Friday, 13 March 2009

Rio De Janeiro and Iguazu Falls

We arrived in Rio on a mission to make the most of our 4 day stay in this massive city. The first day we decided to go up to the statue of Christ on the cog train as it was a lovely clear sky. Annoyingly after an hour and a half wait for the train the clouds had rolled in so by the time we got to the top the view was a little patchy!
It was still amazing though with great views over the city. In the afternoon we hit Ipanema beach which was a hive of volleyball, football, bat and ball related activity, all performed in Speedo's and dental floss bikinis, quite a sight to behold....!On the second day we booked, thanks to Zoe and Angus, a tandem hang glide off
 a mountain called Pedro Bonito with an eventual landing (hopefully!) on Pepino beach. We met our really enthusiastic guide Paulo at the landing site and then drove up to the top of the hill. After a short briefing Jo was the first to brave take off. I shortly followed in a fit of mild terror, however once airborne it was absolutely incredible. We battled to catch thermals however Jo and her guide won hands down (think I've been indulging in a bit too much Brazilian cuisine). 
Most importantly we both made a safe landing, and full of adrenalin headed down to Copacabana beach for a relaxing afternoon to bring us back down to earth (with the aid of one or two caiparhinas).
On the third day we did a walking tour through the largest of Rio's 811 favelas, Rocinha.
 We were picked up by one of the street vans that are all owned by the mafia that run the favela, then transferred to the back of motor bikes to get to the top of the favela. Our guide told us to not be scared of the mafia men sat around with various firearms and grenades. It was a little unnerving at first, the police basically don't enter the favela and the mafia run their own style of law and order, however it was clear that they were not bothered by gringos! We started by climbing onto the roof of someone's house (with their permission!) that has amazing views over Rio, and makes all too obvious the gap between the poverty stricken favela and the adjacent affluent
 neighbourhoods. We then walked down through various alleyways stopping at the most dangerous looking electricity pylon - the favela illegally taps into the city's grid for a free electricity supply!

On the last day we were supposed to go up the Sugar Loaf mountain however another days low cloud put paid to that so instead we chilled out in Copacabana (and bought a world record amount of Havaiana flip-flops!).

A short 26 hour bus ride later found us in the Brazilian city of Foz De Iguazu. We crossed over to the Argentinian side to visit the mighty Iguazu falls. Thanks to John and Joyce we treated ourselves to a boat ride/biggest power shower in the world, and also a jeep tour of the surrounding forest where we finally got to see some toucans!
The falls were absolutely incredible, and a definite highlight to end our trip on. To top it all off we're staying in lovely hostel that has a swimming pool to keep us cool in this 35 degree heat, and again we've met some great people (and have also learned how to make watermelon martinis!).

Today we squeezed in a visit to the Itaipu dam that spans the Pariana river between Paraguay and Brazil. Not the most attractive piece of concrete but quite spectacular as it's two and  half kilometres long!

Now we're waiting for a bus back to Sao Paulo, then a flight back home.

Sad that it's the end of our trip but very excited about seeing you all!

Lots of love,

Jo and Al x x x x

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Salvador and the beautiful island paradise of Boipeba

We arrived in Salvador and checked into the Estrella Do Mar pousada owned by Vic´s brother´s friend Sean in the Barra district. As we´d missed Carnival we decided to put the wedding money from Sam and Sarah towards a nice few days in Salvador (thanks Sam and Sarah!). We caught a bus up into the old town and had a lovely stroll around soaking up the local atmosphere (and some coconut milk to keep hydrated!).
We had our first taste of Mocqueca, a local dish of fish stew which was absolutely delicious. In the evening we ventured out to a local bar for our first proper Brazilian caiparhina cocktails and then
 onto another great restaurant (all this food is not helping our beach physiques...!).

The following morning it was time to say goodbye to Salvador and journey out to enjoy our wedding present from Vic, Janine, Rob, Arthur (although he wasn´t technically around we like to think he contributed), Soph, Eric, Cat, James, Katie, Tom and Annabelle, a stay at another one of Vic´s brothers friends places (thanks Gavin!) on the island of Boipeba! 
We left early and caught a ferry across the bay to Bom Dispachio, then hopped on a bus to Valença before jumping onto a speedboat bound for Boipeba. Pulling up onto the beach there we realised we had truly arrived in paradise, and we walked down a quiet little path at the back of beach to the Pousada Santa Clara owned by a lovely guy called Charles. 
The place is totally stunning, lots of little buildings set hidden amongst the greenery, connected by a network of wooden paths. 
Charles greeted us and showed us to our two-level tree house along with a lovely terrace area with the obligatory hammocks! 
He told us that we weren´t allowed to worry about anything as Victoria had ´sent me a bunch of money and told me to make sure you guys have a really special time´!
And we certainly did have the most amazing few days there walking around the island exploring various beaches, eating beautiful food both at Charles´s restaurant and in the local village and also making sure we had a least one caiparhina a day to celebrate Sophie´s birthday!
It was the perfect romantic place to spend a few days chilling out now our honeymoon is nearing it´s end. Thank you so so much guys for a totally amazing present!
With a large degree of sadness we had to bid farewell to Charles and his piece of paradise, and it was time to hit the road (and water!) again. We went back up to Salvador for another night and have just enjoyed a monster 28 hour bus journey down to Rio De Janeiro.

Looking forward to catching up with you all in a couple of weeks or so!

Lots of love,

Al and Jo x x