Tag Archives: brazil

Rio de Janeiro

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Rio de Janeiro is another one of those big cities that has a lot to offer. It has a population of over 6 million and has amazing scenery. It is on the coast of Brazil and has many beaches and mountains.

Cristo Redentor

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChrist the Redeemer is the world’s biggest Art Deco structure. It is a beautifully crafted structure, made of soapstone. It stands 710 meters above sea level on the peak known as Corcovado. The structure itself is 30 metres high, with an arm span of 28 meters. In 2007 the statue was voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

While it wasn’t as big as I had expected it to be, it was just as amazing as I had anticipated. I had so much fun taking photos of it, but also the view from Corcovado is almost as good as the statue itself.

Visiting in low season, the ticket cost was R$24 and included the mini bus ride to the peak.

Esacadaria Selarón (Selarón’s stairs)

Eccentric Chilean artist Jorge Selarón was living in the area of Lapa and there was a staircase he walked regularly, but he found it boring. One day he began to decorate the face of each step with mosaic tiles. Once he had tiled the face of each step, he began to do the walls as well. Once the entire staircase was done, he would start to work his way back through each step and renew the design. This started to attract attention and soon travellers from all over the world were giving him tiles to use in his designs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen you stand at the bottom of the staircase and look up, it is an amazing colourful mixture on tiles from different countries and it looks fabulous.

In 2012 Jorge’s body was found at the base of the stairs under mysterious circumstances. The official ruling is that it was suicide, but there remain many people who believe he was assassinated. The staircase remains untouched in the last design that he created and is a very popular spot for the tourists to visit.

This is a free activity.

Pão de Açúcar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASugarloaf mountain is a Rio icon, a 396m mountain that provides fabulous views of the city. To get to the top you catch a cable car. The cable car first takes you to Morro da Urca, where there are some viewing platforms. From there you ride another cable car to the top of Pão de Açúcar. One of the cable cars is quite old, and it has been retained because it is famous for having been used in the James Bond film Moonraker.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe cable car ride is quite fun, but the views are simply amazing! You can see the city, a number of the beaches and in the distance, Christ on the hill.

This activity cost R$62.

Favela’s

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA favela is essentially a slum. They were originally created by soldiers using bits and pieces of whatever materials they could find. Because they weren’t official structures, the people were able to live without having to pay taxes. This also meant though, that they didn’t have access to proper infrastructure. These days most favelas have running water and electricity (electricity is not always by legal means), however there is no sewerage systems and the sewerage runs through the streets. Many favelas were previously, and some still are, ‘governed’ by drug lords. They regularly experience violence and various types of crimes. A favela is certainly not a place you want to go by yourself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA group of us did a favela tour and visited two ‘safe’ Favelas: Rocinha and Vila Canoas.

Rocinha is in Rio’s south zone and it the biggest Favela in Rio. It was built on s steep hillside and looks down over the city of Rio. According to census data it has a population of 75,000 but they actually suspect it is closer to 200,000. We didn’t really walk through the favela, mostly we saw it from the outskirts. We did walk through a short section just at the bottom, and despite the warnings of violence and criminals, everyone I walked past smiled and welcomed us to Rocinha.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVila Canoas is another favela, but smaller. Vila Canoas is a more developed and has never been run by gangs. Here we visited a local school, which is strongly supported through the money made from favela tours – so it was good for us to see where some of our money was going. We spent some time wandering through the narrow alleyways of Vila Canoas. Compared to my expectations it was quite clean, but it was such a crazy maze or tiny alleyways and stairwells. It was also easy to see the construction style, how everything was made from bits and pieces and painted different colours. It was really interesting to see.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe also supported local people living in the favelas by buying handicrafts and drinks.

The Favela tour cost R$100, in my opinion it a must-see!

Hang gliding

An activity I would consider a ‘must do’ in Rio is hang gliding. A number of companies offer it, I used a company called Delta Fly because there was a brochure of theirs in my hotel lobby.

DCIM113GOPROYou launch at 510 metres above sea level from a giant granite mountain called Pedra Bonita. (You can also go paragliding, but the last time I was attached to a parachute I experienced really bad motion sickness, so in this case I opted for hang gliding).

DCIM100GOPROG0028367.At the top of the mountain I received a 3 minute briefing on what I needed to do. Before I knew it, I was running down a ramp and launching myself into the sky (with my ‘pilot’ of course). I found it such a peaceful feeling, to be floating in the sky. It was so calm. The flight time is dependent on the wind of course, and I was lucky to have a solid 20 minute flight. The view of Rio from the sky is indescribably beautiful. I got fantastic views of the city, the beaches and the mountains. The only thing there wasn’t a great view of was Christ the Redeemer, but that wasn’t a big deal.

This activity cost R$400 for the hang gliding R$30 for the insurance and the disc of photos and videos from the side camera and front camera cost R$130 (because we went with a small group of us, we were able to negotiate R$130 rather than the originally quoted price of R$150)

Samba show

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA group of us booked ourselves into a samba show and dinner, despite having read bad reviews online. We felt that no trip to Rio would be complete without seeing a samba show.

The costumes were flamboyant, colourful and ridiculously skimpy. I’m not convinced that the dancing was a traditional samba but it certainly was entertaining, tacky and over the top.

I will say though, how impressed I was at the amount of booty control the women had when they were shaking their ‘thang’.

The dinner and show cost R$220, and even though it wasn’t high quality by any means, it was entertaining and worth the time and money.

Santa Teresa

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASanta Teresa is a suburb of Rio, on a hill overlooking the city. It is a cute suburb with cobbled streets, ageing mansions and great deal of history. These days it has a bohemian feel. There are cute cafés and many souvenir stores displaying colourful and creative artworks from local artists. Santa Teresa is also a great spot to go hunting for awesome street art.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor R$20 each, a local guide gave a group of us a walking tour of Santa Teresa. It was a very pleasant 1.5 – 2 hour walking tour, the guide was very knowledgeable and the whole suburb was simply lovely to explore.

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Copacabana beach & night markets

Copacabana is one of Rio’s most famous beaches. It stretches 4.5km from end to end. While I didn’t make it, the sunset from the end of Copacabana beach, where it meets Ipanema beach, is said to be stunning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACopacabana is lined with little cafés selling cheap food and drinks. The beach itself also has many little stalls and wandering vendors selling drinks, hats, bikinis, and much more.

The beach is a great spot to sit and soak up the sun while enjoying a cheap cocktail, but you do need to be very cautious with your belongings. Avoid taking valuables to the beach with you. Keep your eye, and preferably a hand, on your belongings at all times. If you go swimming, either tag team with a buddy or find someone to look after your stuff. Thankfully I didn’t have any problems with thieves, but we were warned countless times by various people to be careful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt night the beach is not the safest place to be, and you are advised to remain in well-lit areas. One well-lit area I would recommend visiting is the pavement between the two lanes of road, in this stretch is a daily market with loads of fun and cheap souvenirs. It starts some time after the sun has set and closes at 10:30pm.

Rio was the final destination of my Intrepid Tour, Buenos Aires to Rio Unplugged. I had an absolute blast, made great friends and had amazing experiences. The travel guide Fede was brilliant, informative and helpful with organising any extras.

So for now, I am saying goodbye South America, I hope to visit again soon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACheck out all my Rio De Janeiro photos on Flickr.

 

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Paraty & Ilha Grande

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAParaty

Paraty, on the coast of Brazil, used to be the capital of Brazil. It has a deep and calm harbour, well protected by several islands. Unfortunately these islands served as an ideal hiding place for pirates and much gold was lost. After some time the capital was moved to Río De Janeiro.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAParaty is another UNESCO protected town. The old part of town is one of the cutest places I have ever seen. All the buildings are covered in a white render, but the doorways, doors, window frames and shutters are all different colours. It’s absolutely beautiful to see. A number of the buildings also have cute or quirky features, like interesting lights, decorative features on the verandah railings, bizarre door knockers or painted decorative features on the building corners.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA great way to spend the time in Paraty is just to wander the narrow cobblestone streets of the old town absorbing the gorgeous buildings, colours and checking out handicrafts.

The town is on the coast, so it’s also lovely to stroll by the ocean and enjoy a drink on the beach.

Ihla Grande

Ihla Grande, Big Island, is off the coast of Rio De Janeiro. It is 193 m2 and is a popular tourist destination because of it’s scenery and chilled beaches. We enjoyed three nights on the island. The main town is Vila do Abraão and offers many hotels, hostels, restaurants and little shops to visit. The island doesn’t offer a great variety of activities as such, as they are all based around hiking and swimming, but those things are fabulous to do on the island.

Pico de Papagaio (Parrot’s Peak)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe hike up to parrots peak to the elevation of 982 metres, is quite a challenging one, particularly when you choose to do the sunrise hike. We met our guide Guillermo Farabollini at 2:30am in the town centre. He cut us some bamboo walking poles with his machete and off we went. We trekked up some crazy narrow, steep and slippery jungle path lit only by the light beams of our head torches. Throughout the hike we did also manage to spot some wildlife including a tarantula, snake (awesome black and orange striped tree snake) and some black howler monkeys. The hike is roughly 13km return from town. Even at 2:30 in the morning it is a hot and grueling hike. We made a few stops along the way to drink water and eat bananas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made it to the peak just as the sun started to peek out from behind the mountains and clouds. It was such an amazing view and absolutely worth the torture of such an epic morning hike. We spent between 30 to 60 minutes sitting at the peak, absorbing the amazing views. We could see the main town on the island, the popular beach Lopes Mendes and you could even almost see Rio de Janeiro in the distance. Once the sun rose, we also found out that we had a second guide, a local dog. The local dogs take it in shifts, each one accompanying a tour group up and down the mountain for their hike. It’s adorable!!

The hike back down was also quite challenging, but interesting to see where you had been and what you had missed along the way without daylight. It was a hard, but great hike. An activity I would recommend doing, and call Guillermo because he’s a great guide. He speaks English really well, is passionate about what he does and knows loads about the animals in the area.

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Lopes Mendes Beach

Lopes Mendes beach is one of the top ten beaches in Brazil and it is a beach of very fine white sand, with a sweeping curve a few kilometres long. You can get there one of two ways, it’s approximately a two hour hike from the main town, or you can catch a water taxi which takes about 15-20 minutes. With a group of us we paid R$40 each, which I consider quite reasonable. If you take the boat, it’s still a 20-minute hike to get to Lopes Mendes from the drop off point.

Being from Tasmania, Australia where the beaches are pure, clean and uncrowded, I’m quite the beach snob. Despite my beach snobbery, I found Lopes Mendes to be a lovely beach, relaxing, clean and super chilled out. There weren’t any vendors hassling you to buy things. It was just a location purely for relaxing and I loved it!

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Boat tours around the Island

Another popular activity is to join in a boat cruise around the island. You can opt for a 7 hour trip the whole way around the island or the shorter 4 hour trip ‘half way’ round the island. As a tour group we hired a speed boat for ourselves to do the half island trip and it was worth every penny!

P1050818We hired a 14 person boat, we bought all our snacks and drinks, stocked the boat eski and off we went. We first whizzed around to our furthest most destination, Lagoa Verde (Green Lagoon). It offered some gorgeous, clear green/blue water in which to snorkel. The green colour of the lagoon is partly from the green coral I believe. There were heaps of gorgeous multi coloured fish here, and it was a brilliant spot to stop and soak up the sun and the snorkeling.

P1050801The second stop was Lagoa Azul (Blue Lagoon), which was another fabulous spot to stop. Green Lagoon seemed like a bay, but Blue Lagoon seemed more like a lagoon set in between various little islands. There was less coral here and fewer fish, but it was nonetheless a fabulous location.

P1050839After this we stopped somewhere for lunch which was really tasty. Then our last stop was the bay of love, but by this time the clouds had covered the sun and it was quite cold. Also being closer to the main town on Ilha Grande, the water was dirtier and had poor visibility, so we actually decided to head back early.

After our time in the relaxed island destination of Ilha Grande was up, we jumped on a ferry and headed towards Rio de Janeiro, the final destination of our tour.

Check out all my Paraty and Ilha Grande pictures on Flickr.

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Foz Do Iguaçu

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFoz Do Iguaçu is the town in Brazil that is closest to the Iguassu Falls. The name of the town means meeting of the rivers and has a population of approximately 30,000.

Iguassu Falls

The falls, sometimes spelled Iguaçu, Iguazu or Iguassu are one of the new seven natural wonders of the world. Iguassu means great or big water and rightfully so! The average water flow of the falls is between 900-1500 m3 per second.

The Iguassu Falls are referred to as falls because there are multiple waterfalls along the river. The main fall is the Devil’s Throat.

The falls themselves border on Brazil and Argentina. 75% of the waterfalls are in Argentina and the remaining 25% in Brazil. The vast majority of the UNESCO protected national park is in Brazil and is 185,000 hectares in size.

The national park is an amazingly diverse area, home to: 72 species of mammals; 300 species of birds; 57 species of reptiles; 27 species of amphibians; 800 species of butterflies and innumerable species of insects.

The Brazilian side of the falls is generally where you go to get a great view of the falls. The Argentinian side is where you can really visit the falls; stand on platforms above them, hike the trails between them and even jet boat under them. The site gets an average of 1.5 million visitors per year; the record number of visitors in one day on the Brazilian side was 17,000.

If you are going to the falls then I would say you need at least two days, though I know I could happily spend even longer there. You don’t need a whole day for the Brazilian side, but you certainly need at least a full day on the Argentinian side.

Some tips for visiting the falls:

  • do the helicopter ride over the falls, it’s absolutely worth the money
  • go to the Argentinian side very early in the morning and head straight up the upper trail to the Devil’s Throat. Later in the day it will be much too over crowded
  • do the jet boat ride up the river and under the falls, it’s AMAZING and SOOOOOO MUCH FUN!!! (but pack a spare pair of clothes, because not a stitch will be dry after the boat ride!)
  • don’t carry a plastic bag or food with you, the locals animals, coatiemundi, will try to thieve it and they are terrifying! (Ok, everyone knows that I am terrified of basically all animals, but it was genuinely terrifying to have a pack of raccoon type rodents trying to get at you!!)

I’m once again at a bit of a loss for words to describe the falls; they are amazing; sublime; powerful; breathtaking and almost every other superlative I can think of. The roar of the Devil’s Throat is deafening and its spray has you soaked in minutes, but you can’t look away from something so majestic. The power of the water is such a challenge to comprehend.

Itaipu Dam and Animal Sanctuary

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHalf an hour out of Foz Do Iguaçu is the Itaipu Dam, which is the only binational place/company I have come across. The hydroelectric dam is one of the biggest in the world. It is 2.5kms wide and roughly 500metres high. It spans Brazil and Paraguay. While you can’t border cross through the dam, you can technically visit the other country without requiring a visa (this also means no passport stamp). The power produced belongs 50% to Brazil and 50% to Paraguay. Of it’s portion Paraguay uses 10% to power 95% of the country and sells the remaining power back to Brazil. The quick tour we did of the Dam was quite fascinating, but for us it was not the main attraction.

When anything is built, despite is being productive progress, there is always damage along the way. The creation of such a large dam, obviously had a big impact on the environment. To compensate a sanctuary was created nearby the dam with a focus on rehabilitating injured animals, regenerating forests, doing research into medical and scientific uses of plants, ecological sustainability; all the while running educational programs about all these issues as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had the opportunity to do a quick tour of the animal sanctuary. We weren’t able to see any animals that were very share or very injured as we could negatively impact them. However, we were able to see animals that were well on their way to recovery or being held for scientific and reproductive purposes.

It was horrifying to hear the stories of some of the animals. There is particular breed of parrot, it is predominantly green with some other streaks of colour. Legally they cost $4000 reales to buy, but they can be bought on the black market for much less. People try to smuggle them into Brazil from Paraguay. One person who got caught had two plumbing pipes, he had filled them both up with tiny chicks of this type of parrot and poured in some alcohol (I can’t remember which type of spirit) to basically drug the birds to sleep, so they wouldn’t make noise as he tried to cross the border. Inside the pipes 70 chicks were discovered, only five of which survived. We were horrified to hear this, but thankful to hear that the Brazilian government has a very tough stance on the issue, the fines and jail terms are hefty.

Despite some horror stories, it was fantastic to hear just how much was being done to support the environment and the animals. There seem to be policies in place, that if you damage the environment in any way, you have to make up for it by affecting the environment positively. In our visit we were lucky enough to see happy and healthy animals, including an ocelot, ant-eaters, ferrets, capybara’s deer, monkeys, caymans, tapir, loads of different varieties of birds and snakes, and the highlight – a pair of jaguars.
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Check out all my Iguassu pictures on Flickr.

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