10 days in Brazil!

Trip Start Sep 04, 2003
Trip End Dec 16, 2003

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Sunday, September 28, 2003

Wednesday, 17th September - Rio de Janeiro
We arrived in Rio late in the evening, which usually means that the choice of hotels/hostels is limited. Rio was packed for a motorbike championship and therefore the hotels were brimming. With little choice on where to stay we ended up in the Atlantis Copacabana hotel,which is situated in a quiet residential street just between Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. The hotel is a real treat after living in hostels and ending up being bitten by fleas from one hostel that shall remain nameless........

Thursday, 18th September - Copacabana
Our first sight of Copacabana was early in the morning. The beach has beautiful white sand and a spectacular view across to various islands around Rio. The thing to do along the beach is to put on your jogging kit and speed walk down the 2km beach. Michael has decided to take up jogging, I am sure it has nothing to do with the beautiful women running up and down the beach! Halfway down the beach we stopped at one of the numerous beachside drinking holes and had our first Caipirinha (pronounced kypeereenya). We are such lightweights, we only had one between us and it sent us into orbit! For how to make a Caipirinha scroll down to the bottom of the page!

Friday, 19th September - Sao Paulo
We travelled the 12hour bus journey to Sao Paulo which is one of Brazilīs biggest cities and South of Rio. We picked a hotel just off one of the parks in the centre of town. It came as rather a surprise to us in the evening when having dinner in an Italian restaurant around the corner from the hotel to notice that despite all the cozy couples having dinner I was the only girl around. It seems we were staying in the kicking centre of the Sao Paulo gay district!

Sao Paulo is a real mixture of new and old, it comes across as an equivalent to Gotham City unfortunately no Batman and no Batcar! The business district is made up of small skyscrapers and beautiful churches whereas the centre, now a rather seedy red light district, has beautiful colonade buildings that are falling apart.

For the next journey, a 17 hour bus trip to Foz do Iguacu, we booked ourselves on a sleeper bus! I think that journey has been one of the highlights of our trip. This spanking new 1001 bus turned up at 18:00 prompt in the bus station. We climbed aboard to find only 15 seats making up this huge bus. Each seat was fully automatic, systematic and a bit like grease lightening!!! You could push each seat flat like a bed and then lift the foot rest up so you could lie completely horizontal, cover yourself with the rug and pillow and catch up on the zzzzzssss!

Sunday, 20th September - Foz do Iguacu (http://www.fozdoiguacu.pr.gov.br/)
The bus arrived in Foz at 08:00 on Sunday morning and we jumped off a little bit dishevelled and oh so slightly in need of a wash. An hour later in the same clothes we were on a turismo bus handing over our passports at the Argentinian border having booked ourselves into a hotel, grabbed a bit of breakfast and booked ourself on a day tour to the waterfalls - pretty impressive turn around time I think!

Foz do Iguacu is the home to the 275 Iguacu waterfalls of which the largest is the īGarganta do Diablo' (The throat of the Devil), which is a huge fissure caused by millions of years of falling water. The view is spectacular with the tonnes of water falling. The falls are found on the border between Brazil and Argentina. We caught a speedboat to have a close up view of some of the smaller falls, needless to say we got absolutely soaked going under the falls time and time again! We spent the rest of the day wading round in wet jeans and t-shirts - fun!

Monday, 21st September - Curitiba
I was very reluctant to make the next stop in Curitiba but Michael was insistent. Curitiba is another of Brazilīs big southern cities around 12hrs bus ride from Foz. However, we caught the sleeper bus on Sunday night and arrived in Curitiba at around 06:00 having had very little sleep and been stopped by a police check point at 3 in the morning. We were in Curitiba to catch a very special train.

The train journey is a stunning descent down mountain passes and through the Atlantic rainforest to Morrett - WONDERFUL STUFF! Morrett is a little town that has 2 rivers flowing through it and is perfect just to sit back and paddle your feet! Michael and I took time to try out the local cuisine, barreados, a stew that is cooked for 12 hours. You take a plate put a couple of spoonfulls of flour on the plate and then add some of the stew. You mix flour and stew together to form a paste (you should be able to turn the dish upside down and stew should defy gravity and remain on the plate)then eat, stop every now and then for a mouthfull of banana. It is an incredibly rich and filling dish so it is probably worth skipping breakfast!

Back in Rio - Sugar Loaf mountain
We had a couple of days in Rio to take in the sites. We went up to the top of the Sugar Loaf mountain via 2 sets of cable cars and managed to briefly see the city before the cloud descended. All was not lost, the local monkeys living ontop of the Sugar Loaf mountain provided ooooos and ahhhhs from our group as they waited for tit bits from us! Michael managed to take his obligatory 4 or 5 pictures for the morning of the monkeys so he was happy! Our tour of the city concluded with a trip to see the Christ Redeemer statue. On the way up the mountain the bus began to make funny noises so we all climbed out to find a safer mode of transport and caught the tram! The tram is seriously good fun, it goes up the mountain at an incredible angle! Although not exhausted by the hard travel up to the top of the mountain, there on the summit to assist you up to the feet of the Christ statue is an escalator - not quite Machu Picchu! The view is stunning and you can see the entire city!

Hans Stern
Behind every hotel door, in every airport, near any mall or museum they are there - yup the H. Stern jewellery outlets are everywhere!!! H. Stern is an incredibly smart jewellery chain that uses the precious gems mined in Brazil to make exquisite and completely unaffordable (for now!) jewellery. On our final day, we decided to take up the offer thrust into our hotel room key box to visit Mr Sterns headquarters and see how their jewellery is made. We arrived in a car paid for by the company and were provided with numerous personal guides around the showrooms, we had already been told that there was no pressure to buy anything - uh huh! Their jewellery is irrisitable and Michael and I had a hard time not handing out our credit cards! I felt in my element when trying on a silver and diamond necklace with a huuuuuggggeeee aqua marine stone in the middle....worn by Sharon Stone at the Oscars ($121,000)!!!! (Obviously I did not look the part in my hiking boots, jeans and t-shirt but who cares...yeeeehaaaaaa)

We have both had the most fantastic time in Rio and look forward to going back!

The Brazilian Caipirinha

2 Limes
2 tablespoons of sugar
3 Oz of Cachaca / alternatively use vodka for a Caipiroska / If you use rum the drink becomes a Caipirissima

Cut up the lime into wedges and gently crush in the glass. Sprinkle the sugar over the limes and with a pestle crush sugar and lime together. Try not to crush the lime skin as it makes the drink too bitter. Pour in the Cachaca add ice and stir!
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