A Travellerspoint blog

Paraty and the Pantanal

Relaxation and BIG Rats

sunny 35 °C

Paul:
After the craziness of the Rio carnival, we thought it would be a good idea to relax for a few days, so we decided to go to a lovely place called Paraty. Paraty is a colonial Portuguese village on the coast about four hours south of Rio by bus. We booked a hostel called Pousada Guarana which was so beautiful, we thought we'd gone to the wrong place! It is owned by a lovely couple, David from Arizona and Janela from Brazil. The décor of the place is just wonderful with lots of really nice artistic touches as well as a swimming pool. Luxury!
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We intended to stay for a couple of days but ended up being there for six. Paraty is very quaint with old cobbled streets (which are quite tricky to walk or cycle on) and colourful buildings with some historical churches. On the first night we managed to find the only late night music bar in town and stayed out drinking and chatting with some English travellers we met until 5am. So much for relaxing! Next day, after a late start, we had a quiet time wondering around the historic centre of Paraty.
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The following day, we went on a boat trip around some of the islands in the bay and did some snorkelling as well. Nothing like the Barrier Reef, but a lovely day.
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Another day we were a little more active and got the bus to Larangeiras where there was a walk through rain forest to a beautiful remote beach. There were people camping on the beach and a few beach bars so we treated ourselves to a beer whilst watching the waves. Later in the day we headed by bus to another beach in a village called Trindade. This was another stunning beach so we hung around for a while before heading back to Paraty.
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From Paraty, we decided to go to the Pantanal. The Pantanal is the largest wetland area in the world. To get there, we had to take a six hour bus ride to Sao Paulo and then a ten hour bus to Campo Grande. There was only 30 minutes between our arrival in Sao Paulo and our connecting bus but we figured it would be ok. However, when we arrived in SP, we couldn't find the bus company for our connection. Panic time. Jess found the information desk and was told we needed to go to another bus station which was fifteen minutes away by taxi. Ahhhhh! We jumped in a taxi and got on our way. 'Rapido! Rapido!'. We made it with five minutes to spare, bought our tickets and collapsed relieved on our bus just in time.

We arrived in Campo Grande in the afternoon and managed to arrange a three day tour of the Pantanal heading off the following day. The tour included a free night's accomodation in a basic hostel so we fell into bed exhausted from our twenty hour bus ride at 7pm and slept through to the morning.

We got the minibus to the Pantanal lodge in the morning and relaxed for the rest of the day at the lodge. We encountered our first wildlife that afternoon, an Alligator and a capivaras, the worlds largest rodent at about three feet long although it looked more like a cross between a labradore and a wombat to us. Jess went for a swim in the river and the giant rodent joined in the fun playing a kind of hide and seek game in the water and rolling over to get his belly rubbed. Cute, but definitely more like a dog than a giant rat!
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The Pantanal trip was ok and involved a boat trip where we spotted howler monkeys, alligators, tucans and lots of other birds. On the way back, we pulled over by some fishermen who our guide knew and they gave us a couple of fish for lunch. I think they were related to pirhana fish as they had sharp looking teeth.
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We went horseriding through the wetlands which was pretty different. At times the water was up to the horses stomachs. All meals were provided by the lodge but they weren't very inspiring. Beans and rice and an unidentifyable meat stew for every lunch and dinner and bread and jam for brekky.We really can’t face any more beans and rice. After our three days were up, we headed back to Campo Grande. We had a bit of a scare as the police stopped our bus to check everyones ID. We didn't have our passports with us but thankfully the policeman let us off with a friendly warning to carry them in future and put us on another bus to make sure we made it to CG in time for our connecting bus to Iguacu Falls on the Brazil / Argentina border. Phew!

Posted by paulandjes 13:35 Archived in Brazil Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

Santiago-Rio

Party, party and yet another PARTY!!!

rain 25 °C

Well, we made it to Rio and have survived the week - just!! It seems so long ago that I wrote a blog but in reality it is probably only 2 weeks, so much has happened in that short time....

We arrived in Santiago after a very long bus ride, not as luxurious as the one we had previously and no food either!! I was starving by the time we arrived but hey, I am not going to complain after some of the bus experiences we have had!!! We were staying with a friend of mine Lainie. Lainie is the wonderful woman who inspired me to be an Ishta teacher. We met in Brissy while she was there doing her level 2 teacher training and we have kept in touch ever since. It was so lovely to meet up with her again and we felt instantly at home in her beautiful house with her big dog Elle and cat ChicoMalo (bad boy) and the rest of the neighbourhood cats that visited. Lainie's house has so much character, 3 stories and in a lovely leafy green part of Santiago called Providencia. Lainie's yoga studio is just a 5 minutes walk from her house and it was absolutely wonderful to indulge myself in yoga every evening. I even taught a class on our last night there - eek!!! I was so nervous teaching again especially as I didn't want to go into too much detail as most did not speak english, it was an experience though!!

The first couple of days we took it easy, it was great not having to be somewhere at a particular time. We went for a walk around providencia and soaked up the atmosphere. Took the dog for a walk and just chilled - it was great!!!
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While we were at Lainie's it was Australia day and Lainie has a tradition to throw a party on this day. There was sausages on the barbie, home made pies, tim tams and Bundy rum. Australian music blared on the stereo until the early hours and much fun was had.

Lainie took us on a trip to Valpairiso and while she sunbaked and swam in the freezing water (I could only just about manage a dip of the toes) Paul and I went exploring. We followed the Lonely Planet Guide to do a walking tour but we didn't get any further than the first step. Valpairiso is extremely hilly and up the side of the hills they have these lifts called trolleys that take you up, we went up the first one and as I was taking a photo, this guy in a van started flashing us and waving us away. We were not entirely sure what this was all about so I kept taking photos, then the van pulled up beside us and it was the police. He asked if we spoke Spanish which we dont so he just said `Danger!!` and did the sign of a gun and told us to get back to the beach. We were just about ready to get on the next bus home!! As we were wandering back down the hill very worried, we actually came across a lovely part of town and we stopped for some lunch. The streets are lined with amazing graffiti art and once the adrenaline stopped pumping we actually really enjoyed our little exploration.
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We also took a tour to a local vineyard (can you spot a running theme?) about an hour south of Santiago, Vina Undurraga, which is apparently the best one in the area, which we didn't know when we booked it. It is the best tour I have been on to date. Really informative and we got to learn about the different formations of the grape clusters, leaf size and fermentation process - interesting stuff!! The wine was great too so after tasting we bought Lainie a bottle.
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We flew to Rio and I know that I have a few more flights to go but I am getting a bit sick of seeing the inside of airports and airplanes, Oh well, needs must. We are staying in an area called Gloria which is quiet enough so that you can get to sleep at night but still close to the action. Copacobana is just a short taxi drive away and Lapa (which has a party on every night) is just 10 minutes walk away. The first night we got here we went into Lapa. They had a blocko (a street party), it was really packed. Street parties consist of a truck or bus with massive speakers on the sides blaring out the samba schools anthem and like a mantra it builds and builds and as the truck slowly trundles down the road, more and more people join in. Most people are dressed up, some more than others, people have drums, a beer and are of course chanting the anthem.

The best blocko we went to was in Ipanema, along the seafront. People went crazy, singing and dancing in the street, so many drums beating out the anthem. We joined in, shuffling along samba style. The people watching is top quality in Rio. Once the blocko was over the people decended into the ocean. What a hoot!!
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We even managed a little sight seeing while we were in Rio, not much as the weather has been pretty bad but we went to the Corcovado and visited Christ the Redeemer. We could just about see sugarloaf mountain and the surrounding area, it was beautiful and I imagine absolutely stunning on a clear blue day. We were lucky though because as we were leaving the cloud completely surrounded the area and there was a complete white out. You would definately be a bit miffed if that happened after paying the hefty sum of 20 pounds. Oh, I nearly forgot, I had a bit of a luck where the tickets were concerned. We turned up and there was a massive queue for the tickets. A tram only comes ever 30 minutes so I reckon that the queue was about 2 hours long. We got in the queue for all of about 10 minutes then I got bored and went for a wander. I stumbled across the back of ticket office where I saw someone buying tickets so I asked them how to get tickets. He explained that he was a guide and only guides buy tickets from this part but he suggested that I ask anyway so I did and I dont know how but I was sold 2 tickets - bargain!! I grabbed Paul and went straight to the tram. See, having no patience does pay off at times!
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The best part of Rio was obviously going to the Sambadrome. I cant believe some people come to Rio and do not see the actual carnival!! What???? We tried to get our friend a ticket the night we went but the prices were double. I was so chuffed Paul sorted out tickets before hand and to one of the best sections too. The Sambadrome was packed. People turned up in costume just to be in the crowds!! As the first floats came out we were gobsmacked by the colours, the number of people, the different costumes, the floats and just the amazing detail and work that must have gone into it. After an hour there was a break and we realised that the hour long parade was just for one samba school!! Absolutely unbelievable! As the second school came out we were blown away by the fact that it was better than the first, this kept happening throughout the night and by the fourth school we just couldn't work out how they could possible get better, but they did!! We arrived at 8.30 and left at 4.30 in the morning and there was still one more school to go but I just could not stand up any longer. I dont know how the fans could do it, being so fanatically supportive, cheering, waving flags, singing along to the anthems. Phew it tires me out just thinking about it!! I am so glad that we went to the sambadrome, to me there is no carnival without going to the sambadrome.
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We were going off to Iguacu falls but it seems that everyone is having this idea so we are now going to Paraty just 4 hours south, but it was recommended by a friend and is a historical beach town but also near the mountains and looks really beautiful. We will then head to Sau Paulo and then to Iguacu. Well that's the plan for now anyway.

Posted by paulandjes 13:41 Archived in Brazil Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Argentina

Samba, carne and Mountains

sunny 25 °C

Paul:

We arrived at midnight at our hostel in Buenos Aires ready to get some much needed sleep but midnight in Argentina is still early so an Australian couple, Steve and Karmel persuaded us to come out for some food at a cafe down the road. We finally crawled into bed at about 4am.

Next day we headed out into San Telmo near our hostel. There was a nice, but small, craft market in the square, then we walked up to central Buenos Aires and the main shopping street. Buenos Aires was a little disappointing. Much the same as lots of other big cities in Europe really. We did see a fairly good tango show, although the singers were REALLY cheesy.

Next stop Mendoza on an overnight bus. The buses in Argentina are miles better than the ones we saw in Asia. They served food and drinks and even had bingo (we didn't win of course, but it was good practice for learning our numbers in Spanish). By the way, we are finding the language thing a bit of a struggle. We are learning some Spanish and can just about get by ordering in a restaurant, booking into a hotel or buying bus tickets, but, if we want to do something out of the ordinary like finding out what type of activities are available in a town it can be a problem. We can get a reasonable question together but, for me in particular, I think our grammar and accents are so bad the poor locals just look at us like we're mad. I think I'm asking something like 'Where can I find the vineyards?´ Which probably sonds like 'Where did I leave my trousers?' judging by the confused looks I get. Oh well, Im sure we will get better.

Mendoza is a nice city. Nice wide streets and generally a nice feel to it. We went on a vineyard tour on bikes a few miles out of Mendoza which was really nice. We visited a really fantastic vineyard called Bodega Tempus Alba which was just beautiful (as was the wine. We bought two bottles).
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After Mendoza, we headed out to a place called Upsallata in the foot hills of the Andes. An interesting place. Tiny, with a couple of cafes and a supermarket which is rarely open.
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We went for a horse trek around the area which was really nice and planned to head for a place called Puenta Del Inca which is near the highest mountain in the American continent, Aconcagua, the next day. However, we went for a little trek into the hills through thigh deep rivers to watch the sunset with a couple of bottles of wine with a Gay couple we got talking to and then just as we were about to turn in for the night, a guy who works at the hostel we were staying at decided to get us involved in a drinking game where each person had a glass of beer on the table with another glass in the middle. You then had to bounce a coin on the table and if it goes in your glass, you drink your beer. If it goes into the centre glass, however, everybody drinks but the last one to finish has to drink the centre glass too. I lost a bit, but Jess just couldn't get her beer down quick enough when everybody had to drink so ended up drinking a fair bit of beer in the hour and was a little tipsy bless her. Of course, it suddenly seemed a good idea to head into town to a club. Hmmm. The club was pretty OK really, it played lots of Samba style music which someone with two left feet like me cannot even attempt to dance to. The guy who´d given us a lift into town asked to dance with Jess. They danced for quite a while and Jess had a massive grin on her face as she was twirled around and shook here little booty down to the ground. We finally got to bed about 7am. Guess what. We missed our bus the next day and just stayed around the hostel nursing our very considerable hangovers. No more drinking please!

We did make it to Puerta Del Inca today (21st Jan). It was really nice. We hiked for about three hours and made it to a place in the valley leading to Aconcagua where we could see the mountain and it´s snow cap and glaciers. Amazing stuff.
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Argentina is a nice place, but Jess has really struggled with the food. The Argentinians are not just meat eaters, they are practically carnivores. Every restaruant will happily serve up a whole cow on a plate (NOT an exageration by the way!) but will not be able to provide any kind of vegetables apart from a side salad of lettuce and carrot. Alright for me, but Jess seems to come over all queasy everytime we sit down for a meal. Oh well, apparently other South American countries are better for veggie food.

Off to Chile tomorrow where we're catching up with Lanie, a friend of ours from Brisbane who lives in Santiago.

Posted by paulandjes 12:31 Archived in Argentina Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Family, friends and fun

semi-overcast 2 °C

Ahhhh, we have had such a wonderful time in England. Yes it has been cold, but it has also been bright and sunny, with a crisp winters edge. Most of the days were beautiful and bright. I was worried how I would cope with the English weather after 8 years, but I must admit Paul is right "there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes" luckily I got scarves,hats a water bottle and slippers for Christmas, so that all helped.

We spent the first week with Paul's mum, Olga. We were warmly welcomed and it was so wonderful to see family again. Norwich is such a beautiful city with lots of amazing historical buildings that Paul admitted that he had not noticed before even though he had lived there most of his life. One of the most memorable days was when we took a drive with Olga in the Norfolk countryside and stopped off at a wonderful Norwich country pub and had lunch being warmed by a glowing log fire.

We spent Christmas with my family. Mum and grandparents house is incredibly inviting, warm teaky colours and homely atmosphere wth huge mummy cuddles and of course cuddles from the rest of the family.

Grandma has a keen interest in wildlife and cares for the many species of birds, feeding them a gourmet feast helping them survive the frosty devonshire months. Breakfast was a wonderful time as I would oggle through the binoculers spotting the many birds through the kitchen window. Spotting a resident robin made my day, making me feel particularly wintery. I was even lucky enough to see Spikey, the little hedgehog!

As promised mum and grandma took Paul and I to a very festive carol service. The congregation had a lucky escape when one of the Christmas arrangements went up in a flurry of flames, we were unknowingly save by a brave chap in the front row weilding an extinguisher-hurrah!

Mum and myself spent Christmas eve and Christmas morning preparing and cooking for the big day. Wow, it was a good christmas dinner. Turkey, roast tatties, brussels with bacon and onion,caulflower cheese sauce and carrots. Once we had stuffed our faces it was time for Christmas pudding-uff! Well, if you can’t indulge at Christmas when can you??

Saying goodbye to my family was not too teary this time round as I knew we would be back in six months or less. Thanks guys for such a wonderful Christmas it was truly perfect-well nearly, cheers Jen, we missed you. Xx

New years was spent in great company. We went to Peterborough and stayed with Nick, Sarah and their cute little girl Maia. They have a beautiful home in a village just outside Stamford. We took walks in the countryside every day. It was so wonderful breathing in the crisp air and soaking up mother nature.

On our return to Norwich it seemed that time just ran away with us but we did get to squeeze in a wonderful day with Pauls sister Lisa, Gemma (Pauls niece) and Gemma's gorgeous daughter Maysie. After another yummy pub lunch we went for a walk in the woods and crunched our way through the golden autumn leaves and weaved ourselves through the naked trees.

I am blessed to have such wonderful family and friends and I am so very excited about spending more time around the dining table, chatting, laughing and having real family time, time that I have missed so much. Jen, I am so looking forward to July when we will all be together for some really special family time.

We went to London before heading to Madrid as it was just so much easier to get to the airport as we had a very early flight. Thanks to a wonderful friend Molly we stayed in a stunning house just off Kensington. We had a blustery but fun filled day visiting St Pauls cathedral, walking along the Thames taking in Tower Bridge and the Tate modern then zipped on the tube to admire the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London eye. Phew! Early night and off to Madrid.

Posted by paulandjes 15:45 Archived in England Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Whaaah!!!! Madrid

Big buildings and tapas

overcast 10 °C

Wow, and yes, wow again!!! Madrid is eye poppingly beautiful. the streets are wide and spacious. the streets are dripping with colossal old buildings. This is a huge contrast to what we have been experiencing in Asia. It was pretty easy to navigate to the hostel from the airport. Hurrah for organisation and readily available information, hurrah hurrah!!! We have walked our little legs off once again, nothing new there but after the gluttony and total relaxation during Christmas we are definatley feeling it in our poor tired feet. The buildings are as I mentioned massive, Paul and I both have cricks in our necks from craning to look at the facades for the past 2 days. They are so intricate with beautiful carved marble decorations.

We went to the Royal Palace today, we actually poked our heads in yesterday but I spotted the small print that mentioned that EU passport holders get in free on Wednesdays - bargain!!! From beginning to end my mouth was gaping wide open, I was completely blown away with the opulance of each and every room. The palace was built around 1550 which is pretty special in itself but to see the work, the detail of the beautifully painted cielings and sculptures, beautifully gulded bronze statues and clocks, tapestries and paintings hanging on the walls. Cherubs, gods from ancient mythology, birds, lions, thrones, wow!! I feel like I have lost the ability to describe, as the whole day my vocabulary consisted of only one word, whoaaaaah! Many rooms include beautifully rich velvets covering the walls, intricate woven carpets, really it has to be seen to be appreciated. Unfortunately photographs were forbidden but before I realised this and was stearnly told off I was able to take only one snap of the ceiling above a beautiful marble staircase. Each room in the palace was completely different but absolutely excessively decorated, some with marble with colours like I have never seen before or could imagine lined the some rooms from floor to ceiling. The palace also had an armoury with the most divinely crafted and ingraved armour. It seemed to me to be an absolute shame to go into battle adorned with such beautiful craftmanship.

The food in Spain is really tasty. There are Tapas bars everywhere. Tapas, Paul is in heaven, lots of lovely little dishes of food, lots of different nibblies, Pauls favourite way to eat. We are trying out some Spanish sentances but it is a little scary although people are very patient with us. Most people speak really good English but I think we should get a gold star for effort. We are dab hands at asking for the essentials, 2 beers or 2 coffees with milk and for the bill. We were a little more confident today and went to the post office today and said "we would like to buy 5 international stamps please", doesn´t sound like much but it is a start.

We are going to soak up the culture for one more day and then we are off to Buenos Aires.

Posted by paulandjes 12:30 Archived in Spain Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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