A Travellerspoint blog

Rio De Janeiro to Iguazu Falls - Thursday, 12 February 2015

Fly to world heritage listed Iguazu Falls and tour the Parque das Aves to see the rare and colourful birds up close

Relaxed morning and later breakfast, then back to our room to pack for our flight to Iguazu Falls. Bags out at 12 noon and we leave for the airport at 1.00 pm. We have a two hour flight to Iguazu and should be settled into our hotel by dinner time. 23 kgs for our luggage on this flight, so we should be okay. Fingers crossed.

The news of the day is that a Tasmanian fishing boat is stuck in the ice in Antarctica and ships are on the way to rescue it.

We left the hotel at 1.00 pm sharp and arrived at the Rio Domestic Terminal 45 minutes later. Heidi handed out our boarding passes and we queued up to check our bags in. We were both just over 23 kgs, which was fine. After we had all checked in, we went through security, which was very couth. You wait in line until you are called over and then proceed with the security check calmly and slowly, without some stranger on your tail, trying to hurry you up. It was all quite painless. We went and sat in the terminal with Di and Peter from Brisbane and Gerry and Margaret from Bundaberg. We bought a pastry snack from the little shop and waited the hour and a half until boarding.

When the flight was called, we started to line up in lines for seats 1 to 14 and 15 to 29. A nice young girl came up to me and told me that there was another line for people over sixty so we hopped on that line and boarded first. Isn't it nice that Brazil looks after its geriatrics? When we found our seats, the hostie hurried up to us to help us put our cabin bags up. Very nice. Also as we were disembarking, the hostie asked if she could carry my carry-on for me. Great treatment!

It was raining when we arrived and has been raining for weeks, which is probably good because the Iguazu Falls gets its water from the rain, not melting snow.

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This is Marlene who broke her knee cap getting off the cable car at Sugar Loaf mountain, being wheeled into the terminal.

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Our hotel, the Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas, Iguassu Falls is a lovely old Spanish hacienda. It is the only hotel in the national park, within easy walking distance of the falls. The park is only open to the public between 9am and 6pm, so we can wander down to see the falls prior to the public arriving.

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Our room is quite small in comparison to the Copacabana, but is very nice and nicely decorated in keeping with the style of the building.

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The view from our window.

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We were all settled in by 7.30 pm and dinner was booked for 8pm. Dinner was in a lovely room by the pool and was a buffet and absolutely everything was there to choose from. Lovely. Wine is a bit expensive, so we had a beer. At dinner, an immense tiredness came over me so after we had finished eating, we came back to the room, I had a lovely relaxing bath and went to sleep the minute my head hit the pillow at 10.15 pm.

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Posted by gaddingabout 10:33 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Rio De Janeiro - Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Tour the favelas (shanty towns) and dine this evening like a carioca (local) at a Churrascaria dinner

sunny 35 °C

Had a great night's sleep last night. We had a slightly later start this morning, so enjoyed a more leisurely breakfast than yesterday. At 9am we started off on our Scenic Free Choice tour of the Favelas, or Shanty Towns. Eight of us took the tour with our local guide Marina. We visited two Favelas - Rocinha which has 80,000 residents and a second one on the other side of the mountain with 3,000 residents. The favelas now liked to be called communities. There is now a middle class emerging in the favelas. The favelas are built on the side of the mountain and have stunning views over the water. All the maids, waiters, drivers etc who work in the big hotels live in the favelas which are located very close to each other. In fact, there are a lot of very posh residential areas in Rio, built right next to the favelas.

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The favelas used to be very dangerous places with drug deals happening all the time. The police came in and cleaned them up and 39 have now obtained pacification. Rocinha gained pacification in November 2011. Most famous soccer players come from the favelas.

There is free health care in Rio but it's not very good. You could wait all day to be seen by a doctor and you would probably die before you have the test to find out what's wrong with you!

Teachers earn 800 USD a month. State primary schools are not very good. The private ones are better, but the public universities are very good. The children only attend school for half a day only.

At the beginning of the favelas, we stopped for a "shopping opportunity" and a photo stop and I bought a naive art painting by one the favela residents. I think it will look quite nice, framed and hanging at home.

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Here are some other examples of naive art.

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This guy seems to be digging some foundations for a new building.

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There is only one main road in and out of the favela and the rest is just lane ways and staircases going everywhere. We visited a school set up by an Italian husband and wife, who both passed away within the last few years. The area is quite clean but the electric wires go everywhere, just like Vietnam.

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It is very hot again today and walking through the favelas was hot too.

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Even though it was sheltered from the sun, there was not much breeze and with one hundred per cent humidity, we are all suffering.

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This guy has a unique way of staying cool at the beach. Not many Rio natives go swimming at the beach, especially Copacabana. They just lie on it in the sun. There is a big undertow in the ocean at Copacabana and no life guards, so only the children splash around on the edge. I think it's all about looking beautiful and being seen, not coming out of the water wet and bedraggled.

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We got back to the hotel at about 12 noon and decided to send some emails while we cooled down. We then went for a walk looking for somewhere to have a sandwich for lunch - harder than you would think. There aren't any fresh sandwich places around. Most of them have huge ham and cheese rolls that are warmed up. There are a few buffet type eating places that charge by the weight. Of course it doesn't help that we can't speak the language and it is a real bonus when we find someone with a little English who can help with the translation.

On the way back to the hotel, I bought a cheap Carnival mask, just to remind me of Rio at this time. The staff at our hotel are working around the clock to prepare the Copacabana for Carnival. Perhaps it's just as well that we are leaving tomorrow. It is going to be hysterical.

Had a very relaxing afternoon. We didn't even go for a swim. The humidity really makes you very lazy.

Hopped on the bus at 7pm for the very short ride down the road to this evening's dinner restaurant. It had stuff everywhere - all over the walls, hanging from the ceilings - just everywhere. I'm very glad I don't have to clean the place.

We sat with Judy and Harold from Western Sydney and Heather from Sydney and Marlene from South Australia. Marlene was pushed yesterday when she was getting off the cable car at Sugar Loaf mountain, and got her leg caught between the car and the wall. She now has a broken knee cap. She is very lucky her leg didn't break. The doctor said she is okay to continue on the trip.

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The buffet was fabulous. I have never seen such interesting salads. There was a lot of seafood and hot dishes, bread of all sorts, and yummy, yummy desserts. House white wine was 42 reals (21 AUD) a glass so we decided to have a beer instead. The waiters brought around a lot meat - fillet steak, sausages, fish, salmon, chicken, and prawns. It was an unusual evening.

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Posted by gaddingabout 16:39 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Rio De Janeiro - Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Visit the famous Christ Statue atop Corcovado Mountain and ride the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Welcome dinner in the elegant Pergula Restaurant.

sunny 35 °C

Before I start on today's activities, I must comment on the bath towels at the Copacabana. They are white and huge, as you would expect, BUT, they are smooth like velvet on one side, and rough on the other. Just great.

Day 1 of the Taste of Brazil and Antarctic Adventure.

Great sunrise this morning.

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Phil and I were asleep by 10 last night as we had an early start today - 8am on the bus. We both woke up at 2am and couldn't get back to sleep which was a real pain. Anyway, we decided to go down for breakfast at 6.30 am, even though Gary told us that it didn't start until 7. They weren't ready and were still setting up and made us wait until 7. On the bus at 8am and headed for the Corcovado Mountain to see Christ the Redeemer Statue. It only took about 40 minutes in the bus to get there and we were booked in for 9am, so we could beat the crowds off the cruise ships.

Gary and Heidi bought our tickets for the cog train and after waiting a short while, we all hopped on and started our ascent. The cog train is based on the one in Switzerland that goes up to the Yung Frau. We got off the cog train and caught an escalator to the top and there he was - what a magnificent sight.

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Corcovado means Humpbacked Mountain. The statue stands 38 metres tall and was designed by French sculptor, Paul Landrowski. Originally they were going to erect a statue of an explorer, but then decided to make it Christ. It was completed in 1931.

Then we hopped on an escalator that took us right up to the top. Now, we have all seen this statue on television, but nothing prepares you for the real thing. It is stunning. There were quite a few people up there but not so many that taking photographs was difficult. People lie on the ground to get shots.

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It was just amazing. We all took hundreds of photos. The weather was fine and hot, with very high humidity. Up on top of a mountain like that you would expect it to be breezy, but it was so hot. It was 35 degrees with 100% humidity. On the cog train, we passed through some lovely green rain forest.

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The views were stunning.

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We met these people on the cog train on the way down. They were from Mexico.

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After about 40 minutes up the top, we came back down, hopped in the bus and drove through the city to our luncheon destination, the Colombo Restaurant, which is a very old restaurant in the main city of Rio. It took us a long time to get to the restaurant as the traffic in the city was horrendous. However, it gave us a good chance to see the city and its buildings.

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This stadium is where they hold the Samba competition that will be held this coming weekend during Carnival.

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For those of you who know the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney, then you will get some idea as to what the Colombo Restaurant is like. We went upstairs for the buffet lunch and it was very busy. The food was delicious and plentiful and I think everyone enjoyed their lunch.

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Because of only having four hours sleep the night before, and the stopping and starting of the bus, I was starting to feel a bit off from motion sickness, so I was very glad to get off the bus and have some food.

It is so hot here - I am dying. The humidity is unbelievable.

After lunch we walked along the street to an area where the bus could come and pick us up and as the footpaths are quite narrow, we were all standing near a doorway of a building. The automatic doors were open and beautiful air conditioned air was blowing out onto us and WE were very happy, however the receptionist kept coming out and asking us to move! Move where? There really was nowhere to go, so she just had to put up with us in the doorway until the bus came.

Then we drove to Sugar Loaf Mountain. Sugar Loaf is one of the most distinctive mountains in the world. It is solid granite and stands 1299 feet above Guanabara Bay. The shape of the mountain reminded the Portuguese of a loaf of refined sugar, hence the name. To get up the top, you have to take two cable cars. We were all squashed in and it was like a sauna inside. Have I mentioned how hot it is!!

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Once on top, the views are fabulous. Rio is a very beautiful city.

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Our guide, Gary - a very, funny guy. This is what I got when I asked him to take a photo of us!

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On the way back down, we diverted along a short walk through the rain forest and came across this Capuccino monkey. Such a tiny, cute thing.

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Back on the bus for the 10 minute drive back to our hotel.

Have I mentioned how hot it is??

By the time we got back to our room, my clothes, plus underwear, were all dripping wet (and this from a person who doesn't perspire much). It has been pouring off me all day. Quick change into the swimmers and Phil and I spent a couple of hours in the pool.

Then we had to get ready for our cocktail party and welcome dinner by the pool. It was very nice but a bit warm because we were sitting outside. I guess a bonus is that there are no mosquitoes here!

The meal was lovely and the wine flowed and a good time was had by all. I sat next to Jeanette and opposite Peter and Di. Turns out Peter was a Toowoomba Grammar boy. Grammar was the brother school of my Presbyterian Ladies College, Fairholme, but he was 10 years older than me, so we weren't there at the same time.

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Posted by gaddingabout 07:12 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Rio De Janeiro - Monday, 9 February 2015

sunny 32 °C

Had another good night's sleep. Woke up at 3.30 am, looked at the clock and then went straight back to sleep. A few more Aussies appeared at breakfast this morning - they arrived last night. We met Gerry and Margaret from Bundaberg this morning. The tapioca breakfast man wasn't there this morning so I just had fruit and muesli and about three cups of their delicious milky coffee.

We decided to go to the beach this morning for a few hours. What a lovely experience that was. First you tell the Concierge that you are going to the beach. She radios the hotel staff on the beach and by the time we have crossed the road, they have the beds, towels and umbrellas all set up. And periodically they bring you bottles of freezing cold water. One of the staff is a security guard, so your possessions are safe while you are in the water.

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People wander around the beach all the time selling things, but they don't hassle you. If you say no, they just move on. This guy was selling bikinis.

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There weren't many people in the water. We went for a swim and it was quite rough. I'm not used to swimming in the ocean any more and was not confident to go out beyond the line of breakers, so consequently I got dumped big time, several times. But it was a good experience.

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The dumped, drowned rat!

We started a conversation with two ladies lying next to us. They were from Rome (Givana) and Nina from Geneva and Monaco. They come to stay at the Copacabana Palace Hotel for a couple of months every year for Carnival. Couldn't figure out what work they do, but they were obviously loaded.

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We came back to the hotel and had a dip in the pool and met some more Scenic travellers - Ann from Fig Tree, NSW and Lyn from Kiama, NSW. Their husbands both have health issues, so couldn't pass the health requirements for this trip. Gary the guide stopped for a chat and two more travellers came over to say hello - Marlene from South Australia and Heather from Sydney.

Met with the group at 6.00 pm for a briefing from Gary. 24 attended and a further 16 will arrive this evening. After the briefing, Phil and I walked a couple of blocks looking for a restaurant for dinner and settled on La Trattoria. I had a Caprese Salad and Phil had a fillet steak.

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After dinner we wandered around the block and had a coffee at a nice little cafe. We sat on the street and watched the passing parade. Quite fascinating. We took a selfie at the coffee shop.

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We see these guys walking around the streets all the time.

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Posted by gaddingabout 15:08 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Rio De Janeiro - Sunday, 8 February 2015

semi-overcast 32 °C

Got to bed at about 12.30 am this morning but had a great night's sleep. We took homeopathic tablets during our flight called Jet Ease to help with jet lag and they seemed to have worked well because we don't seem to be suffering from jet lag at all. We have a couple of days until our organised tour commences so we are going to explore Rio by ourselves today.

Breakfast is by the pool - such a lovely setting. I had a typical Brazilian breakfast today - fruit, followed by a tapioca pancake thing made from Manioc flour with cheese in the middle, drizzled with honey. It sounds yukky but tasted yummy. It was also gluten free which can only be good for you.

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It is very humid here but we are acclimatizing quite well. I think I am the only person in Rio with a one piece! Made contact with Jeanette (from Perth) this morning and asked her to join us, on the street(!) for dinner tonight.

Our room is the one to the right of the German flag, with the three windows, overlooking Copacabana beach.

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After breakfast we went for a walk along the road beside the beach. Because it is Sunday, one side of the road is closed to traffic. It is very hot and humid. We watched them playing volley ball etc on the beach and a new game that you serve the ball by kicking it over the net and from then on, you are not allowed to use your hands at all, only chest, head and feet. It is very physical. The beach is full of volley ball nets and people jumping all over the place. Brazilians are a very active race.

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We caught a taxi to Ipanema Beach and I went for a swim. The water was just lovely. A big wave came in and wet Phil's shoes, so then he had loafers filled with sand AND water.

Is this the girl from Ipanema? No, it's just me having a swim at Ipanema Beach. Actually, I caused quite a stir on the beach. People kept staring at me and for a while I couldn't work out what they were looking at and then it dawned on me! The famous "one piece". I was totally overdressed for the beach. No matter what size or how old they are, they wear as little as possible to the beach, ie a g string and not much on top! It was really funny.

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We decided to be adventurous and catch the bus back to Copacabana. We finally found someone with a bit of English, who showed us the right bus and helped us pay the fare and told the driver where we wanted to get off. The taxi cost 16 rials and the bus was 6!

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Back at Copacabana we decided to have a beer at a little stall on the beach front.

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This guy kept putting little piles of nuts on the tables and then came back selling larger packets. We bought one - how could you not.

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Then we decided to have a snack, but a lot was lost in translation, and instead of having a bowl of small meatballs, we ended up with six long doughnuts with nutella and caramel dipping sauce. They were yummy but probably not the most healthy lunch, especially mixed with beer.

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Our lovely waitress.

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One of the stall holders along the road cooking things that are quite foreign to us with names we haven't got a hope of pronouncing.

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These unusual trees are all along the beach front on the foot path. They lean at such angles, I just don't know why they don't fall over. And they can't be that way because of the winds off the sea, because they would point the other way. Quite strange but very photographable. (New word I just made up)!

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We went for a swim in the hotel pool late this afternoon. It became overcast and was just starting to rain, so after a quick swim, we came back to our room. The pool was quite cool and then the wind got up so it was nice to have a hot shower and read for a while. Of course, we both fell asleep for a couple of hours, which was really nice.

Up and dressed and met Jeanette in the foyer at 7.30 pm for our dinner date. Gary, our Scenic guide introduced himself to us and we had a long chat with him. Nice guy and has a good sense of humour. He is a Canadian and I'm sure we'll have a great time with him on tour. Then it started to pour with rain so we waited and waited and waited for it to abate a bit because we had a few blocks to walk to our restaurant. While we were waiting, a new bus load of people arrived for our tour, about ten of them, plus Heidi. The rest arrive tomorrow and we will meet them all tomorrow evening when Gary gives us a tour briefing.

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So, we headed off for dinner, slopping through the puddles, still raining a bit. We arrived at the restaurant (same one as last night) and wow! what a difference a day makes. There was loud music from a live band blaring out and we could hardly hear ourselves think but we decided to go in anyway and soak up the atmosphere.

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The beer was cold and nice. We are good at ordering that. Phil tried to order a snack to have with our drinks and the waiter kept saying something, but we couldn't understand him. Finally a female waitress came up and explained in broken English that we were trying to order a dessert. You see Borek is a cheese finger in Turkish but in Portuguese it means sweet. Finally we managed to order what we thought would be okay to eat. Wrong!

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A plate of hot cooked chips turned out to be this!

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The sausage dish from last night was okay; so were the chicken skewers but the garlic chicken pieces were deep fried and a plate piled high of them.

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We were attracting a lot of attention by this stage, and Alexander and Suzana from the next table just couldn't contain themselves any more, so joined us at our table. Suzana is from Argentina and Alexander is from Brazil and they didn't have much English and we can't speak Spanish or Portuguese, so after a lot of hand waving and gestures, we had some sort of a conversation. But we all had a fun time.

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Rio is the best place for Phil. It is so noisy and so is he, but he just gets drowned out in all the noise and fun going on in this city. Rio is certainly the city that never sleeps - move over New York!

Our beautiful hotel at night.

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Posted by gaddingabout 17:25 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

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