Brazil, United Kingdom · 29 Days · 15 Moments · December 2017

Last stop, Brazil

8 January 2018

15. The uber driver was a funny local who barely spoke a word of English, but tried nonetheless and it made for a quick ride to the airport. He told us that despite living in Rio his whole life he'd never been up to see Christ the Redeemer or Sugarloaf mountain, apparently not uncommon for the locals. Obviously as we checked into our flights we were informed there was a delay of a couple of hours, but not to worry, Emily had airport lounge passes, one final highlight of the trip for me! I couldn't believe how everything was free! Amazing! I smashed down a few plates of food while Emily took advantage of the free shower. By 1am our flight was ready to board, but I didn't want to leave the lounge! Anyway, we eventually got underway, landing in morocco for our connecting flight 10 minutes after it was supposed to take off. What followed was like a scene from a film as the Moroccan airport staff very quickly rounded a few of us up and literally ran us through the airport to the next plane.
14. Once we touched back down after a great couple of hours up the top of sugarloaf, we wandered across the road to a decent size street market that was turning into a mini festival. There was load music, loads of food stands and even more craft beer stalls, so we had a burger and a drink, took in the atmosphere a bit and then made our way back to Copacabana beach for a few more beers. It was our last night and along with Natalie we reminisced a little about the last few months in South America while enjoying the beach at night. Rio certainly wasn't my favourite city, but it was very stereotypical of our thoughts, as many locals were still on the beach playing football well past dark. The next day we begun to pack up our things, checked out and spent half a day chilling by the pool. We walked across Rio for one final delicious steak lunch (a rare find by me!) and made our way to the airport early evening.

10 December 2017

13. Natalie, a girl from All Hands also messaged us to see what we were up to as she had just arrived in Rio, so that evening we all went to Sugarloaf mountain together. It was Rio's second biggest attraction and was well worth the visit. It's effecting just two cable cars going up to the top of a 400 meter mountain that juts out into the sea the opposite side of Rio to Christ the Redeemer. The views at the top were spectacular, far better than at the top of Christ, with Copacabana one side, the bulk of Rio city to the other, Botafogo harbour in front and the sun setting behind the world wonder on the mountain in the distance. While the 3 of us enjoyed it and took a few pictures, plenty of people were setting up their very large cameras on tripods etc all preparing to take pictures of the sunset. I couldn't help but laugh when a large cloud came across obscuring the view of pretty much everything at one point! A few more pictures later and eventually we headed back to ground level.
12. The remainder of the afternoon was spent strolling around the botanical gardens which were really impressive. Mum you and Kathy would have loved them! It was a huge park with a lot to see, certainly plenty to keep us entertained until dinner time which we had planned in advance as Rio's one and only decent curry house was in the same area. It was good, but it wasn't quite 'proper english' curry! It was only right to then go for a walk around the central Flamengo lake to burn off some of our dinner and to search for wifi in order to get an uber home. That took us as far as the Leblanc was hopping centre which is where the rich and famous of Rio do their shopping with many designer brands housed Ina very swanky looking building. We didn't stay long enough to do any Christmas shopping though and we're soon back watching the remainder of Benjamin Button! The sun reappeared for our final full day, so we spent the entire afternoon by the rooftop pool doing nothing.
11. We helped ourselves to a very nice breakfast and then checked out of our very impressive Hostel to head for our hopefully more impressive hotel. As it turned out we were in luck, as despite a bit of dated decor, the hotel was exactly what we wanted for our last few days. It wasn't a particularly nice day however, so we weren't able to sit by the rooftop pool and instead decided to go for a walk. We ended up walking the whole 4km stretch of Copacabana beach, all the way round to Ipanema beach which seemed to be even busier. We watched the surfers for a while and walked along the sand until eventually we figured we had to make our way back. Another hour and a half walking and we made it back to our hotel by dark. We didn't even bother with dinner, instead we just ate chocolate and watched Benjamin Button in bed! We woke up the following morning to heavy rain! In Rio! What are the odds? The breakfast was great, but after that there was very limited movement until the afternoon.
10. It was about 11am and you could barely move for people at the top. Why more people don't get up early to see it I have no idea. For Machu Pichu we had woken up at 3.30am and by 5.30am queues had started to form. Here, for some reason everyone waits until later in the day? Oh well, it was mine and Emily's gain! It also meant that we could have lunch and then spend the rest of the day on Copacabana, doing absolutely nothing! I got a nice patchy 'tan' (aka pink burnt patches) all over my body as we lied there for about 3 hours. The beach was surprisingly quiet as well considering the images you always see of an absolutely packed beach, but there were still plenty of tiny swimwear on show and hundreds of people playing beach football and volleyball. Later it was finally my turn to take charge in the kitchen and with zero help (supervision) from Emily I cooked a delicious meal...ok so it was chicken and rice!! Cooked to perfection though. It had been a very good day!
9. In reality though, it was still pretty sparse up the top and we enjoyed taking lots of photos of ourselves in front of the statue. It's surprisingly difficult to take a good picture in front of him though and we weren't helped by the large black cloud behind! Fortunately though it was fairly sunny above and we had a really good view over Rio and its beaches. We spent a good hour looking over the city, pointing out the Maracana, the Olympic walkway and trying to figure out all of the different neighbourhoods. The crowds were starting to build by mid morning though, so we made our way back down towards the train. The sun had really start to come out by now though so we changed our minds and opted for a tea at the cafe overlooking half of Rio. It was a great spot for our morning drink and very quickly another hour had passed. Before going back down, we thought we would have one last look at the big guy, but by this point he crowds had finally made there way up the top as well.
8. We needed the energy as we were up early morning the next day to go and see Rio's signature attraction, Christ the Redeemer. So far, we hadn't been able to see him from the ground level due to dodgy weather and a poorly located hill next to the Hostel. We booked our tickets online and got to the train station at 7.30 in order to get the first train of the day at 8. Neither of us could believe how quiet it was first thing in the morning. It felt like we were the first people there and the train left at 8 not even half full. The train slowly chugged up the super steep hill, offering some good views as it climbed eventually reaching its destination. The first view of Christ is from behind as you walk the last few steps up to the famous viewing platform. It was an incredible sight, the huge statue towering over with all of Rio below. It felt busy at this point with everybody posing for pictures in front of Christ and pushing in front of each other for photos of the view below.
7. A few weeks earlier we had booked a decent hotel overlooking Copacabana beach for our last few nights in Rio, but we were getting there earlier now and had to decide on a Hostel for a couple nights first. We decided to up our usual budget by just a little and stay in the 'safer' neighbourhood of Leme, right by Copacabana. It turned out to be a brilliant Hostel, definitely one of the best we had stayed in all year. It started to get us worried that it would be better than the hotel! However, on check in the really nice owner did inform us that all the police outside on the streets were there because there had been a shoot out in the neighbouring Favela earlier that afternoon! To be honest, our early perception of Rio was that it wasn't the sort of city to do too much walking around in, in that respect it was so different to somewhere like Buenos Aires for example. We enjoyed a short evening walk to the start of Copacabana beach though and then cooked a really good steak dinner!
6. I don't want to say my girlfriend was battered, but two more caipirinha's later and she was very ready to dance! Trying to find a nightclub in a small tourist resort on a Sunday at midnight is quite tough though and it ended up with us finding an almost empty 'club' that on any normal day we would have just left straight away. Not this day though as Emily danced away on the empty dance floor. Somehow she managed to convince the 3 other girls who were enjoying their drinks to join her and before I knew it I was dancing as well. The night turned out to be really fun and eventually I even managed to get us both home. Fortunately for Emily, the next day rained almost all day meaning she could do nothing except for moan about her hangover and feel sorry for herself without feeling too guilty. The forecast wasn't due to change for a few day either, so we decided that we'd cut our loses and just head back to Rio the next day and spend 6 days there, before *gulp* we have to come home!
5. I didn't think grey skies in Brazil was a thing, but it didn't make for great sunbathing. Instead we hoped on the local bus and within 10 minutes were in the centre of town, a purpose built tourist trap that felt like it hadn't seen a Brazilian local for years. Somehow Emily talked me into trying Poki for dinner. I literally didn't even know what it was until it arrived on the table. I have to admit though, I was pleasantly surprised, first by the tasty meal and second by myself for liking something so out of my steak and chips comfort zone! Dinner and a few drinks overlooking the sea, this was more like it. In fact we liked the setting so much we had a couple more drinks...then a couple more. By this point I had drunk 3 bottles of beer and had enjoyed my evening. Emily however had drunk 3 of the local cocktails called Caipirinha's and was, let's just say a little tipsy. The thought of going home certainly didn't cross her mind as she excitedly skipped off looking for her next fix!
4. I'd booked the Hostel right in the middle of Lapa, where the famous tiled Brazilian staircase is. What I hadn't realised was that it is also the centre of Rio nightlife and our uber had to drive through it at 1.30! The streets were crazy! Completely packed with locals and tourists queuing for clubs, dancing on the streets, drinking and generally being very noisy. Cool to see, but not what we needed after our day! Fortunately our Hostel seemed to be able to keep out most of the noise and once we'd had a good sleep it actually felt like a very nice place to stay. As we still had about 8 nights left though, we figured we would get the short bus out of Rio and spend a few days at the quieter beach resort of Buzious for a few days. It was a very simple trip and we were there by early afternoon. The largest of the 23 beaches in the area was packed full of beginner surfers and families, but unfortunately the weather that the forecast had promised seemed to follow us. Grey skies in Brazil!
3. In fact, it was due to rain all over the South of Brazil, so after much deliberation, we decided to book a flight direct to Rio for the following afternoon. We chilled by the Hostel pool for the day, met a slightly creepy Peruvian guy who demanded he took many photos of me by the pool and by 4 were heading for the airport. Our flight was super cheap, but flew via São Paulo, which didn't seem like an issue until our first flight was delayed by 2 hours. This meant that we missed our connecting flight, but not a problem, we were moved to a different flight. The only issue (which we weren't told by the airline) was that this flight landed in a different airport in Rio! We had purposely booked a Hostel 5 minutes from the other airport as we knew we would be getting in late and wouldn't be spending long in Rio to start with. A small group of us had to sprint through the airport to get the connecting flight which is always good fun and once we landed at 1am, we were very ready for bed!
2. The views really were stunning and the sheer enormity of the sight was a lot more evident from the Brazilian side. After a couple of hours off slowly following the path, we came to the signature attraction of the park. Somehow, somebody had built bridges out into the river, right underneath one waterfall and over the top of another one. It was an amazing view, the water crashing down all around us. We were on the platform for about 5 minutes and by this point we're both completely soaked! It didn't take long in the Brazilian sun to dry out and once we had seen a few more Coati's we headed for the bus back home. Overall I was completely amazed by Iguazu and look forward to hopefully seeing them again one day in the future. We hadn't really planned much of Brazil, figuring we just had a week to kill on beaches before arriving in Rio a few days before our flight. Our first plan was to get the night bus to Florianopolis, but after looking at the weather opted against it!
1. The town on the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls could not have been more different to the one of the argentine side. It was more of a city and when the bus dropped us of at the station, we had to figure out how to get to our Hostel with no money, no wifi to activate our cards and no taxi in sight. Despite both being knackered we trudged over half an hour with our bags to our nice new room for the night. The next day we appreciated our short lie in and headed back to the falls early afternoon to see what the Brazilian side had to offer. It felt a lot more touristy, but provided amazing panoramic views over the whole sight. Even though we had spent an entire day there the day before, it was amazing how much wasn't visible until looking at it from the other side. It was an epic sight that we could have watched for hours, but there was another walking trail to follow and we found a good gap between the hoards of Asian tourists, so we slowly headed off to the other viewpoints.