Into Brazil and our next Big Three-Oh

Trip Start Apr 14, 2010
Trip End Apr 16, 2011

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Friday, April 29, 2011

After a week or so of city-based fun and games in Argentina we were looking forward to getting back to nature a bit more, and there are few places that do it on such as scale as the Iguaza falls. As well as marvelling at the size of the falls from the various walkways and viewpoints we took a boat to get a closer look – and were taken right under part of the falls. It doesn't get much closer than that! It was on our minds for that whole time that one of these boats had actually flipped and killed some tourists a few months before but we weren’t going to be deterred- it looked like fun! Having saved the boat ride for the last thing of the day turned out not to be quite such a good idea though as we squelched onto the bus back to town for a quick change before a final family dinner.

Having bid the parentals good bye the next morning Clairee, Ricardo and the two of us headed on to Brazil for the fourth and final country of their South American adventure.  We were quite sad to finally be leaving Argentina this time; having come all the way from Tierra del Fuego right next to Antartica to the tropics at Iguazu we’d managed to collect 8 Argentina stamps in our passports from our multiple border crossings.  We’d also seen such amazing different things; from the mountains and glaciers down south to the lakes, wine country, BA nightlife and the amazing Iguazu.  And that’s not to mention (yet again) the steaks and BBQs!  It was definitely one of our favourite countries of the trip.

After a very exciting few hours in a very wet Rio bus station we made our way south along the coast trying to work out where to get off to catch a ferry to Ilha Grande island.  Having spent a whole 12 hours in Brazil by now we were already missing Argentina and being able to communicate with people.  We hadn’t realised how much Spanish we’d been speaking and whilst we’re both adept at ordering beers and squid/crab/sardines/basically any seafood in restaurants, that’s about the limit of our Portuguese without resorting to speaking Spanish with a Sean Connery accent (it actually does work surprisingly well).  Eventually after a lot of speaking at people in badly accented Spanish a very helpful gentleman in a fetching orange boiler suit took pity on us and (we think) said he was going to Ilha Grande and would tell us when to get off the bus.  With little choice but to follow him we then found ourselves on the side of the road in a tiny little port, where he assured us (again, we think) that the last ferry of the day would be leaving shortly.  A few minutes later we stopped worrying so much when a taxi drew up to drop off some more tourists, who were none other than Poppy & Anna who’d gone to Uruguay rather than Iguazu and we’d been aiming to meet on the island.  After a frankly terrifying boat trip in a little wooden tub the dark and one very near miss of another boat (the captain had his lights off, presumably to preserve his night vision, fine in theory but not if you are not looking where you are going and chatting to your mates drinking beer) we made it to the island in one piece in time to celebrate our arrival in Brazil with a caipirinha, and more importantly to toast the arrival our new niece Chloe who had been born that morning – welcome to the world Chloe!

Ilha Grande is home to Lopez Mendes beach, supposedly one of the best in the world so we obviously had to check it out.  It is also though about a 3 hour very hot walk through the jungle to get there, at the end of which any beach would look pretty inviting.  Joking apart, the beach (and the rest of the island) were absolutely stunning and we spent a very happy few days trying to get as much sun as possible so everyone going back to the UK would look like they’d been on holiday.  We’d been worried that everyone in Brazil would have Gisele-Bundchen-esque figures and we’d all have to hide under towels for fear of everyone pointing and laughing at the fat pasty tourists, but are pleased to say that whilst there were certainly some of the Gisele mould, the Brazilian beaches we visited also had a surprising proportion of very large and/or very hairy clientele and there was no pointing and laughing at all.  Phew!

The 2nd day on the island Gordon and Richard felt the need to climb something again and therefore set our sights on one of the highest rocks on the island (called Parrot Rock). The map said it was 8 hours return. Phaaa, we thought, we’ll do it in 5 total. It took 8 hours. What’s more it was pretty hard work up through the steaming jungle with slippery roots and rocks. Finally though we did make it to the top (scrambling up the last few sections) to stand on an incredible perch with clouds literally blowing up the mountain into us at quite a speed - a very funny sensation you could see them coming and then feel the cold when they hit - and the views alternating between absolutely amazing and pea soup. It required patience to get a good photo.

That night we also decided (perhaps a bit belatedly) to stop forking out for caipirinha’s made in bars (anywhere from 8-20 reai or 3-8) and go to a shop to buy the ingredients ourselves. We were shocked by how cheap it was; a whole litre of cachaca was 7R, a bin-liner full of limes 3R and a bag of sugar 1R. We decided to celebrate our money saving ways by drinking the entire bottle in the hostel.

Our final day on the island was 29th April, yup, the Royal Wedding day which started stupidly early local time, and to our (okay, Sarah’s) horror, the TV in our hostel was broken.  This left us with something of a problem trying to find somewhere on a tiny island off the coast of Brazil that would (a) be open at 6am, (b) would have a working TV and (c) would let us watch the Royal Wedding.  In the end we managed to walk into a posher hotel and take over the TV in their lobby.  The commentary was in Portuguese but beggars can’t be choosers (we’re pretty sure they also thought we were staying there but never mind).  What a fantastically British day, it made us feel very London-sick.  For the record, the boys chose to stay in bed.

Having prised the Beard sisters away from the wedding it was time to head to Rio for the final stop on Clairee & Ricardo’s holiday (sniff sniff), to see the city and celebrate a little birthday as 30th April was also Sarah’s 30th birthday!  Our first night in Rio, after a trip up the Sugar Loaf for fantastic sunset and night views of the city, our hostel had a capoeira evening where audience participation was positively encouraged and Richard wowed the demonstrators with his double-turn-kick manoeuvre (perhaps there’s a slight note of sarcasm – happily there’s video evidence that will be supplied on request).

The next morning Sarah finally left her 20s behind her.  Like Gordon Sarah took turning 30 quite hard and also jumped off a cliff, but not into the sea wearing rubber shoes in a Thai-cliff-jumping way, instead strapped to a hunky Brazilian and a hang-glider to fly over the beaches of Rio. Amazing doesn’t really cover it!  And the day didn’t end there as we then spent the afternoon in an all-you-can-eat Brazilian BBQ overlooking Flamengo beach and the Sugar Loaf before Claire & Sarah did a spot of shopping for a birthday outfit courtesy of Claire which meant Sarah (to her very great excitement) got to wear heels for the night.  Well, most of the night anyway – after hours of dancing in a very cool classic Rio samba club the flip flops were brought back out for the way home.  It was a truly amazing birthday, especially having Claire, Richard, Poppy and Anna there to celebrate with us.

The morning day after was spent recovering in the sunshine on Copacabana beach before Claire & Richard’s flight home.  It felt a very long way from La Paz a month ago and what a month it had been!  Claire & Richard/Beardlet & Dickie/Clairee & Ricardo - thanks again so much for coming out and making this one of the best parts of our trip, it meant the world to us and you were the best travelling companions.  Nepal next for more mountains?
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