Iguazu Falls

11 February 2017- It was time to head off to Iguazu falls! The falls are located near the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. We were flying from Sao Paulo to the Brazilian town of Foz Do Iguacu and then crossing the border into Argentina where we were staying. After touching down in Foz we had the option of a 200 pesos (about $20AUD) private transfer to our hotel or catching a series of local buses to cross the border with a total cost of about 20pesos ($2AUD).  We all know which option Jen was leaning towards!

The local bus option involved catching a bus from the airport to the centre of Foz then another bus headed to the town on the Argentinian side of the border. We then had to communicate to the bus driver that we needed to stop at the Brazilian immigration as the bus would not normally stop there for the locals. However, the bus wouldn’t wait for us to clear  Brazil immigration and we would then have to wait for the next bus to take us to the Argentinian immigration and on to the town of Puerto Iguazu. Once in the centre of town we then had a 2km walk with our packs to finally reach our hotel!

Clearly Tristan was in favour of taking the local buses for the massive savings on offer and to prove he really is a true backpacker. Jen had (unfortunately for her) booked dinner in at expensive Italian restaurant that night and this was exactly the leverage Tristan needed to get them to take the local bus option.

Somehow, with only a few minor hiccoughs, we managed to survive the border crossing without WW3 breaking out (although what would have taken 20mins with private transport, took over 3 very long hours)! We enjoyed a massive feast and two bottles of Argentina’s finest red wines that night which left us in a comatose state.

The next day it was off the falls themselves! We had a good day walking around the national park and seeing some of the 275 individual drops. A fortuitously timed downpour cleared out the crowds and allowed us to witness the raw power of the  bigger falls all by ourselves.

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The next day we spent wandering the town of Puerto Igauzu including checking out the view of the three-way intersection between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. It was then time to jump on the overnight bus for our mammoth 24hour+ journey to Montevideo, Uruguay. Let’s just say at the end of that journey Jen was happy she had booked herself in the all female dorm for some much needed R&R from her loving, exhausted and smelly husband.

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Sao Paulo

9th February 2017, It was time to leave our feline family and head to our last destination in Brazil, Sao Paulo. Deciding we weren’t tough enough backpackers to walk the 4km muddy road into town with our 20kg packs (Jen brought a lot of clothes), we called a taxi. Due to our limited Portuguese we paid a a very high price to go down the road. Shortly after we were robbed by the taxi man we were on the bus to Sao Paulo.

After checking in at our hostel first stop was for some traditional Brazilian fare… Burgers and IPAs. Yep after less than 2 weeks on the road we were already turning to some home comfort food. Luckily, both the burgers and the beers turned out to be some of the best we had ever tasted and well worth taking a break from the local cuisine for.

We were staying in the trendy suburb of Vila Madelena and the next morning we got up early to take in some of the nearby street art.

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Following our little taste of culture we then jumped on the metro and headed into the centre of Sao Paulo for a free walking tour. This turned out to be some of the longest 3 and a half hours of our lives. So caught up in the tour we could only manage to take three photos during the whole time.

It was then back to our hostel for a little bit of rest and recuperation before venturing out into the night in search of dinner. Disappointed with succumbing to the temptations of familiar food yesterday, Tristan was keen to find some authentic Brazilian fare. We took to the streets until we found a busy restaurant with locals spilling out onto the street beers in hand. After walking past a couple of times to work up some courage we finally decided to head in and ask in our Portuguese/English/spanish for a table. The waiter then took us to a dim-light corner in the empty building next door. We ordered some beers and a plate of local cuisine. An hour later we finally decided that something may have been lost in translation and we left for the hostel without any dinner. We decided to continue to enjoy some more beverages at our hostel on an empty stomach!! It was definitely not the best decision we decided the next day. It was here we were finally able to meet another couple! Hallelujah! Some people for us to speak to in English and finally a break from just conversing with ourselves. It’s never easy to meet couple friends!

The next morning we were off to Iguazu Falls and Jen’s much dreaded border crossing into Argentina!

 

Paraty

6 February 2017- Our last morning in Rio and we started the day with a run along the beach as the sun rose and an ocean swim. After our run we realised that our towel that we had left on the steps near the beach was missing. It probably wasn’t the best decision to leave it on a beach with tough hombres. As we were making our way down to the water we saw our towel draped around the neck of one of the local men who manned the beach stalls renting chairs and selling Caipirinhas. While we were swimming we debated whether we should alert the man that he had “accidentally” picked up the towel. Eventually it was decided that we would approach him together and try to explain in broken Portuguese that the towel was ours. However, as Tristan started to try and explain the situation he turned around for a bit of support from his wife only to realise that she had already high-tailed it off the beach leaving him to his fate with the “local gang”. Fortunately, in his budgie-smugglers, Tristan must have cut an intimidating figure enough for the towel to be handed over.

Following the successful return of the towel it was time to hop on the bus and make our way down the coast to Paraty. It was a scenic drive passing many beautiful resort towns filled with luxurious boats and pristine beaches. We were excited for what lay ahead of us! The further we drove the more our hopes rose that our next destination would be a little bit of a paradise. We became slightly concerned as we turned off the main road down a little muddy track rutted out and covered in potholes the size of small swimming poles. Eventually we were dropped off at our “rainforest retreat” which was a converted shed situated in the middle of a mosquito infested swamp. The “unique” accomodation included the company of about 20 cats making themselves at home in the outdoor kitchen.

After settling into the home of Zika we decided to brave the flooded roads and wild horses and make our way down to the local beach. 15 minutes later, sweat was dripping off us in the sweltering humidity. When we reached the beach we eagerly stripped off and prepared to plunge into the water. Unfortunately, we came to the sad realisation that the water was not only barely knee deep but it somehow managed to be warmer than the outside temperature. Feeling defeated we retreated to the beach-side bar to drown our sorrows with some caipirinhas whilst taking in the picturesque views. It was during this “relaxing” time a deadly insect struck Jennifer on the hand. Luckily, she was a few caipirinhas deep and didn’t feel the full pain of the sting.

The next day Jennifer’s infected hand was double the size of her other hand and Tristan continued to reassure her that she wasn’t dying and that she didn’t need to go to hospital. To distract Jennifer from her incredible amount of pain we decided to make our way into the town of Paraty itself, a little colonial town filled with cobblestone streets. We signed up for a boat tour which took us to some nearby beaches, snorkelling spots and to the beach house from Twilight, which of course was the highlight!!!! It was a great day on the boat we enjoyed lots of swimming and snorkelling and a little too much sunshine!

 

 

So the adventure begins

1 February 2017- it was finally our departure day! Despite what seemed like years of planning when the day finally came it seemed like we were barely ready! After a few teary farewells and some last minute duty-free shopping we boarded our flight to… Auckland. Upon boarding the plane we got that sinking feeling as you spot the biggest person on the flight and just know that he will be seated next to you (and spilling his ample girth into) your seat. So Jen acted in her typical self-preservation style and pushed Tristan into the what what should have been a half-price seat considering the room that was available.

As karma would have it, Jen did not miss out on all the delights of our new travelling companion and he kept us entertained with his extreme flatulence and ridiculous snoring which commenced 30 seconds after take off with only a short break for the meal service. We were both praying to every deity we knew that he would not be next to us on the next 14-hour leg to Buenos Aires.

Fortunately, our prayers were answered and the next leg passed without incident. Upon touchdown in BA Tristan charged through the airport to to find our connecting flight to Rio. He was pretty confident it was Terminal two (it wasn’t!!) We picked up our bags, passed through customs and approached the check-in desk only to be informed that we were in the wrong airport! A last minute flight change had meant that our flight was now departing from the other side of BA and so, before the we had even reached our first destination, we managed to chalk up fight number 1 for the trip.

After a  mad-cap dash across the city we were able to check-in and finally begin the last leg to Rio. We touched down a bit past midnight caught a cab to our Airbnb room and crashed for the night.

First day in Rio we spent day relaxing on Ipanema beach recovering from our jet lag and exploring the local area around our AirBnb. We were staying in Leblon, one of the ritzier neighbourhoods in Rio and (hopefully) the safest.

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The following day we signed up for a food tour of Rio. We visited the local street market and got to sample a variety of local delicacies, including a lot of caipirinha’s for Jen. Jen was finally starting to relax.

Day 3, we took on a hike up to the Christ the Redeemer Statue. It was not for the faint hearted! It was a miracle that we made it to the top and back down without one single fight! We are not 100% sure the views were worth it but we saved 50R, so we were happy.

In the afternoon, we headed to the boho suburb of Santa Teresa, catching the little yellow street tram from the city centre up the hill. Jen was a tad bit grumpy in the afternoon because of the monstrous walk she was forced to take on in the morning so we decided to treat ourselves to some Caipirinha’s in the rooftop pool bar at the Sofitel Resort! They were getting ready for a glamorous party and we had pesto pasta waiting for us that night. Oh how the other half live!