Brazil – Buzios and Rio…final days

I can´t say enough about the time I have had the past few days. Buzios ended up being amazing. The Nomad is by far one of the best hostels I´ve stayed at. It was right on the beach and in the center of town and I met the most amazing people there…from Argentina, Sweden, Norway, Israel, Austrailia, and of course, lots of Brazillians. The hostel had a fun bar and a great courtyard and everyone pretty much gathered there each night to drink and then head out to the clubs. The clubs were fun, definitely wouldn´t rival Vegas or another big party town, but were still a good time. No one really really goes out in Buzios, or Rio for that matter, until about 1am, so it makes for a lot of late nights and sleeping til noon.

On Saturday, I traveled to Rio. I arrived late in the afternoon, so I didn´t have a chance to do much other than walk around Ipanema. I met a fun group of guys, a couple of Americans, a Scot, and a guy from Holland. We ate at a small local food bar (which they called the old mans bar), grabbed some beers, and then went out about 1am to a small/bar club somewhere in the middle of Rio.

On Sunday, I went to the beach in Ipanema and walked as well down to Copacabana. I don´t think I have ever seen such a crowded beach in all of my life. Apparently, the weekends are the busiest and there was literally a sea of colored umbrellas and people for as far as the eye could see. It truly made for some pretty amazing photos.

Last night, we ended up staying in the hostel and I shared my drinking game that I learned in Lima and before you knew it, we were laughing hysterically and shotgunning beers. I did, however, make it up in time for my tour this AM and miraculously felt pretty good.

The tour today was pretty phenomenal. The day started off cloudy (it´s been beautiful and sunny every day since I left Iguacu), so I was a little nervous that the views from the Christ statue would be bad or that we wouldn´t be able to see it well, but the sun came out just in time.

We started the tour by going to a beach where the majority of hanggliders land, then off to the forest and to a pretty impressive waterfall. We saw monkeys and some interesting raccoon looking animals (keep in mind this is all just a short drive from the city center). Next, it was on to the Christ the Redeemer Statue, then on to Santa Teresa and next the Lapa Steps. The steps were pretty surreal. Unlike the statue, they were fairly empty, and once again, I got some great colorful photos. I also met the Chilean artist who´s been working on them for years and he asked me to send him a tile from Portland. He´s constantly redo-ing them and according to the instructions, if I send a tile from Portland, I will receive one from the wall in return.

Lastly, we were dropped at Sugar loaf and took the gondolas up to one of the tallest peaks near the beaches…the views were once again amazing and I was taken aback at just how large the city was and how beautiful it was from the top of the peaks.

Tomorrow I am off to Colombia and Cartegena. I will definitely miss Brazil, however, I´m definitely looking forward to a new place altogether….and being able to speak some of the language 🙂 Til next time

Brazil – Ilha Grande Part 2/Buzios

So the past few days have been pretty great. I ended up meeting a great group of people in Ilha Grande. Just when I thought there were zero English speaking people on the island, a met a couple of Aussie guys who introduced me to a couple from England traveling for 6 months plus, a guy from England traveling for an indefinite amount of time and a couple and girl from Chile on vacation for 10 days. On Monday night, there was a great party at the hostel with live music (insert Bob Marley songs here) and tons of people dancing on the deck overlooking the ocean.

Tuesday, the group and I took a trip, once again, to Lopez Mendes and spent the day laying in the sun, sleeping in the shade, and playing games on the beach. It was such an amazing day. One of the better ones I have had here actually. We ended the night with beers and pizza and said farewell. Now Chile is definitely on my list of places to visit as the group I met were some of the nicest people I have ever met in my travels.

Yesterday, Ben (the Brit) and I took the quick transfer option off the island. First by boat and then by minivan to Rio. I was dropped at the bus station, hopped on a bus to Buzios and finally landed here about 10 o clock last night.I showered, got ready and then joined the group and went on a pub crawl around the city with the hostel folks.

The hostel here, the Nomad, is so unbelievably great. Probably one of the better ones that I have stayed at. Once again, it´s right on the ocean, overlooking a gorgeous turquoise blue bay. I had coffee, juice, and toast this morning sitting out on the deck under the sun watching the boats come in an out. The people here are also so cool and friendly. There´s a lot of Brazillians who all speak great English, Brits, Israelis, Norwegians, Austrailians and even and American girl.

The town itself, apparently is referred to as the St Tropez as Brazil. Its pretty touristy, but has tons of cobble-stne streets lined with shops, restaurants and chic bars. Just the homes on the drive in looked like million dollar homes. It´s quite different from Ilha Grande but definitely has a great charm about it. I´m excited to see it in the daylight.

I´m off to soak up some sun. The breeze is amazing and definitely a nice break from the heat in Ilha Grande.


Brazil – Ilha Grande and Man-kinis

Well, after quite a journey, I´ve landed in Ilha Grande. It`s quite a large island between Sao Paulo and Rio. And it is F-ing hot here. I´ve been here half a day and I´ve already burnt, but it definitely beats the rain.

On Friday, I took an overnight bus to Curitiba with Brenda from Mexico. We landed in Curitiba around 6am and took off to explore the city. There were definitely some great places to go see, the botanical garden, the pedistrian street, old town, many parks, etc. It´s supposedly one of the weathier cities in Brazil and you can certainly see that. 1.4 million people, but it was very charming.

After spending the day exploring, I took a night bus alone to Sao Paulo and then a bus to the Coast. Yesterday was long. I couldn´t get on an early bus to Angra dos Reis (the port town you reach to go to Ilha Grande), so I didn´t arrive til 630pm in Angra. I met an American from Seattle and a couple from Austrailia and we ventured off to find a boat that would be willing to take us to the Island. All of the ferries were long gone and it was certainly starting to get late, so it didn´t look promising. Finally, we met a few other backpackers and ended up getting a Captain to take us over. The journey took about 2 hours and we made most of it in the dark. With warm ocean breezes and a million stars above, I was actually quite happy I didn´t make the trip during the day.

The island it quite beautiful with shops, restaurants and pousadas (guest rooms) lining the main street and square. I haven´t seen any cars yet and I think there are very few on the island. I found a hostel down the beach and it has an amazing deck that reaches out to the sea. The common area makes up for the lackluster room and bathroom.

This morning I wandered around and found a boat going to Lopez Mendes, which I´ve read is the most beautiful beach on the island. After an hour journey or so, the boat dropped myself and about 50 Spanish/Portuguese foreigners off at a beach and we had to hike a monster hill to get to Lopez. You literally walk straight up over the island….wasn´t quite expecting that. However, once on the other side, you can see why so many people make the journey. The beach is absolutely beautiful with soft, white sand and tourquoise waters that stretch for quite a long ways. I expected there to be a million tourists, but there were actually very few which made the beach pretty enjoyable.

Swimsuits are quite interesting here. I really haven´t met anyone here yet not from South America so I saw A LOT of man-kinis today and a number of interesting thongs on the beach….few of which were actually attractive. There are the mankinis and dark leg-hair men. Awesome. Then there are the women with lots of junk in the trunk, including celullite, with super tiny thongs. Double Awesome. Some of them even have been wearing other thongs during their travels, so they have a thong sunburn and then a smaller thong on which nicely highlights the sunburn. But, what really takes the cake is when women have thongs and have bug bites on their asses that swell up and look like pimples – now that is my favorite look on the island 🙂

I will likely move on to Buzios tomorrow where I hope to find more backpackers (English speaking ones) and will hopefully get some relaxation time in…then spend a couple of days in Rio. The weather is supposed to stay nice fortunately, so hopefully, I missed most of the rain!

Barranco, Peru & Foz do Iguacu, Brazil

I haven’t had much time to write, but i have had quite the trip so far.

My first stop was in Lima. Wow. Talk about kicking off a vacation. My first day was quite the day. I started the day with Rafa, Trent’s friend from college, who took me around Lima and showed me some of the city. After a quick tour of downtown Lima, we headed south to the coast to a steakhouse overlooking the ocean. Yes, we went to a steakhouse for lunch. Apparently, 1pm was early for lunch, so the restaurant wasn’t very full, but we drank some Pilsens, the local cerveca, and ate a serious meal. The half portion of steak was probably 18 oz. No joke. After lunch, Rafa and I saw more of ther city and eventually he dropped me back off at the hostel.

I stayed in Barranco, a small town just south of Lima. Its known as the artist district, but I didn’t come across much art. It wasn’t too bad though. I did a lot of walking around the city. It had a beautiful central square bordered by a huge church, a library and a Dominoes Pizza. I also walked to the boardwalk which lined a clifff overlooking the ocean and saw some great architecture built into the sides of the cliffs.

The hostel I stayed in was great. An old adobe style building painted bright red with a great location and very well maintained. It cost me 10 dollars per night. The first night I had a room all to myself and the second, I slept all of four hours, so definitely got my money’s worth.

My second night there, I visited the hostel bar and began talking to some of the workers there, a Canadian from Quebec and a couple of Frenchmen. Next thing I know, a couple of more Frenchmen arrive and I’m sitting at the bar playing drinking games with 5 guys speaking French. Five beers deep (probably 24 oz each) and a shot of pisco later, I finally went to bed. At 330.

I had to get up at 8am to get ready for my 9am pickup and needless to say it was a SERIOUS struggle. Good news is, however, I met Gael (french guy) who gets to Colombia one day before I do, so we hope to meet up in Colombia.

The past few days, I have been in Foz de Iguacu which is on the border of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. I toured both sides of the falls, the Brazilian side and the Argentinian side and it is definitely a pretty amazing site. The falls are some of the biggest in the world, but also some of the longest, and the first time I peeked through the trees at them it literally took my breath away. At times you can get right up next to them and get completely drenched by the spray, which is a nice relief as it is seriously hot and humid here.

I’ve met some really great people in the hostel here. A Canadian guy, a girl from Luxembourg, another from the Phillippines and two guys traveling together, one from Norway and the other from Sweden. Tonight I am traveling to Curitiba with a girl from Mexico as well. It’s been quite a fun group. We’ve drank a lot, laughed a lot, and met several very kind Brazilians. The Brazilians here in Iguacu are really just overall nice people and always want to engage you.

Brazil is definitely not how I pictured it thus far. First, it’s not cheap at all. Prices are really pretty comparable to the US. Also, most people don’t always know that you’re not from here until you start speaking….it’s really a melting pot for people from all over.

I haven’t been eatting well or sleeping very well unfortunately. The food here isn’t that different, it’s just hard to know what is in things and I obviously have a hard time communicating with some people. We’ve definitely been drinking more than eatting as well. They have a great drink here called a caipirinha which tastes a lot like a margarita, but with lots of fresh lime. Definitely does not help my cause to not have a hangover the following day.

Just a few days in and I’m already having an amazing time. Back home, I easily forget how great it feels to be a solo traveler, meeting new people from all over the world. Talking about life, values, interests…and gaining a sense of perspective. Out here, traveling, it all comes back and I’m completely and utterly happy because of it. Even with a hangover most days 🙂