Rio...people stopped to help us on the tube, told us where to get off buses and how to find places. Few people speak English & our Portuguese is terrible but it wasn't an issue even though Julio complained Anna kept trying to speak to him in a mix of French & Spanish!!! Even the hawkers just give you a smile and walk away when you turn down their Christs / crazy zip bags. Family is clearly important - Julio lived above his ex-wife & kid and gave our extra rent to his mum on mother's day.
    There was always something to see...beach volleyball / bat & ball / football - (strangers would just start kicking the ball to each other on the beach)...impromptu dancing outside a in the favella. Everyone loves a party, there is music everywhere... good & bad...there is an undescribable beat to the city.
    Graffiti is everywhere...but it's art, streets are a mix of modern & shanty. Police (& cats) were everywhere, few homeless people were seen. There are a zillion buses everywhere - no timetables as they seem to run every few minutes. Yellow taxis are also ubiquitous. Outside gym areas are commonplace, as are health shops and juice bars. We saw more mincing than proper running, fewer body beautifuls than expected, however our bikini bottoms are far too big in comparison to most of those here!!!
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  • Day 6

    Ilha grande

    May 12, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Time to leave Rio :(
    After the usual cheese toasty for brekkie, got the bus through some dodgy parts of town to Rodovaria, the main bus terminal which is huge!!! Eventually found the Costa Verde desk, bought tickets (R49) to Jacarei and hopped on the bus. Very spacious and beautiful scenery. Two and a half hours later we were dropped off and bought a ticket for the slow boat as the earlier faster one was full (R20, 50 mins). Met a lovely lady called Angelica who was moving back from Holland to Chile via a few places who helped us out.
    Ilha Grande is a beautiful, laid back island - no cars, lots of hostels, restaurants and bars crammed into a small area. Staying in Lonier Praia Inn (R120) which is a bit of an upgrade from the favella...TV and hot water but also came with an army of resident mosquito's which we had to spray til the death.
    Food is expensive, we found a burger for 9R which came with papas fritas which we thought were fries but were a few crisps scrunched up in the burger! As we'd missed lunch we filled up on some cheetos from the supermarket.
    Booked tour for following day - turned down free capirinhas all day with a crazy man for a boat doing more stops by Jackie Stallone!!..possibly a bad decision.
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  • Day 7

    Boat trip - snorkelling

    May 13, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    Buffet brekkie of fresh fruit, rolls & cake set us up for our hunt for the fishies.
    70R. Boat trip around the north of the island to blue lagoon, green lagoon and a few other places I can't remember. All very pretty. If it wasn't for the weather would have been stunning. Rained half the morning leaving us all shivering & soaked. Opted not to get back in the water in the afternoon. Anna was braver. Saw big cushion starfish, turtle, strange fish with flappy blue wings & beautiful pipefish.
    Spoke to a couple of guys living in Buenos Aires who couldn't recommend a single site to visit so we have struck it off our list as it is a long way down & then back up.
    Had first capirinhas of the holiday in front of the hotel on the beach...52 steps from our room...20 steps from the sea... live music...amazing cocktails :) Bizarre dinner combination of feijao, rice, grilled chicken & chips. Service & cover charge added to bill which was unusual. Anna spent most of the night petting & feeding the stray dogs. She also was very happy when she worked out how to use the spray hose in the toilet!!!
    Anna's latest birthday has had a profound effect... she is going to bed earlier than me now! and has been falling asleep on buses, boats etc.
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  • Day 8

    Waterfall hike

    May 14, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    Torrential rain all night and morning. Thought we were hostel-bound but finally stopped so set off for our hike through the rainforest to Feiticeira waterfall.
    Clambered over rocks, up slippery slopes, past huge stone viaduct and bamboo plants. Came across 2 other ramblers who were quietly taking photos of something - turns out to be a gignormous monkey (almost dog size!). Along stomps Anna and rustles not so quietly in her bag for her camera and scares it away.
    The waterfall was beautiful, likely heavy due to all the rain. Water looked murky and cold and couldn't tempt either of us to strip off and stand under it. So we ate our gourmet lunch of crackers and biscuits and headed back via a few beaches (watched tiny crabs pop in and out of their sand holes), an old stone prison now overtaken by trees and a few small monkeys and 1 scary big spider.
    After washing off all the mud, wandered out for dinner - planned to go to a nice pizza place we'd found previously but a neon sign stating Mexican, Crepes, Pizza distracted us and we had delicious nachos & burrito to share. Anna smothered hers in hot sauce before she realised how hot it was haha.
    Tried to stay another night here as it's so lovely but hostel is fully booked as its the weekend. Still yet to meet any other English tourists!
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  • Day 9


    May 15, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ 🌬 16 °C

    (Pronounced parachy).
    Took the slow but cheap route to Paraty - 1.5 hours on ferry to Angra does Reis (R15), 1 mile trundle with bags to bus stop, bus company boys laughed when we asked for tickets... turns out you buy on the bus (R12) because its a public bus that goes a hundred miles an hour round hairpin bends overtaking anything that gets in its ways despite oncoming lorries!! Beautiful scenery though along the coastal route. Also stopped in 2 strange complexes for nuclear power than looked like army / religious cult dwellings. Two hours later we had arrived and trundled off to find our hostel on Pontal beach Refron Du Mar (R120) which is lovely - don't quite feel we are roughing it much?!
    Headed out to explore, wandering along the beach and through the historic centre which is all colonial, beautiful and full of cobbles - not nice easy cobbles like Paris but huge uneven rocks that you have to concentrate on! Our beach is separated from the historic part by a river full of coloured schooners and a creepy wire sculpture in the shape of a person full of scary heads!
    Stopped at a sorveteria (ice cream parlour)...tried about 10 flavours...mine was lighter than Anna's...again. Speaking of piggies, this morning she said if we had such a big breakfast we should just share an evening meal as she hadn't woken up hungry... I think she may have been was promptly retracted a few hours later.
    Went back to the room to rest and apply bug spray then headed back out for dinner. Had a delicious pizza to share, my usual mango juice & Anna's obligatory beer (52R). Anna adopted 2 more dogs who were scared of loud fireworks (the noisy ones, not the visual ones) which were celebrating Festa Do Divino - the start of a 10 day celebration, something to do with Pentecost. The church was packed full of singing people, trailing out onto the street, there was a red and white parade and lots of bell ringing. A huge stage is being set up but we are too lame to stay out any later to see if anything kicks off.
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