And so onto Brazil proper, home of stunning football, samba dancing and errrr ... the brazilian. We left Foz Da Iguazu on the Wednesday morning via a confusing set of Brazilian buses. 2 of the buses we took didn't charge us and when I offered to pay I was ushered of the bus. All the buses also had some sort of bizarre turnstile operation going on where you pay your fare to a person who operates a turnstile about 4 seats back from the driver - obviously money taking is a specialist skill over here or the drivers can't be trusted to handle the takings. Our bus for Sao Paulo left at 12 noon and was due to arrive in Sao Paulo at 8am the following day which was a good time as we could get some breakfast, wait for rush hour to pass and then make our way to the hostel when it was light outside. Our bus arrived at 5.05 am. Never have I been so disappointed for public transport to arrive 3 hours early. Thankfully the metro system started at 5am so we made our way across Sao Paulo, baggage in hand/on back along 3 different subways. It was still dark when we arrived at Villa Madalena and got a taxi to our hostel which looked as dead as a doornail. We managed to get into the garden of the place and waited till the staff arrived, who were really good with us and made us some breakfast as we must have looked completely shattered.
After a short power nap I headed of to see what Sao Paulo city centre had to offer. I went up the Edificio Italia which is a huge building with great views of the city. Unfortunately the viewing terrace was only open for one hour between 3pm and 4pm and it was only 12.30 when I got there so I just made do with some photos through an open window I spotted on the 42nd floor. From seeing the extent of how far back the skyscrapers go you realise how massive a sprawling metropolis Sao Paulo is, it's even bigger than Huddersfield. Possibly bigger than England. I then went to Liberdade which was the Japanese section of the city. Sao Paulo has the largest Japanese settlement outside of Japan and it was strange, unexpected but cool to see such a strong Japanese community like this here in Brazil. I also visited Ibirapuera Park which is a huge park in the city centre, with lots of joggers and sports being played.
The following day I did more exploring of Sao Paulo, taking in the Estadio Edificio and Palmeiras area, as well as Paulista Avenue which is Sao Paulos main street, but to be honest I found it a bit dull and full of banks. In the evening we drank at the hostel which doubled up as a groovy bar that opened as long as people were there. Didn't stay up too late (although the temptation was there as the table of people we were with wanted us to move on to a club) as the following morning we were up at 6am to get the bus to Parity (pronounced Parichee, another wrong pronunciation from me while trying to book a ticket).
Parity is on the east coast of Brazil, about 6 hours from Sao Paulo. Its a lovely little town with old cobbled streets, arts and crafts shops, quaint restaurants and all that kind of stuff, quite similar to Colonia in Uruguay I felt. The town is right near the coast and it looks like they deliberately don't have a system for blocking the incoming tide as it sweeps into some of the streets when the tide comes in. We visited the fort there and other than wandering around the streets did little else but have a few drinks by the coast. I wish I'd spent more than a night here though as an Argentinian girl told me about a boat cruise that she went on around 5 of the surrounding islands and it sounded great. But we stayed just the one night as we had to catch a bus and ferry to our next destination, Ilha Grande. While waiting for the bus I noticed my 3rd incident in Brazil of breast feeding in public, obviously the done thing here, but more spectacularly this woman was doing it while on the run to wherever she was going - great multi-tasking. My other observation while in the bus station was that the little newspaper/magazine stalls in Brazil all seemed to concentrate their magazines on just 3 topics; Porno, Cookery and Dogs.
A two hour bus journey to Angra Dos Reis was followed by an hour and a half on a boat before we got to Ilha grande, and this place was like paradise. Relatively small island with white sandy beaches, palm trees everywhere and the sounds of reggae coming out of many of the restaurants and guesthouses - you couldn't be anything other than chilled out. I heard too that there was only 2 cars on the island and one of them belonging to the islands copper. I had a few cold beers on the decking of our hostel and it was only natural to drink the native brew for Brazil which was ..... wait for it .... SKOL. Yup that very Skol from back home that used to cost about 30p a can and taste of owl wee, but it's huge in Brazil. After this beer reminiscence we then headed out for some food with a couple of girls we met on the boat across from Angra, Alex from Surrey and Melanie from Paris. Although I was on the lookout for some traditional Brazilian food, we ended up at a place that was doing all you can eat pizza for 15 Real (thats about a fiver in sterling). You didn't help yourself here, the staff brought slice after slice after slice to your plate and kept piling them on even when you had plenty already. They had some weird and wonderful flavours too including chicken and cream cheese and chocolate and banana.
The following day we did some much needed trekking practice as we did a 16km round trek to the other side of the island and to a beach called lopes mendes. This beach goes into my top 10 beaches of all time and even gets in ahead of blackpool - I heard later that it was also one of the top 10 beaches in Vogues list of top beaches, so me and Vogue obviously have the same tastes. Anyway it was a beautiful beach, warm water and relatively secluded with only about 100 people on the massive stretch of sand. In the evening I stayed at the hostel drinking caipirinha's (Brazil's national drink) and taking part in their all you can eat burger deal which was just 15 Reals (starting to spot a pricing pattern for these buffets). The following morning I caught a few rays on one of the nearer beaches and then that was it for Ilha Grande, as we were heading to Rio in the afternoon. Pity really as with more time I could easily have stayed longer in this paradise of a place.