We made it! After 20 hours of traveling from 3.30am (UK time) to 8.30pm (Brazilian time), we are finally in Rio! As soon as we arrived we realized we were not prepared for the temperature of 28 degrees; especially in fleeces and trousers that were needed in England!! Managed to grab an Uber to our hostel - quickly learnt our lesson in how crazy Rio traffic can be, with a 2 hour long journey. Quick showers and we are both already ready for bed.
COPACABANA & IPANEMA
After a good nights sleep we decided to spend the day exploring Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. Copacabana is a short walk from our hostel, so we started there. Incredible views from anywhere along the beach of Sugarloaf mountain and surrounding islands. We walked to Copacabana Fort which was only £4 to get in and offered amazing panoramic views of the beach. There was a museum as part of the fort that had alot of old military weapons and history on show...
Given the views we decided it was the best place to stop off for lunch! Best part about this was we were able to sit and watch turtles and fish swimming around below us! The food and view wasn't too bad either...
We then walked on to Ipanema beach. Very busy with lots of people trying to sell you all sorts of items or umbrellas and chairs for the beach! We walked all the way down to the end before walking back to Arpoador Rock, which offers incredible view of the beach. We have been told that it offers the best view at sunset, so will try to make it back for this!
STREET PARTY & PARQUE LAGE
This morning, first thing on the agenda was to buy our Carnival tickets for Sunday's Parade. It was pretty confusing figuring out the ticketing system, the parade takes place in the Sambadrome, which is shaped like a catwalk with seats on either side of a long central stage. However the ticket prices vary a lot depending on whether you're near to the beginning/end or middle. We went for sector 5which was on the lower end costs for being central (still set us back £100 each!), so we'll find out Sunday if we made the right choice.
By recommendation of our very friendly hostel manager, we then headed out to one of the many street parties going on all over the city. This was a little daunting considering he told us to not take any phones or valuables, only money you were going to spend, he even recommended removing caps and sunglasses! Therefore sadly we have no pictures but the experience was worth it.
So we went armed with a few pounds hidden away in a money belt (which Dan already loathes), and got the metro to Carioca. We were by far the palest and most under-dressed pair on the tube. EVERYONE was properly dressed up festival style. Girls in glitter and wearing next to nothing else, with the guys actually winning any costume competition going on, wearing skirts/wings/wigs/contact lenses/bras/posing pouches etc!
We decided to go to the Cordao da Bola Preta Bloco (street party), which is the oldest parade in all of Brazil, with reported up to 1 million people in attendance. We arrived at 11am and the party had been in full swing since 7am! The streets were rammed, it was pretty hard to move for people to begin with. All along the roads and streets people were selling drinks, food and generally partying. We managed to fight our way to the middle which had a great view of some of the floats which the singers and band were on. Luckily we positioned ourselves right next to a guy selling beer, and the £1 per can price tag was an added bonus. Oh and to top this all off it was absolutely pissing it down all morning, we were drenched after only a few minutes of standing about but this didn’t seem to stop anyone! We stayed for a few hours taking it all in and on the whole it was incredible to experience and see, even if we both did feel very out of place.
Once we’d had enough we got the metro back to Botafogo for some lunch. Without phones however (and stupidly we’d left our map at the hostel too) it was pretty hard to navigate our way to any recommended restaurants so settled upon a little bakery near to the station. We’d been told Botafogo was a great place to head for food so potentially one to head back to when we’re a bit more prepared.
After a quick pop back to the hostel, we got an Uber (for the extortionate cost of £2.45!) to the Parque Lage. This is based at the bottom of Christ the Redeemer, but in itself is gorgeous gardens and worth the visit! As per Siân's recommendations for Rio, Snoop Dog filmed a music video here, and in her words “need I say more”.
Luckily the clouds cleared and the sun came out, so with Christ the Redeemer overlooking us, we walked around the rainforest. There were lots of different areas to visit, including an aquarium in a cave (where we met a very enthusiastic aquarium attendant that gave us lots of recommendations for the park!), caves with stalagmites and stalactites, a tower built for an Italian singer and a mansion house. But better than that, throughout it all, there was so much wildlife to see! Monkeys were constantly jumping ahead over trees, hummingbirds of all different colours, a variety of butterfly’s and unfortunately a lot of mosquitoes (which made us pretty paranoid slapping ourselves whenever we felt the slightest breeze on us!).
CHINESE VIEW POINT, BOTANICAL GARDENS
This morning, we had wanted to do the two brothers trek, as this is supposed to offer the best view of Rio, and involves trekking to the top of the highest of the two rocks (as seen in our cover photo for March 1st). However after a quick look at the weather, rain was forecast and we decided clambering to the top of a rock might not be the best idea in torrential rain. Instead we settled on the viewpoint of the Vista Chinesa (Chinese Viewpoint). Again using Siân's recommendations, we decided to get an Uber to the top, and walk down from there. Luckily we had this advice as it is an incredibly long and windy uphill slog to the top... we watched in awe as loads of Cyclists faced this 380 climb in 30+ degree heat - it definitely put Ditchling Beacon to shame. We were even worried about the taxi making it to the top as it had the petrol light on the entire journey, we really didn't fancy breaking down mid hill. Luckily the petrol held out (hopefully the driver made it home) and the view at the top did not disappoint...
After admiring the view and having a little wander, we started our descent. The walk down is on the same road we drove up, so we had the occasional bike or car flying past. The road traverses down through the rainforest, so although no view to admire we saw lots of monkeys jumping overhead (who sat and watched as we waved) and could always be found near a Jack Fruit tree, Due to the thickness of the forest we both worked up quite the sweat (although walking on flat has the same affect too, sometimes all it takes is standing still to end up drenched in your own sweat). There was a very small waterfall just over half way down, which lots of locals were using to cool down, but sadly due to lack of towel and swimwear decided against going for a dip ourselves.
The walk eventually flattens out and leads through a residential area, with lots of bike coffee shops as a reward for the brave cyclists having made the round journey. After a quick panic we weren't too sure where we were, we easily found our way to the Botanical Gardens. Although not a must do on our list, we did really enjoy wandering around some beautiful landscapes, plants (Dan seemingly loved the Orchids taking never ending pictures) , and animals. Top of our list would be the ring tailed monkeys and some Ariel Toucan's.
One of the main things Lisa had wanted to try in Brazil was rodizio churrasco, simply translated as bottomless BBQ. We were recommended by Rodrigo (our aforementioned very helpful Hostel manager) a place just a few streets away called Carretão, so headed out here for dinner. It's a set price and there is a salad bar you can help yourself to, offering your normal culprits like cheeses, cold meats, breads, a variety of salads, veg, rice, chips, onion rings, and... sushi. Waiters then come around the tables with various meats (roast lamb, rump steak, fillet mignon, ribs, pork belly, pork roast, chicken etc) and using a chip provided, you place the green side up if you want the meat to keep coming and the red when you need a bit of a break. Waiters are constantly walking around with the meats, so keeping track on whether your chip is red or green is important!!
After eating more than we probably should have, we started to think about heading over to the carnival on the other side of town. During eating we noticed the rain coming down heavily, but hoped it would pass before we had to leave. When we came to pay the bill we noticed there was a crowd around the door and people weren't leaving. We went over to take a closer look and saw this ....
The roads had totally flooded up to shin level due to the sheer volume of rain in such a short period of time and being at the bottom of a hill. Along with most other people in the restaurant, we decided to try and wait it out for the water to drain and the rain to subside a bit. Sadly neither of these things happened! After waiting for around an hour, we got to the point that we had to leave to get to Carnival on time. Ideally we both didn't want to walk through the flood due to wearing our only pair of trainers for the trip! So with the help of the staff at the restaurant, we got some bin bags, tied them around our feet and hoped for the best! Heres Lisa modeling her pair...
Amazingly these actually held out and we made it to dry land! We must have looked pretty silly while streets of people around us were playing in the water! We thought the nights drama was over when we saw the sign for the metro. However as we got down we saw the biggest queue to get tickets, as everyone was going to the same place, the Sambadrome.
To be fair the queue moved alot quicker than we thought and soon were in a very cosy carriage on our way to the stadium.
Arriving at our stop, we followed the crowds out into what we hoped was the right direction. Before heading to carnival we had read on the official website which station to exit and were informed it would be well signposted. This turned out not to be the case. Sadly the crowds also seemed to need the signs as we soon realised we were going in the wrong direction! We decided it was best to ask a policeman for directions, and after a few confusing turns and having to ask a few more times, we finally made it in and all the drama of the night was worth it....
The seats are steps within the section your ticket is for, so is abit of a free for all. Luckily despite getting there later than advised, we managed to get what we thought were very good seats at the top. We didnt have to wait too long for the parade to be kicked off with a firework display and the first samba school to start.
As the pattern of the day it started to rain again, however this time we were armed with Ponchos, along with the rest of the crowd!
Each school roughly performs for around an hour, with endless floats, costumes, dancers, acrobats etc. The parade truly a spectacle which really did live up to all the hype we had heard! Our favourite samba school was by far the second, with their entire parade having a fairytale theme. Each group of dancers told a story. They started off strong with a theatrical Hansel and Gretal type story.
It wasn't limited to just fairytales however, they threw in abit of Thriller, Nightrider and pirates of the Caribbean too!
The third parade, whilst still very visually impressive, their song choice didn't seem to get the crowd going as much and with their set ending at 2am in the morning, we decided to call it a night there.
CHRIST THE REDEEMER, SANTA TERESA, SERALON STEPS & SUGARLOAF MOUNTAIN
The full parade goes on until around 6am - I dont think our bodies would have been able to dance that long, however the Brazilian locals were still going strong! We were both really happy we had gone and loved the experience. By far our favourite part of the night was the massive array of costumes and floats, which hopefully the pictures above give a taste of!. We felt it was a great sector to see everything from - we didnt feel we missed out not spending more and going further up, only difference would have been seeing the parade come towards you fully. However with the crowds this would have been hard anyway!
We had a really lazy day on the 4th, recovering from carnival! We spent the day re-exploring Ipanema and Copacabana, stumbling into a few street parties on the way! Apart from that was a very chilled day, so not too much to report!
We are glad we had a chilled day as the 5th was very action packed! As Tuesday was the only forecast sunny day of our time in Rio, we held off visiting the main sites till this day. Luckily it paid off!
As we were leaving it all to do in one day, we thought the best way to ensure we would see everything was to do a tour. The day started with pick up from our accommodation at 8.45am, and after around 45 mins of picking up the rest of the tour, we were on our way!
The road up to Christ the Redeemer, our first stop, was very steep, windy and a little hairy at times in our minibus, more than once stumbling backwards on hillstarts!.
Once at the top, its a short 5 minute walk to reach the base and to fight through the crowds - it was insanely busy! But was obviously worth it as you can see ..
After nearly melting at the viewpoint where temperatures reached a high, we were at least treated with some incredible views...
Our next stop was to the neighborhood of Santa Teresa. This is the Portuguese neighborhood where they first settled when they colonized Brazil. One of the main things to see here is an old tram system that still runs up and down the streets. Dan was really looking forward to seeing this but when we arrived there was a huge street party taking place due to carnival, so they weren't running. We had a very quick venture into the crowds to have a look at the colonial architecture and great street art.
The third stop of the day was the Seralon Steps (Spanish steps). Again as we arrived we were met with another street party, so the steps were very crowded - although can image they are always inundated with tourists anyways! We still managed to get a few pictures between the crowds and walked to the top of the steps! Lisa's bum nearly burnt sitting on the steps it was so hot!
The final stop of the day was Sugarloaf Mountain. We got a cable car first to Morro Da Urca, which is a half way mountain between, then continued to Sugarloaf. The views from the top were Lisa's favourite of the day, giving a panoramic view of Rio. The only downisde of the mountain was we had planned to have lunch up here, however all the card machines were down and we had run out of cash! So very hungry, we filled our appetite with the views instead ....
We got back to the Hostel very hungry and wanting to head straight out for food. As it was our last night in Rio, we wanted to go for something tradition. Luckily again Rodrigo (our aforementioned very friendly hostel manager) came to the rescue with a great recommendation. So we headed to Copacabana seafront to a restaurant called Manoel and Juaquim. Rodrigo had already told us to try the Feijoada, which is a traditional Brazilian dish. It is black bean stew main with several different cuts of pork, with sides of rice, spinach, crackling and extra black beans! We sided this with a Brazilian beer, Bohemia.
The food was delicious and Dans favourite meal of the trip so far! To make the night even more Brazilian, a huge moving street party paraded right down the street that the restaurant was on! So we were treated to some live music too!
Overall we had a fantastic time in Rio! Special shout out to Rodrigo for all his incredible recommendations, general friendliness and helping make our time in Rio the best it could be!
GETTING TO ILHA GRANDE
With our stay in Rio at an end it was time to head to the Island of Ilha Grande. We got picked up around 7.45am, and again after spending around an hour collecting the rest of the coach from around Rio, we were on our way. The journey took 2hrs to get to the town of Conceição de Jacareí, which is where the ferry leaves from, and is a small beachside town which seemed very popular with locals. The buses dropped us off along with many other coach-loads of people (most seemed to be just going on a holiday rather than on their travels) around a 10 minute walk from the ferry dock. After waiting for almost an hour we got the signal to head down, so for the first time (of many) on this trip we had to haul on our backpacks and day packs and walk down to the pier. Everyone piled onto the boat and as one of the last pairs on we ended up having to stand for the journey, it was that or sit up top in the blazing mid day sun, which our pale asses can’t quite handle yet, even in factor 50!
It was around a 50 minute journey to the Island, and very rocky! Feeling a little green by the time we reached land, we asked for directions to our next accommodation, the aptly named ‘Jungle Lodge’. Our request for directions was met with “take the jungle path, and go up for 20 minutes, it’s a long way” and then a little laugh. The little laugh didn’t do too much to boost morale, but we’d read reviews of the lodge which warned of the trek and said it wasn’t too bad, so feeling okay we set off.
Around 10 minutes in, dripping in sweat not only from the heat but from the weight of our backpacks, our spirits began to fade a little, the jungle path we’d envisioned hadn’t been quite as unrelentingly uphill! 5 minutes later and needing a breather from the bags, we thought we couldn’t be far so Dan headed up ahead bagless to see how close we were. A good 5 minutes later Dan returned, having only seen a sign for the hostel. So we plodded on uphill, passing the sign and eventually getting to a flat. By this point, our bags feeling very heavy and resembling people who had just walked out a shower, we reached another steep incline much to our despair! Again Dan went ahead bagless in hope of finding it, and success! Not only this he came down the slope with Victor, the lodge owner, in tow to help with the bags. We were saved! Many glasses of water and a shower later we were able to explore the lodge, which is a beautifully rural little lodge, the only rentable accommodation around, with open windows and an incredible view out to sea. To make it even better, they even had dogs - one a Border Collie!
Having cooled down we walked back down (the way we’d come) to the main town to explore and very importantly to get some laundry done. It seems all the other hostels on the island are situated in this town or on the beach front. On the way down and back up, without our massive backpacks, the walk was only 20 minutes and a fair bit easier. After having an incredible fish dinner sat out on the beach, we headed back to our lodge and had an early night to recover!
HIKE TO LOPES MENDES BEACH
The main beach everyone tells you to visit when you say you’re going to Ilha Grande is Lopes Mendes, a 3km long pure white stretch of sand. There are no roads or cars on the island, so there are only two ways to reach this beach, first a taxi boat, or secondly a 3hr hike through the jungle. Thinking we really needed to get our fitness levels up before Machu Picchu, we decided on the hike. As were already 20 minutes up from the main town, we’d escaped the beginning uphill of the trek, and Victor helped show us a shortcut from the lodge which saved doubling up on some of the path. The shortcut was literally scrambling through barely trodden jungle path and after being told about a near miss with a coral snake the night before, Dan was a little wary walking through this to say the least. When we reached the main path Victor sent us on our way to begin the 6km trek. The trek is very up and down through thick jungle, but occasionally opens up to offer some beautiful views, and also passes two beaches on the way to Lopes Mendes. After around an hours walking, we got to Praia das Palmas.
After a quick stop to top up on water we headed back on up the next path. It started off pretty steep but quickly flattened out before slowly descending to the next beach, Praia dos Mangues. Not sure of how much longer the walk would be, we stopped off for another water and the excuse to sit down.
The walk on actually only took 10 minutes straight to another beach, which was the beach the taxi boats dropped off the passengers to, we were close! A further 20 minute trek through the jungle and we made it! First thing on the agenda (after taking a few pictures of course) was a dip in the sea. The waves were actually crazy strong with people surfing. After sweating non stop for 3 hours it was a nice refresher to wash off.
We dried off pretty quickly in the sun, and after relaxing for a while, decided to head back to the beach before, where we’d seen a floating restaurant we wanted to check out for a late lunch.
Summing up all our energy, we decided rather than get a taxi boat back to the main town, we’d brave the trek back. The walk back to the second beach seemed to go much quicker than the way there, although the tide had come right the way in and we had to make a few well timed jumps over certain sections of the beach so as not to get wet.
We hadn’t quite realised how much the first part of the trek had been downhill that morning, but heading back up it now, we really felt it! It was around 45minutes of pure uphill. Other than Lisa somehow managing to pull a muscle (or something) in her big toe on one of the more gruelling downhill slogs, the trek was a success and finally we made it back to the lodge, feeling very proud of ourselves and very tired.
No time to rest just yet though. We needed to make it down to the main village before dark to pick up some dinner and more importantly, pick up our washing. We made it 12km through very difficult terrain without even a stumble, and now, on our way back out, about 3 meters out of our lodge, Lisa managed to slip on a rock and went crashing into the wall opposite, cutting open her knee! The only upside is that a mosquito got smashed along with the knee.
Stupidly in our haste to get to town we’d not picked up a torch for the trek back, so faced a rapidly darkening trail through the jungle on our way back up - it was the quickest we’d ever walked it!
Feeling exhausted we just chilled in the lodge for the night. I’m sure we’ll feel it in our legs tomorrow, but for now it was the heat which was the real struggle. We drank over 4litres of water each today and it still doesn’t quite feel enough!
LAZY DAYS IN ILHA GRANDE
After our strenuous trek, we decided to full embrace island life and have abit more of a chilled few days! The morning of the 8th was spent wondering down to the town, then onto the beaches below our hostel. When the tide came in too much to be able to sit in the shade, we made our way back up to the hostel and make use of the hammocks and enjoy being in the jungle.
That night we decided to brave the night time jungle trek back down to the main town! We settled upon a gorgeous restaurant on the beach. Most meals seemed to be sharing options for two people, so we shared a clay pot fish stew and washed it down with a beer.
Doing the walk back in the dark really heightens the senses, so you notice every little rustle or noise a lot more than during the day! We finally got to see the frogs that have been so noisy the last few nights!
The morning of the 9th we headed down to do the Trilha Circuito Vila do Abraão walk which is a 1.5km circle hike up to a natural pool. From the top of the circuit you are supposed to be able to walk up to see a waterfall. We decided to check this out - but 45min of pure uphill walking later, we still hadn't found it and if anything, heading away from running water! Very drenched in sweat, we decided to cut our losses and head back! We still got to see the natural pool and some beautiful scenery.
As it is our last full day, we treated ourself to another meal on the beach, the same place we went on the first day as we enjoyed it so much. We made the last uphill trek to our lodge (as hard as ever!) and started to pack up ready for our ferry tomorrow morning to Paraty.
TRANSFER TO PARATY
It was time to say goodbye Ilha Grande and take the final trek down the jungle path. Downhill with our bags was a little easier but still as sweaty as ever and a good work out for our core trying to stay balanced!
The boat back over to mainland was around an hour, but thankfully wasn't half as rocky as on the way.
Our transfer minibus to Paraty was waiting for us on arrival (a 10 minute walk away), but a 2 and bit hour journey later, we arrived in Paraty and checked in to our hostel. We went for a little wander around the town, and for a lovely dinner sat outside on the cobbled streets.
HISTORICAL TOUR OF PARATY
This morning we wanted to explore the beautiful town we'd had a glimpse of the night before properly, so decided to do a free walking tour. Our guide was an Argentinian who'd lived in Paraty for over 20 years, and he had such a passion for history and for the town. He started off giving us a brief history of how Brazil was officially discovered by the Portuguese in 1500, who would make deals with Prisoners on death row or with life sentences, and let them off if they went to these unknown lands to see what's there and protect it from any other countries potentially finding it too! Brazil got it's name from the Brazil tree, which was affluent in the region and used to make red dye, so was the first big trade boom of the country. Around 200 years later, gold was found 500km inland from Paraty, so the town was used as a fortress / gateway to Rio to transport the gold. During this time Pirates were known to try to steal goods going from Paraty to Rio. Paraty is in a huge bay, and the town is protected, so they would never siege the town, but rather hide behind the island of Ilha Grande and surprise attack. In order to stop this, a road was built straight from the gold mines to Rio, and Paraty became an abandoned town. For 80 years it only had around 600 inhabitants, and this is the reason all the colonial architecture is still in place today, as the town never developed. Nowadays it's a heritage site, and protected from any new buidlings being built in the historical centre, unless you apply for a license, and can prove via blueprints or photographs that the new build will be a replica of the building that once stood there.
You can see below how beautiful and quaint the architecture of this town is. It felt like walking around a European town that got stuck in time.
One thing we got caught out on the night before was flooding down some of the streets making them impassable. There had been some rain the day before so we assumed this was the reason, however on the tour, we learnt otherwise. Ingeniously for the time, the town was built lower than sea level, with the roads in a deep V shape, so that when the tide came in each day, it would wash away all the sewage thrown in the streets! Luckily nowadays, it's only water you need to get around. They have now raised the roads higher, but some closer to the sea still get flooded daily, and apparently on new moon or spring tides, the water levels can get very high on the streets!
After the tour, we headed back towards our hostel which was next to the beach, grabbed our pack of cards and played a few rounds of rummy on the beach with a beer. Half way through, the heavens opened, but luckily we'd picked a table under a parasol, so managed to carry on playing semi protected from the rain.
BOAT TRIP AROUND THE BAY
Within our bus pass we'd bought, which took us from Rio through to São Paulo, we had a free (in the loosest sense, I'm sure we paid for it within the package) Schooner boat tour around the bay. We were surprised when we got on the boat that they hadn't actually crammed too many people on, so we managed to get a nice space for the day.
The boat had 4 stops throughout the day in different beaches that you had to swim to. Sadly because there had been a lot of rain overnight, the water wasn't as clear as it would usually be, so we were told that it probably wouldn't be the best day to snorkel. However the beaches `and surround areas were enough to keep us occupied, it was a beautiful contrast of sandy beaches and jungle surroundings. The boat tour lasted around 6hours which we enjoyed a lot more than we thought we would, it was a calm day so the boat didn't rock too much thankfully!
The boat had it's own official photographer, who was so nice, enthusiastic (although he forced us to have a jumping photo which despite Lisa's best efforts to get out of, reluctantly had to give in and do), and as he could speak English, he made such a point each stop explaining to us where we were. Therefore at the end we felt sort of obliged to purchase a few pictures from him.
**We haven't had these through yet, he said would take a week but we'll upload soon!**
The pictures make it look like we'd asked for a full on photo-shoot, but he was so enthusiastic it was hard to say no each time he approached with the camera or made you put your arms around each other. Some people were taking him aside for 10 minutes at a time for a full on shoot laying in the sand or kissing, and then at the end we saw them debating even whether or not to buy the photos!
On the way back, Dan sent some postcards, so we spent a good half hour to round off the day in the post office queue. So be grateful when they arrive ha (Linda, Dave & Keith only... Dan didn't care about the rest of you!)
JEEP TOUR TO THE NATIONAL PARK
On our final day in Paraty we decided to do a Jeep tour of the national park of Bocaina. (Jay and Jess would have approved all the Jeeps were Land Rover's). We were picked up in the morning by Ivan, our eccentric jeep driver (more about him later), and then proceeded to collect the rest of the tour group, who were all English & Irish, some travelling and some just on holiday, so it was lovely to chat with them to hear all about their experiences of what we still have yet to come!
The first stop of the day was Pedra Branca, a waterfall and pool, located in the middle of the jungle.
Time for a dip - the only problem - getting in. The water was FREEZING! Dan made it look effortlessly cool just laying down under the waterfall. Lisa... not quite as cool!
Ivan, our aforementioned jeep driver spent this time running around trying to find monkey's to point out to us, then came diving into the pool in a pair of goggles diving for any dropped coins. On the drive to the next stop, he kept pulling the jeep over to pick very lovely smelling Jasmine flowers for the girls and putting them in our hair. He also beeped the horn incessantly at every corner and pretty much said hello to everyone we drove past on the road, so he made the journey a fun one!
Next stop was to visit Pedra Branca, a distillery of cachaça, Brazil's national liquor, a distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice, similar in taste to whiskey in the purest form, but different flavours are added to make it very sweet too. After a quick tour and explanation of the distillation process (same as most) we got to have mini tasters of all the different flavours they had on offer, as well as the different stages from pure to aged in barrels. The taste was much more up Dan's street, with Lisa preferring the sweeter flavours, although of course Dan's favourite one was Chocolate flavour. Sadly they didn't have any mini bottles on sale only large ones otherwise we would have bought some to carry around with us as a memento.
After lots of little shots we were all more than ready for lunch. We were taken to an Italian style restaurant in the most beautiful setting surrounded by gardens and waterfalls, where they made homemade pasta. Before lunch we had a little paddle to cool off again.
Next up was another waterfall, the aptly named Toboggan. where you can go sliding on a big rock down to the river. Whilst all the tourists went sliding down on our bums, the local young boys were quite literally surfing down on their feet, terrifying and very impressive - however not tempting. Watch us below!
A short walk up from here, was the final waterfall of the day Poço de Tarzan. The waterfall got is name from the fact that lots of people jump from the top of a 12m hgh rock next to it, which is like the Tarzan jump. Our guide advised against doing this (not that we were very tempted anyway) but said lots of people get injured either landing badly or not in the right spot as there was only a small section deep enough! We were happy enough watching some other idiots do it (and some chickening out).
We all thought the tour ended here but getting back to the jeeps, we walked straight over the road and to another cachaça distillery, Engenho do ouro, for some more tastings!
Still not over here though, we finished the tour visiting the Forte Defensor Perpétuo, a landmark of the Gold Trail where they would protect the gold that had been brought from inland (like we'd learnt in the walking tour the day before). They still had original canons which were used to protect the town from Pirates.
We headed straight out for dinner, aware we had a long night ahead to kill before our night bus to Sao Paulo at 11.40pm. We managed to find a bar showing the football so Dan was happy!
We'd agreed with the hotel that as we'd already checked out we could use their outside shower (used for just rinsing off on return from the beach). Better than nothing though, this involved having to hold a towel up for each other as a shield, whilst we had a quick naked dash in the cold water to clean off, hoping no one would walk in the side door which would have left us exposed. We got away with it, well so we thought, until we saw a sign stating there was CCTV so someone will probably be able to have a good laugh at that video sometime!
It was a long evening waiting for the bus, but managed to get there on time and settle ourselves in for the night.
GETTING TO FOZ DO IGUAÇU
Although we looked happy in the picture above and the night bus went fine, we did have a few issues with our flight a few days prior when we went to check in.
Without informing us in any way, the flight had been pushed to 3 hours prior to our booking. The idea was our overnight bus got in at 6am, its a 30 minute transfer to airport and we had booked a flight for 10.40am to give ourselves plenty of time. Now with the flight time changed, there would be no way we would be able to make the flight. Luckily we noticed this when we got our boarding passes, so after a bit of panicked Googling, we found a Brazilian number for the airline. Helpfully our hostel manager let us use their phone and was able to put us through to an English speaking customer service.
We were able to push our flight to one later in the day free of charge, only problem being it wasn't until 4.40pm, hence this has been our day....
We did consider trying to store our bags and spend the morning looking around Sao Paulo, however its such a big city and we had done no research whatsoever, so realised it would cause more stress than enjoyment. The good news for you guys meant we had a lot of spare time to get the blog up to date - and it actually took us nearly all of the wait time!!
Finally we made it!!
FOZ DO IGUAÇU
After a good nights sleep recovering from a full 24hrs of travelling (we got to the hotel the night previous at around 8pm). We'd been offered a tour of the waterfall and bird park on the Brazil side of the falls, but decided we could do this ourselves and just used their itinerary.
After breakfast, which was by far the best selection (especially of cakes which Dan liked) so far, we headed straight for the bird park, Parque das Aves.
The park was set up as a sanctuary by a Zimbabwean vet and his German wife a keen lover of birds in the early 90's. The park was designed so that no native tree needed to be cut down. They work on a number of conservation projects, mainly of vulnerable and endangered species, and many of the birds in the park are rescued from illegal trafficking or taken in to recoup and then set back in the wild where possible.
Straight away we loved the park, especially as most of the birds could be seen in huge aviary's that you're able to walk through with the birds flying overhead (we saw some unlucky - or lucky - Australians get in the way of the birds toilet!). Dan loved that he got to try out his new long lens, he even occasionally let Lisa have a play.
And a fun fact for Granny , the first birds of the park were Gray parrots, as the couple had one as a pet, so we couldn't leave and not take a picture of one - they all look just like Albi!
The macaws had the biggest aviary and were so bold they'd literally fly so close to you.
Helpfully, the entrance to the Parque Nacional do Iguacu was just over the road from the bird park. The ticket includes a shuttle bus to get to the falls, so hopping on we joined the crowds headed this way. The first stop is a 2km track away from the main attraction of the falls - The Devil's throat - but the walk provided incredible panoramic views. 75% of the falls are in Argentina, so from the Brazilian side you really get the see the scale of them all.
At the end of this 2km hike was the main attraction, the devils throat. This is where there is a giant, U-shaped cascade of waterfalls all meeting in one place. It has 14 falls, that drop to a height of over 80 meters and spans 1.7 miles wide, There was multiple viewing points, each one seemingly a little bit wetter than the last!
The viewing point directly infront of the falls, which required walking out over the river, was by far the wettest!
Dan had wanted to try some long exposure photos of the falls ever since knowing we were going to visit them. Sadly due to mass of people and how wet the area was, he wasn't able to get as many as he wanted. Luckily we found an area that was basically empty, and managed to get this shot of both of us that we were happy with...