A Travellerspoint blog

Lone Traveller No More

Curitiba and Ilha do Mel

I am no longer a lone traveller as Stew arrived on Wednesday to explore Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina with me. I´m pretty sure it´s for the Argentinian steak, it sounds so good I would travel that far for the Argentinian steak, but I am certainly not complaining. There are many benefits to travelling with your boyfriend- you have a water carrier, you have someone to carry any heavy items for you (more explained later), and I now have someone with a far better camera than I would dare carry around South America, to take pictures of me. There´s obviously the other stuff of sharing experiences with someone else, but don´t worry, I won´t bore you with that. On a serious note -I´m not very good at holding the camera out in front of me and taking pictures of myself, including the background, so when I eventually upload photos you may now get some of my whole body rather than just close ups of my face.

So the final day in Sao Paulo was spent visting the football museum at the Corinthian´s ground. I perhaps didn´t appreciate as much of the football knowledge and facts as Stew did but it was very interactive and we did get to look completely touristy/ English aka. other language illiterate, with our little headsets to translate everything into English. We then got the most Sushi you can imagine for the equivalent of 10 pounds in Liberdade, HURRAY! At last something cheap in Sao Paulo.

From the big city back to something smaller, Curitiba. A nice city but certainly not the most exciting place I have travelled to so far. On the plus side the hostel was amazing, so amazing we decided to stay an extra night. Our own little wooden cabin, private bathroom, swimming pool just outside our room- it was pure luxury compared to Sao Paulo. The journey to Curitiba however was not luxurious as we got stuck with the 'SNORTER' in front of us. I know you occasionally have a sniffle but PLEASE get a tissue, there is a toilet on the bus if you really need one. The snorting was made worse with the fact he reclined his seat, and because this was the cheaper bus this meant that he was pratically on top of our laps. My wish was granted however when we made our stop at the gas station and he did not get back on, I suppose I´m not that harsh and hope that he actually meant to get off at that stop, but then a snorter is no loss to any of us.

Getting to the hostel in Curitiba was a bit of a pain, 1. due to Stew´s stupid blue hand luggage bag that was sooo heavy and annoying to carry and 2. we really couldn´t find our way to the bus stop. It seems that single female travellers have it easier in some ways in that we are far more likely to be shown directions. Stew´s attempts at asking for directions have been received with shrugs of the shoulder, mine with small maps drawn or being escorted to where I need to go and Stew follows behind.

We mooched around the sights of Curitiba, the Cathedral, the many parks including those with Toocons, The Sunday Market with literally 1000 stalls selling every kind of craft imaginable and Rua das Flores where we managed to get on some local Brazilian TV while playing chequers. There is however an impossible task in Curitiba- finding a supermarket. They must have the highest ratio of pharmacy per square kilometer in the world, and therefore live of shampoo. We however needed some water and some food and it literally took hours until we walked past a Mercado.

On our final day in Curitiba we decided to rent out the hostel bikes and cycle to one of the parks. Stew was going to take me in the swan boats on the lake, very romantic, but doomed to failure. We had cycled an hour and were waiting at a crossroads, the lights had just turned green and I went to go across. Half falling off my bike I thought the chain had fallen off, however after further inspection the wheel had buckled (and I thought I had lost a few pounds recently). So we then had the joyful task of getting the bike back to the hostel, 1 hour away. I really don´t know how I would have managed to get the bile back by myself but luckily Stew was there to carry my bike and I wheeled his. I was pretty worn out when we finally reached the hostel so I probably wouldn´t have been returning to England if I had had to carry the bike.

I don´t know if I can put into words quite how amazing Ilha do Mel is, think honey moon destination where it is slightly out of season so still really warm but you only meet about 3 locals on your 5 hour walk/exploration of the island. After our coach trip from Curitiba to Paranagua we needed to take the 2 hour boat ride to the island. Slightly choppy, and the boat was packed with goods from the mainland, but we put our feet on the sand by 5pm. As it is out of season they seem to jump on any tourists and an old woman and two men swiftly tried to tempt us with alternative accommodation to the hostel we had booked. We however eventually managed to find our hostel and pushed our way through all of the other people staying there, (zero), to our room. We therefore have the breakfast, bar, pool table, table football, deck which we can sit out on and sunbathe etc. all to ourselves. It´s a hard life!

So we are just about to go out for dinner in the only restaurant that is actually open on the island in this season after a day of walking and a lot of rock climbing. A few of the climbs that we did were a bit testing, (Ponta da Nha Pina), but very exciting and you understood why there were ropes to hang onto mid climb. The hawks here have also given us a good excuse to get our binoculars out, very geeky I know, and the shells along Praia da Boia and Farol das Encantadas are so beautiful and intricate they look unreal. We may have collected a few but I don´t know if we are supposed to as the island is 80% an Eological Station, 12% a State Park.

More exploring tomorrow!

Posted by TEAMNORRIS 04:20 Comments (0)

Moving on

From the Beach to The Big City

semi-overcast 20 °C

So I have been making a big effort to not just stick to the food that I like but to try the different local dishes, one of these being Feijoada in Rio. The meal as a whole was a mixture of meats, which ones don´t ask, rice, something that may have been cabbage and a yellow powder that you sprinkle over it. It was really good, at first, but I think that was because I was incredibly hungry. Acai on the other hand, with some granola, I could eat all the time.

My favourite part of my travels so far has to be the trip into Rochina Favela, one of the 1200 favelas in Rio with 300,000 residents. Just getting up into the favela was a hair raising start, riding up on the back of a local's motorbike on a very steep incline. I'm pretty sure that my guy was watching me in his mirror to see how scared he could make me, yes going head on into buses when I'm in shorts and don't have a helmet does raise safety alarm bells so he was probably getting a lot of satisfaction out of it. If he couldn't see me slightly on edge then I'm sure he could feel my grip getting tighter as we hurtled up. We then walked through the favela to get a bit more of an insight into what it would be like to actually live there, a bit surreal not being able to take pictures in certain places because of drug lords and watchers with guns. You really see how resourceful humans can be if they need to, how you can avoid paying for water or electricity (just steal from your neighbour) and how many houses you can fit onto a small piece of land. I'm not saying that I would ever like to live there, it still costs them an individual's whole months wages to rent a place, but there does seem to be a strong sense of community. With some of their living conditions I guess you can't avoid your neighbour. While walking through our guide introduced us to a man who has just become a grandfather for the second time..........he is 24. No wonder the average number of children per household is 7.

So it was time to move on to the HUGE city of Sao Paulo, a 6 hour coach journey from Rio. Although you pay for the luxury of the coach it's like being on a plane but a lot roomier, you get your lunch etc. and an equally spatious bathroom facility. I was set next to a Missionary who told me to keep my eyes and heart open for God on my journey. I thought this was a nice touch as she didn't start preaching, it did however take about 15 minutes for us to establish this message as her English/my Portuguese were painfully slow. Navigating the Sao Paulo Metro system is surprisingly straight forward, I work well with very detailed maps, so it didn't take me long to get near my hostel.

So far in Sao Paulo I have done quite a few galleries and museums, timing it right so I visit on their free days of course, and went to an amazing exhibition in the MASP. It was called "6 Billion others" and they had interviewed 70,00 individuals from around the world, videoing their answers to 50 set questions about family, love, war etc. They then played many of these videos and had produced a 40 minute film about peoples experience of love, what it means to them, how they show it etc. Pretty shocking the number of randomly interviewed woman that had been forced to marry someone they did not love be it arranged or to escape poverty.

Maybe I really don't go to many galleries or museums back in England but there seems to a whole lot of nudity in the pictures, particularly at the Afro-Brazilian Museum. I'm used to pictures of topless women but not loads of photos of women with their legs splayed open. I can see they were trying to be tasteful but unsurprisingly it was a male photographer- I'm sure it's all for the art and she just happened to be a very attractive model.

Sao Paulo's Asian area, Liberdade, made me feel like I really wasn't in Brazil. It is full of Japanese and all the shops and architecture are of various Asian origins. I loved wondering around the supermarkets, sushi takeaway has to be done. This was followed with a stroll around Se, it has the most beautiful cathedral but with a very creepy looking coffin in the corner and then a walk down Rua 25 de Marco which has loads of stalls and shops. Although I didn't understand what they were shouting I certainly understood that the lady following me, trying to massage my back with one of those electric hand held DIY massagers, wanted to sell me it- or rather she'd taken quite a liking to me.

Posted by TEAMNORRIS 10:25 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

The Sights of Rio

sunny 32 °C

So following on from the last blog, due to my hours spent on the beach, I have realised that there is one big positive to not speaking Portuguese- the locals do not speak English. Therefore when they try and sell me hats/prawns/bikinis etc. saying no thank you actually makes them leave me alone straight away. A few times I have had to resort to the tiny bit of Spanish that I know however then I am an English person trying to speak Spanish in a slightly, no lets be honest, very French accent in a country where they speak Portuguese. I try!

So it´s been an incredibly busy last few days, exploring Ipanema, Leblon, Botafogo and Urca- plus a few others. Although Copacabana is more famous Ipanema is a far nicer beach, cleaner and prettier and full of beautiful people putting me to shame. Spending so much time on the beaches with people who seem to find normal bikinis unacceptably large, and must opt for the thong, has really given me a great insight into how many different bums there are out there. Wobbly, dimpled or simpy perfect I have seen many that I would like to swap with, but then many that I really would not. The waves are scarily large along the beach and very unpredictable. When you are least expecting it a wave will come around 5 meters further onto the beach than it had done previously and yes I was caught out. I managed to grab onto my bag while sunbathing and my camera survived but I did not appreciate being covered in a layer of sand.

I went to the church near the hostel to celebrate Palm Sunday and it was great to see how alive the Catholic Church can be if it puts its mind to it. The palms were not dried but whole palm leaves and by my estimation there were around 500 people squeezed in. As with a lot of church services you can follow whats going on without understanding the language but I wish I could have understood the sermon. The priest got so into it, jumping, thrashing his arms around and shouting- maybe it was more fun to guess what he was saying rather than actually know. It was a lovely touch that everyone in the church held hands for the Our Father, all 497 of them it seemed, apart from me and the two over 60 men standing either side of me. I put my palm leaf down and got my hands ready but was rejected after some awkward eye contact with them. They obviously thought better of it.

Santa Teresa is a beautiful area, so arty with colonial style buildings, and leads up to Christ the Redeemer. Yes it is extremely touristy but what do you expect for a site so famous. It was still incredible to be up there with the statue towering over you and the clouds cleared for the pictures. The views were equally as good up the Sugar Loaf, accessed by Cable Car. The area was so pretty that I went back today to walk the Trilha Claudio Coutinho (Trail) around and up the Sugar Loaf. It was so exciting to just walk past a couple of wild Sagui monkeys staring at me, I guess the bonus of walking by myself is not scaring the wildlife away. I can´t say as much for the view at the steps in Lapa, created from tiles from all over the world, as an old woman squatted in front of me and had a pee- the authentic experience.

I experienced the Brazilians love of football on Sunday when I watched Fluminense V Nova Iguacu. They really know how to keep the fans off the pitch, armed police with massive batons and loads of angry looking German Shepherds. The atmosphere was really positive with continuous music being played and even a bit of dancing.

I have so far only had one problem with public transport- underestimating how big the circle was in the circular route for Copacabana by bus. It was also not clear that they stop part way through this circle to have a break and therefore seemed surprised when I popped my head up from the back of the bus as they turned the lights off and went to have a drink. I guess I came travelling for all of the experiences and sitting on a dark bus in Rio by myself can now be ticked. The bus then carried on and dropped me off right where I expected so I wasn´t completely wrong.

Right Samba time, goodnight x

Posted by TEAMNORRIS 02:02 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Rio Time and Language Challenges

sunny 33 °C

So I have arrived in Rio at last and the plane journey was, as you can imagine, uneventful. In Madrid they spent a long time fiddling with the plane, so we were a bit late, but I guess it´s better to be safe than sorry. Watching them was a perfect display of a group of men trying to fix a problem but in the end just wondering around and moving a ladder. I guess I didn´t have high expectations of Iberia airlines seeing as how cheap my ticket was but I was a little disappointed that we didn´t have individual tv screens, WARNING: Little Fockers is a shit film and should be avoided at all costs (probably no surprise to you all).

As you are all aware I like to save my pennies, so realising that there was a bus to the hostel for the equivalent of 3 pounds and the taxi could have cost up to 40 I opted for the bus. I had to eat 1/2 a pack of mentos to try and keep myself awake as I was sooo tired but eventually the bus driver told me where to get off. It seems that I communicated well with a non english speaking Brazilian, it must be my fluent Portoguese. Luckily the map I was using didn´t miss out any roads to confuse me and I made it swiftly to the hostel.

Che Lagarto hostel is great, I would thorughly recommend it to anyone travelling to Rio. Less than a 5 min walk from Copacabana beach and the buses, clean, free internet, and storage to lock your bag away each night. Can´t complain for about 5 pounds a night. I was a little shocked at the bathroom that is attached to our room as it looks like it is made out of marble and belongs in a 4 star hotel at home. This did not mean however that I enjoyed locking myself in there twice in the space of 10 mins. The first time a guy helped me out and the second a Spanish girl got to practice her terrible English explaining that she would go to get someone at reception while the same guy came along and helped me out again. My hero, he must think i´m a twat. I would like it known that they are in the process of fixing the door and I do not have a serious problems with locks as I so suspected. With my limited knowledge of Spanish/Portoguese in the hostel I have however been able to help with my reasonable knowledge of the English language. A Swedish guy held up his vest to me while writing his laundry list and asked what the piece of material was called. With a smile vest was on his list rather than troja which he said he would have used and probably not have got his clothes back. I can be useful as an english person!

So I spent yesterday morning on the beach, loving the Brazilians going for their morning runs along the sand, and I think I have been inspired to join them this morning in my bikini. I will however have to leave really early as it was a mere 33 degrees yesterday, dropping to a low 26 in the evening. I can already see my tan lines, I hopefully won´t look so pale soon. After working out the bus system, (I was pretty impressed with how quickly I managed to do this), I then went to the Jardim Botanico and Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas (aka big lake in Lagoa.) I was hoping that the lake would be a little more beautiful/impressive but I had a bit of a walk round it and the botanical gardens were huge and really pretty. The only down point were the millions of couples taking pictures of themselves that I seemed to always be in the way for, well I took a really nice picture of myself by the fountain.

I spent the eve with a couple of English girls and some Argentinian guys which was a laugh and they gave me lots of useful info. which should come in handy along the way. I also managed to catch a bit of a football match on the beach. Right I should really get on with my day, this body won´t run along and tan itself on the beach.

Becks x x x x x

Posted by TEAMNORRIS 02:44 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Rules of Blog / Packing

So people, for those of you unlucky enough to have been roped into folowing this blog while I am away, or for those of you that are browsing as there is nothing better for you to do, I will try and keep the following rules.

1. All entries will not be overly long, tediously written and contain minute by minute accounts of my activities. I'll try and give some brief highlights!
2. I will try and be honest, I expect not everything will be 100% amazing all of the time and you will hopefuly receive some funny stories of foolish things I have done.
3. If it looks like I have been blogging every day then please have a go at me! Lets be frank- if you're telling the world you're having such a great time travelling every day then why are you spending so much time on a computer. Go and have some more fun rather than constantly updating people at home. (This may possibly be a partial facebook rant of being updated about every detail of someones life)

So I will be departing on Friday morning at 7am, I think mum is really looking forward to the early drive to Heathrow. Bag is nearly packed and I am being as ruthless as possible. The less stuff I've got on my back the more independent I can be- I WILL NOT TAKE OVER 10KG I keep on repeating to myself. I'm sticking to this and ignoring comments of "shouldn't you be taking ................?" I've done a a reasonable amount of research about South America and have come to the conclusion that there are shops out there if I need anything.

On a final note, you all know that my spelling is not very good so please be kind when you read through and notice obvious mistakes. Yes I know a lot of you are about to take exams or finalising your dissertations and there is nothing more embarassing than a spelling mistake in those, but I am hopefuly too busy to keep on checking this through.

Keep you updated! You'll be hearing from me next in Rio!

Becks x x x

Posted by TEAMNORRIS 00:09 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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