The Pantanal

Trip Start Jan 05, 2008
Trip End Dec 21, 2008

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Mato Grosso do Sul,
Monday, September 22, 2008

I thought I'd write something as its been a while, well were in South America now and I have to say were having a great time. Flying in from Auckland was a bit wierd as we left Auckland at 4.45pm and arrived in Santiago at about 1pm the same day after a 10 plus hours on a plane!

Santiago's not much to look at to be honest and I would recomend any one who visits this part of the world to get a cab for an extra hour and go strait to Valpariso to the north. We did take Gerry's advise and go skiing in Chile though and we saw some beautiful scenary up in the Andes at El Colorado. We got a bit over confident by the end of the day and tried a run we really shouldnt of and fell over about 5 times! Lucy flipped over onto her head! but it was great fun and amazing value for money.

From Santiago we got a bus two hours north to the city of Valparaiso a great place with a great vibe, small thin streets and colourful houses built on hills straght of the sea. We loved it here and wish we could have spent longer.

After Valparaiso we got an 8 hour bus to Mendoza in Argentina, it took us through the Andes which was spectacular, We visited the local vinyards while here hiring bikes for the day and visiting one after the other.
From Mendoza we got a 14 hour night bus to Buenos Aires which turned out to be amazing, we got dinner with wine and champagne, a seat like a first class airplane seat that extended right back for you to sleep! Most unexpected but most welcome!

Buenos Aires is a great city! there's loads to do here. We stayed in San Telmo the Tango district with loads of Tango bars and nice little restaurants. One of the main reasons I wanted to come here was to see Boca Juniors and by luck they were playing the Second leg of the South American equivelet of the European Super Cup against Arsenal de Saradinia. It was a great game with end to end attacking football ending 2-2 on the night, Boca levelled things up in the last minute with a great 20 yard free kick scored by Riqelme. Boca lifted the trophy as they were alreadt 3-1 up from the first leg. There was fireworks, ticker tape and the fans went wild in Buenos Aires after the game driving around sounding their horns with massive flags hanging out of the cars. Even Lucy thought it was great and she doesnt like football!

We visited Recoletta a nice area north of the city centre to visit the Recoletta cemetary were Eva Peron is buried. We went to a Tango Show a a famous old bar called ' Bar Sur' formally 'Union Bar' it was their 40th anniversary and we had a great night, there was only 2 other tourists there and the rest were locals so we got a taste of the real Buenos Aires.

I went to another football match, a league game between Buenos Aires other big club River Plate and San Lorenzo. The game wasnt all that finishing 0-0 but I still had a great time seeing their ground and fans, it was a great atmosphere. I have to say out of the two clubs I more of a Boca man.

From Buenos Aires we got a ferry (1hour) accross to Colonia del Sacramento in Uraguay for one night and its well worth it, a beautiful little town mainly used by Buenos Airians as a weekend get away. It has a lovely main square with nice restaurants and lots of little cobbled streets to explore. Well worth a visit.

From Buenos Aires we caught a flight to Rio, which I have to say i was a bit disapointed with. The Copacabana beach is dirty and two busy on a main road. and all the different areas of Rio look the same, unlike Buenos Aires where every area has its own distinct look and feel. I think its the lack of history that I didnt like. Rio is a city best seen from a distance, like the pictures I got from our visit to Christ the redemer. Guess what?....I went and saw another football match...I wasnt going to come to Rio and not visit the Maracana, I saw Fluminense play top of the league Gremio, the game was ok but it was all about visiting the old stadium really, the home of Brazilian football. Christ the redemer was great to, a beautiful deco statue and the views of Rio from the statue are stunning.

From Rio we went to island of Ilha Grande a place that reminds me of Phi Phi in Thailand, and this place gives Phi Phi a run for its money beach wise aswell with some of the nicest beaches we've seen on our travels and very quiet to. I can stand a packed beach, another reason why I didnt like Copacabana.

From here we went to another small town on the coast called Paraty a fishing village and old portugese colonial town, it was another place full of cobbled streets and colour, Picture opts around every corner.

Next was the Iguazu Falls which I have to say are mind blowing! one of the best things we've done this year. We visited the Brazilian side first which gives you a grand overview before visiting the Argentinian side the following day for a more close up experiance. We got a speed boat that takes you right up to a couple of the falls and over loads of massive rapids, we got soaked! it was brilliant. I would say if you come to South America for one thing make it this its awesome!

After the falls we went to the small town of Benito for a couple of night on our way to the Pantanal, there wasnt much to do here and the towns nothing to look at so we went to a private water park two days in a row and just had BBQ's and swam and played beach volleyball and Football...its a hard life!

From here we got to the Pantanal, the wetlands of Brazil, we stayed right in the heart of the wetlands and slept in hammocks for a couple of night, it was suprisingly comfortable. Getting woken up by Howler monkeys, thousands of birds and goats at 4am wants nice though! we saw hundreds of cayman and god only knows how many different types of bird. We saw monkeys, beavers fished for Piranha in swamps filled with Cayman and Anaconda! I kept feeling things swim around my legs but thankfully nothing had a go at me! a girl we spoke to a few days before got bitten by a Piranha and had a round bite mark scar on her leg that looked really cool! the piranha didnt attack any of us but the cayman got a bit close, 5 feet away at one point!

We caught loads of them and cooked them up in a nice spicy stew, and I've kept a lower jaw bone as a moment!

Its a beautiful place here and we went out exploring it on horse back. My friend Nadine would of been proud of me. I've never been on a horse before and was pretty nervous, but buy the end of the day i was trotting past everyone and even managed a few gallops! which I have to say scared the life out of me! I'll definatly do it again though as its a really fun and rewarding thing to do, I loved it.

Right now were in Sucre in Bolivia, its a lovely old colonial town, all white washed colonial buildings and bolovians in traditional attire. We went to see 68 million year old dinosaur footprints today which was cool. I'll update the blog with more pics soon, hope your all well and looking forward to seeing some of you for christmas drinks...god how this years flying! Steve :)
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