A Travellerspoint blog

January 2011

Foz do Iguaçu

The amazing waterfalls

sunny 25 °C
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After a 20-hour bus ride I got to Buenos Aires this morning. Not a good start: when I got to the hostel I had booked, they had lost my reservation and had no bed free for me! So I had to find myself another hostel. It’s Saturday, so obviously most of the good hostels are fully booked. I was lucky though and got the last bed in a hostel which seems quite nice and is very close to the Spanish school I will take my course at. I’m really looking forward to my time in Buenos Aires now! And I’m happy to be in a country where I can understand people and communicate with them in their language somehow (Though my Spanish really is not that great anymore. The course will be useful).

I had a great time in Foz do Iguaçu! The waterfalls were really impressive! We were a great group of people at the hostel too, so we had a lot of fun at the falls and at night!
At the hostel in Foz do Iguaçu

At the hostel in Foz do Iguaçu


On the Argentinean side of the waterfalls

On the Argentinean side of the waterfalls


On Wednesday, I went to see the Brazilian side of the Iguaçu falls. There we had great views of the complete waterfalls, mostly from a distance.
Brazilian side of Iguaçu Falls 1

Brazilian side of Iguaçu Falls 1

Brazilian side of Iguaçu Falls 2

Brazilian side of Iguaçu Falls 2


On Thursday, a big group from the hostel took a guided tour the hostel offered to the Argentinean side of the falls. There we could get much closer to the waterfalls and could see better how massive they really are.
Argentinean side of Iguazu Falls 1

Argentinean side of Iguazu Falls 1


Argentinean side of Iguazu Falls 2

Argentinean side of Iguazu Falls 2


Some of us took a boat trip to the waterfalls as well, which was really cool! We drove around the waterfalls a bit to see them from very close by, but then we were told to put the cameras into the waterproof bags and we drove underneath the waterfalls! Incredible! We got completely soaked of course, but it was worth it!
Boat tour at Iguazu Falls

Boat tour at Iguazu Falls


The Argentinean side of the waterfalls the side I preferred. You get much closer to the waterfalls, while you have some very nice views of the waterfalls from a bit further away. Both sides were great though and I’m glad I had the time to see them both.

Posted by sarahm_lux 11:02 Archived in Brazil Tagged iguazu iguacu Comments (1)

Leaving the coast

Ilhabela & Sao Paulo

sunny 26 °C
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Friday and Saturday, I spent 2 nice relaxing days on Ilhabela, another island on the coast between Rio and Sao Paulo, but very different from Ilha Grande. The island is much closer to the mainland (only 15 minutes by ferry, which is free for pedestrians!) and it has a much bigger town which stretches all the way along the Western coast of Ilhabela. There are cars and buses here and the place is less touristy (and less expensive ;-)). I had not actually planned on going there, but it was recommended to me by a few people, so I was happy I was flexible and just decided to go see the island.

Ilhabela has around 40 beaches and the ones I saw were all really beautiful! So I spent a lot of time at the beach and caught up with some sleep. I did however leave the beach the second afternoon to go to Cachoeira da Toca, a waterfall in the forest with waterslides etc. This has been turned into a kind of park and there is a restaurant and, of course, a place where you can try and buy Cachaça. It was a nice place, but I’m not sure it was worth the hassle to get there and back (not many buses and after getting off the bus you still have to walk 1 km up the hill) and the many insect bites you get there. The waterfalls in Paraty were more exciting.
Ilhabela 1

Ilhabela 1

Ilhabela 2

Ilhabela 2


In the hostel on Ilhabela I was this time really the only non South American! That was a bit strange, but not a bad thing because there were some nice Brazilians who I went for a drink with the second night. OK, we went to an Irish Pub (why am I in Brazil?), but at least we drank Brazilian beer ;-). There was a really good rock cover band playing too, so it was a good night.

After another short night, I left the coast. Bye bye beautiful Brazilian beaches! I travelled on to São Paulo where I spent the last 2 ½ days.
The first thing I wondered when I arrived in São Paulo was: Where have all the short dresses and flip flops gone?? People there dress very differently than at the coast. Everybody in São Paulo seems to be wearing jeans (although it’s far too hot!), sometimes shorts, very few skirts or dresses, while in the other places I rarely saw any jeans.

Visiting to São Paulo involves a lot of walking! (My feet are hurting!!) The metro is quite good, but there are not very many stops and the buses seem to be difficult and I heard they can be dangerous. So you just walk, or get a metro and then walk. I enjoyed walking around the city though. I saw a lot of the city this way. Yesterday, it was mostly the Centro I walked around in. It is filled with shops, but there are also some nice squares/parks; unfortunately these are filled with rather dodgy looking people, but also with a lot of police. I then went to the market and looked around at all the fruits and foods I had never seen or heard of. I wanted to buy everything and try it! Too bad that I couldn’t. Upstairs in the market are a few restaurants on a sort of balcony. I was told you have to go up there and eat one of their mortadella sandwiches, they seem to be very famous in São Paulo (thanks Monica for the tip!). So that is what I did, I sat down in one of the restaurants and ordered a mortadella sandwich. When I saw the sandwich I wished there was somebody there who I should share it with. This thing was massive! Well, the sandwich was a normal size, or even quite small, but the amount of meat they pack into it is incredible. I admit I didn’t eat all of it, I took some of the meat out; it was just too much!
Massive mortadella sandwich

Massive mortadella sandwich


Stuffed and happy, I continued my walk through the city - although I cheated by getting a metro to get a bit closer to where I was going – and went to the Avenida Paulista. It’s a big street with big buildings and it feels like you could be in any big city in the world. Am I really still in Brazil? But it being so different from what I had seen so far in Brazil was also what made it interesting.

Yesterday, I did some more walking of course. I walked around the area I was staying in, Vila Madalena. It is a very nice area with streets dedicated to certain things, e.g. there’s a street with antiques shops, one with stores where you can buy musical instruments, one with artists’ studios. What I liked most were the streets which were full with graffiti. Some of it was really amazing! It reminded me quite a lot of Granada.
Graffiti 1

Graffiti 1

Graffiti 2

Graffiti 2


After the hunt for graffiti I went to the MASP, Museu de Arte de São Paulo, one of the main art museums in the city. It had an interesting collection of art, but the big surprise was waiting in the last part I visited: there were 2 paintings by Michel Majerus, a Luxembourgish painter! I’m in the middle of Brazil and I see art from a Luxembourger, how funny!

While there are not that many things to see in São Paulo during the day, except for museums and galleries, there is a lot to do at night and the nightlife is very busy.
On Sunday I went to a street near our hostel where there are many Samba bars and clubs with an English couple I had met. The street was crazy. Everybody was outside on the street drinking and partying. After we couldn’t find the place we wanted to go to to see some Samba because the guy from the hostel gave us the wrong directions (again!), we chose a nice bar to sit in to escape from the busyness outside. Here we discovered strange beer drinking habits: We order 3 beers. What do we get? 1 big bottle of beer with 3 tiny glasses (we’d use them as water glasses at home, you know the mustard glass type, at least for the Luxembourgers and Germans among you). This bottle is empty quite quickly of course with the 3 of us. So we order some more and this time specify that we would like 3 bottles. They bring us 3 bottles in a bucket with ice. Good. But then they only open 1 of them. Apparently, we are supposed to drink 1 bottle after the other and are not allowed to each have our own bottle ;-) Oh well, I guess we have to adapt to the local habits, sip our beer out of our tiny glasses and call someone to open the next bottle for us every time we finish one, and at least the beer stays cold this way.
Our tiny beer glasses

Our tiny beer glasses

On Monday, Lucas, who I met in Buzios with his brother and girlfriend, picked me up at the hostel and together with some friends of his we went for some food (amazing beef!) and drinks (same beer drinking experienced as described above) and after this to a nightclub. It was a fun night and it is obviously a much better experience to go out with a bunch of local people than to hang out with the other ‘tourists’ all the time.
Night out in Sao Paulo

Night out in Sao Paulo


While I am writing this, I am having my first long bus travel experience in South America (there’s many more to come). I am sitting on the bus from São Paulo to Foz to Iguaçu. It will be a 15-hour bus ride. I’m driving over night though, so I will spend most time sleeping. In fact, I’m starting to feel tired now, so I will recline my seat soon and see how well you can really sleep in these buses. The seats are wide and quite comfortable and you can recline them a lot, so it should be fine. I’ll let you know soon.

Posted by sarahm_lux 11:11 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

Ilha Grande - Paraty - Trindade

and a chronic lack of sleep…

overcast 25 °C
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I spent 2 days on Ilha Grande, which was a beautiful island and was basically more sun, more beaches, more partying.
The first day, I took a boat tour together with two girls from my dorm. We had a relaxing day on the boat, swimming in the sea and visiting one of the beaches that can really only be reached by boat.
On the boat

On the boat

Beach visited on the boat tour

Beach visited on the boat tour


Dinner at the beach on Ilha Grande

Dinner at the beach on Ilha Grande

Paraty is a pretty town with many art and crafts stores.
Paraty

Paraty


The surroundings of Paraty are the really amazing thing though. I took a jeep tour organised by the hostel. We drove to 5 waterfalls in the area. All of them beautiful places! One of them had a rope swing from which we jumped into the water. At another spot, there were natural waterslides. We saw some guys doing awesome tricks there. They were sliding down standing or even skipping a rope. We were told they have competitions there as well. For me it was definitely enough fun sliding down sitting ;-)
We also visited a nice little Cachaça factory where we tried some different types of the spirit. My favourite was definitely ‘Gabriela’ which is flavoured with cinnamon and clove. Yummy!
It was a fun day and felt like a real little adventure.
Waterfalls

Waterfalls

The rope swing

The rope swing

At the waterslides

At the waterslides

The hostel in Paraty was fun too. Cool people staying there, nice staff and cheap Caipirinhas.
Dinner at Che Lagarto Hostel

Dinner at Che Lagarto Hostel

Yesterday, I went to visit Trindade, a small hippie town near Paraty. Again, there were many little stores and really beautiful beaches. There are natural swimming pools on one of the beaches, but unfortunately the tide was too high when I was there, so that the pools were just part of the ocean. Still a beautiful spot though!
Beach in Trindade

Beach in Trindade

Last night I got a bus at 2.25 (!) to come to Ilhabela where I am now. Three hours of sleep on the bus were all I had and after all the staying up late of the last week, I am desperately in need of sleep now. So I’ll make my way to bed and you’ll hear from me again soon.

Posted by sarahm_lux 00:01 Archived in Brazil Tagged waterfalls beaches trindade paraty ilha_grande Comments (1)

Búzios

Beaches, parties and loads of sun!

sunny 30 °C

I wrote this post already 3 days ago, but we didn’t have any internet on the island, so I’m posting it now. A more up to date post will follow soon.

Actually this header would be enough to describe the 2 days I spent in Búzios, but I’ll give you some more details anyway.

I stayed in a very nice hostel. There were many other backpackers, so much better than in Rio! The staff was from Argentina and they were nice too.

The days I spent exploring the town and at the beaches and both nights I went out with some people from the hostel.
The highlights were Praia Brava, a really beautiful beach, not too busy and surrounded by green hills and very blue water, and a night at a Samba club, where a live Samba band was plying and they even gave dancing instructions, which most people were trying to follow on the dance floor. The fact that we went there with a group of Brazilians probably made this even more fun.
Praia Brava - Buzios

Praia Brava - Buzios

I also tried Açaí: Açaí berries are crushed into a kind of sorbet and then you eat them pure or with toppings like bananas and granola. It tastes really nice and refreshing, but unfortunately, like most tasty things, it seems to contain many many calories…

Now I am on my way to Ilha Grande. As you can guess this is an island. The island can only be reached by a 1 ½ hour ferry or boat ride and there are no cars on the island. There is only a very small town too; the rest of the island is only woods and beaches.
So I am looking forward to 2 days on the island and hope the weather stays as sunny as it finally is.

Posted by sarahm_lux 20:32 Archived in Brazil Tagged buzios Comments (2)

Goodbye Cariocas!

sunny 27 °C
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I got the bus out of Rio yesterday. Now I am in Buzios, a place north of Rio which is supposed to have very beautiful beaches.
Rio was really a wonderful city! There are really nice beaches (I much prefer Ipanema to Copacabana though) and great food. And it is amazing to see those big green hills in the middle of such a big city, in between high rise buildings and millions of people.

So what have I seen during the rest of my time in Rio?

On Monday, the Chilean girls and I went to a hippie fair in Ipanema. A nice place to buy some souvenirs etc. (Of course I couldn’t buy anything cause I’d have to carry it around for months.). I found it quite funny that the stalls at the fair all advertised the fact that you can pay by credit card…

We also visited the Botanical Garden. A beautiful place with vegetation from all over Brazil. Except for the fact that it was too hot and you almost couldn’t breathe cause the air was so humid we had a nice walk through the garden, admiring orchids, giant bamboo, monkeys having a race on the electricity lines and waterfalls.
Botanical Garden Rio

Botanical Garden Rio


In the evening we ate at a buffet where you pay your food by weight. They have these restaurants everywhere in Rio and they have nice mix of Brazilian food, standard things like salads and chips and even some sushi.

I spent Tuesday walking around Centro. I discovered 2 different shopping areas there. I started off in some streets full with smalls stores selling about everything, mostly very cheap stuff. It is a bit like a market, with many of the vendors shouting about their offers outside their stores. Walking on from there, I ended up in the ‘posher’ shopping streets, where you can find all the big stores and you have drug stores and fast food restaurants at every street corner. I even spotted a C&A there ;-)

Yesterday I went to do some more sightseeing with a German guy from the hostel. We went to Maracana first because I thought you just have to go there when in Rio. I knew the stadium was closed and you could only enter part of it, but I didn’t quite expect it to look like this:
Macarana

Macarana


We then went to a big market hall, where unfortunately most of the stalls were closed. Another wrong information on the internet… Still I bought some typical Brazilian sweets. One tastes like a hard from of candyfloss, the other one is similar to gingerbread.

The next stop was the tram which drives through Santa Teresa. Would I have known that only 30 people fit into 1 tram and it runs every 20 minutes, I would have left again when I saw the long queue in front of the station. Of course we didn’t know this, so we started queuing and by the time we realised how slowly the queue was moving, we didn’t want to give up because we had already lost so much time waiting there. Just my luck: when we got to the front and would have fit into the next tram, the train broke down and we had to wait some time longer for them to fix it. After 2 hours and 20 minutes of waiting, it finally was our turn. We paid our 60 centavos (!) And got onto the tram, where we could even get a seat. The ride was nice, but definitely not worth the wait. Whether it was because of the earlier breakdown or because of the long queues I don’t know, but they seemed to have shortened the route. The tram went up the hill into Santa Teresa for about 15 minutes, had a short stop there and then turned around and went back. I had definitely expected more. But OK, it’s all part of the adventure.
Tram to Santa Teresa

Tram to Santa Teresa


Luckily, we met the Argentinean girls from the hostel on the tram who had just been to the Escadaria Selarón which was not far away from the tram station. So we decided to go there too. The stairs were beautifully made and the artist himself was sitting on the stairs, chatting to the tourists, answering their questions and letting them take photos of and with him.
Escadaria Selarón

Escadaria Selarón


In the evening, we finally had dinner at a churrascaria (I had been trying to got here for days already…) These are restaurants where the waiters keep coming by with big skewers of different types of meat and cut you off a slice whenever you want. You can serve yourself from a big buffet as well and order many different side dishes. This was definitely an experience and the food was amazing! They had so many different types of meat that you could only have tried them all if you would have left the side dishes and vegetables away. Of course there were the normal types of meat, such as roast beef, pork, chicken… but there were also Brazilian sausages, roast beef with cheese inside and even chicken hearts. As you can imagine, I ended up eating far too much!

This blog post ended up being far too long, so I’ll stop now. Hope I’ll hear from you all soon!

Posted by sarahm_lux 10:31 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

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