A Travellerspoint blog

Rio de Janeiro

sunny 30 °C

We traveled from Salvador to Rio by bus.

We stayed in a boiler room of a hostel called Albergue Hostel in the cool district of Ipanema. The hostel was 2 blocks from the beach and about 5 blocks from the shopping areas...typical! Our stay in Rio was interrupted by a brief excursion to Ilha Grande but we stayed in the same place both times.

Ilha Grande
We went to Ilha Grande for a few nights. Once we found a nice place to stay we settled in and relaxed. It is a beautiful island with apparently lots of nice beaches. We found one and that was us sorted. It was a 10 minute boat taxi ride or a 25 minute walk away. A few days later we had to drag ourselves off the island and back to Rio de Janeiro..

We met a really nice Irish Taxi driver aged 60 plus who was always chilling in the hostel with all the young wans and also helped Martin buy some local art due K being incapacitated again. This time she got a really bad dose of illness and in fairness to the people in the hostel they looked out for her and allowed us a late checkout. Sounds to me Carnaval,pipa and Brazil took their toll on lilla kaka!!

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Rio is the most amazing picturesque city we have ever seen!! We took a tour up the sugar loaf mountain and also to Christ the Redeemer statue and both locations offered an birds eye view over the beautiful Rio landscape. We took a tour for this as we did not feel too confident making our way around Rio ourselves. Perhaps that was a bit naive of us but nearly 5 months into traveling south america with no mishaps we decided to take the safe option. Anyway, it was cheap and way easier to get around. Other sights that we took in were the Maracanna stadium, A big concrete ugly church (culturally speaking), Santa Teresa steps and the area were the Blocos perform for Carnaval. The tour highlights were the sugar loaf and christ the redeemer by far. Access to the stadium was not possible much to our disgust and the tour agency's false advertising. Still, there was a few of the lads around to pose for pictures...

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John and Ollie were visiting from Brasilia so M felt it his duty to hit the town with the guys. We went to a place we had been the night before but this time it was kicking. It was based over many floors which catered for all tastes in music. The whole district was one big party. The name of the area escapes me but it was cool but again in true Rio/Brazilian fashion, it had an edge to it.

The Favelas trip was too much for sickly K so M went it alone. It was a very interesting trip. Basically we were taken to the top of one of the mountains overlooking Rio which was covered in tightly stacked apartments or shacks in most cases. A favela is a slum or the equivalent to the projects in NY. People there are either very poor or very rich. The rich make their money from drug trafficking. There was an estimated turnover of $3m per month in that Favela alone. The police will not enter unless they are backed up by a 200 strong force with Air assistance. It all sounds nuts really. Our guide used some of his profit and put it back into the Favela. He was known by everyone and really liked and all the locals liked the fact that tourists walked through their town, even if they see it all the time now.

That was Rio, Leahanne and Dara were calling as they were about to tie the knot, Eire here we come!!

Posted by kmandmc 08:24 Archived in Brazil Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Zumo Tropical- peace & quiet at last!

sunny 30 °C

We booked into Zumo Tropical which had been recommended to us. All we knew was that it was run by a French hippie (who got stuck in Brazil on one of his travels) and his Brazilian wife. We got the boat over and one of these mini van taxis that are so popular in Brazil and eventually found the place. The area looked it was full of holiday homes close to the sea. One the gates to Zumo Tropical were opened we got such a surprise. It was basically a piece of preserved jungle in the middle of modern houses- when Phillipe came to the island it was all jungle and he is about the only one who is committed to saving the rain forest. He carved out a few spots in his jungle to build bungalows for tourists but apart from that it was basically like living in the jungle. Once we stepped into the place we felt so relaxed. Here we would spend 3 days recharging our batteries (very much needed). We would spend the days just reading in hammocks outside (fighting off the mosquito's- no jungle is without vicious mosquitoes), spending time on the beach. At breakfast we would be welcomed by lovely monkeys (loads of them) who were very happy to be fed. They would even sit in our hands eating- these monkeys were tiny!!! Evening times the guests are welcomed to join the family for lovely meals after having the compulsory Capirinha in the small bar. it was definitely what we needed.

K and her cousins...

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During our stay our favorite (and almost only guest apart from us) was a French lady called Mischko. She goes and stays with Philippe for 3 months every year. We really enjoyed her company- she was so lovely and full of energy and we nearly died when she told us that she was 72 years (she looked at least 15 years younger). She put us to shame- one day when we went snorkeling she came with us and spend twice the amount of time we spent in the water- not a bother on her. Snorkeling was brilliant- saw loads of fish and K saw a scary Octopus!

Zumo allowed us to catch up on some reading, relax, relax and relax! Thanks to Phillipe and his family for rescuing us from all the madness! Next stop was Rio and by the time we left Itaparica we felt ready to hit Rio.

Posted by kmandmc 06:24 Archived in Brazil Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Enjoying the rythm in Salvador!

Our next stop was the city of Salvador- a city known for dancing and music on the streets every day of the week. Luckily the only day we stayed there was a Tuesday which is THE day for enjoying music on the streets. This is they day when all the music group come out on the streets to practice their singing and dancing and every corner has a different group. Although Salvador has a huge African influence and hence most of the music on the streets was African influenced (amazing) but there was all types; samba (of course), jazz, blues, rock or whatever. It was just so fantastic to wander the streets and to stop and watch these amazing bands.The atmosphere was just fab- we could not even imagine what it would be like during carnaval.

Apart from the music Salvador is also known for being unsafe. At this stage we were well aware of the drill=never bring anything of value with you when you walk out- especially at night. In Salvador we were well aware of that edge again and felt watched. We were both fully aware whey a couple pretending to stand beside us enjoying one of the performances were trying to get to Martins pockets. Martin would take one step to the side and they would swiftly follow. It started to look like a ridiculous dance when Martin put his hands in the air to show them he knew what was going on and that he had nothing. Later on a Brazilian girl comes up to Martin informing her that she had been approached by some guy asking if we were in her company otherwise he would rob Martin. We were not really sure if this was true or if she said it to come close to Martin to rob him herself or if it was an elaborate way getting close to him to eventually offer her services as a prostitute. Anyway, despite loving the music we decided to have a relatively early night and not to tempt fate given that we appeared to be obvious targets that night.

We had initially planned to spend more time in Salvador but we really were dying to get away form a big city and away from people. The hostel we stayed in was brilliant (Galleria 13) and the owner extremely friendly (and they had a cute boxer- Spartan- who had an unhealthy interest in Karolinas bags) but when we found ourselves shying away from any contact with fellow backpackers we realized it was time to leave the city. We decided to follow Maria and Nicklas's recommendation to go to a quiet Island just outside Salvador called Itaparica.

Posted by kmandmc 06:01 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Pipa- another piece of paradise

sunny 30 °C

Pipa is a place on the north east coast of Brazil which is nothing short of paradise. After Jeri we thought little could beat it but Pipa very closely did! it is a small place (very turisty though- mostly Scanadinavians- what is it with Scandinavians and beaches anyway???) surrounded by loads of different beaches each one is nicer than the other. As it waw slightly off season we found this amazing Pousada (Brazilian for Guesthoue/B&B) with lovely rooms, swimming pool and the biggest and yummiest breakfast ever! This is were the whole gang parked their behinds and pretty much took over the place! Being in paradise we would have expected to leave Pipa rested and full of beans but this was before we knew that we would not have a chance to get over our carnaval hangover and that we would continue to hang out with the crazy gang!

As already said Pipa is a collection of wonderful beaches. One which was the Dolphin beach were dolphins would turn up every day and swim around people in the water! How amazing is that! You would be in the when suddenly you would see a dolphin jump in the water! Our favourite beach though was the Amore beach where we would have to walk across stones in the water. It was so beautiful and a paradise for surfers who where everywhere! Needless to say that we spent most of the days on one of the beaches and would head back after lunch to hang out by the pool at the Pousada. In the late afternoon we would wait for a group of monkeys who would come by! They would hang around for a while and they were soooo cute!

And the evening time....well not hard to guess! Pipa is a small place full of little bars and restaurants. In fact it would be the first time in a very long time that we would hear Western music (all Salsa and Samba until now) so we did go a little mad dancing! Most evenings we would sit by the pool and have a few drinks before we headed out for some fun! Sometimes it went little too mad and some of us started having mad drinking games in the middle of clubs. Although we had a great time we did eventually begin to look forward to the day when we would go our separate ways as despite pledges to take it easy we just never seemed to slow down. The rest of the gang where headed to Jeri but since we had already been there we continued on our way south instead. Pheww. No offence to annyone:-) It would turn out that our goodbyes would not be for long with some as we would hook up again in Rio!

Despite being a seemingly quiet tourist place where we never felt threatened or when violence is rare something bad did happen in Pipa. Apart from an unusual amount of police helicopters in the area we never noticed or heard about it while we were there but a Swedish man was brutally murdered in his hotel while asleep for no apparent reason. We would only come across it by chance in Swedish newspapers where it was everywhere. Scary stuff...luckily we were oblivious to it all.

So despite being sad to say goodbye to everyone we finally went our separate ways. Exhausted and in great need of some relaxation. Hahahaha- think we need to put things into perspective hey!

Posted by kmandmc 05:11 Archived in Brazil Tagged transportation Comments (0)

Carnaval baby!

Historic city of Olinda, Pernambuco

sunny 30 °C

So finally we were to experience (carnival) carnaval in Brazil. Most people think carnaval is just in Rio but the truth is that it is celebarted everywhere in Brazil...for months! The twin cities of Recife and Olinda came highly recommended to us as a place to experience the real carnaval away from all the tourists and commercialization. So we went for it! We were told that places like Rio and Salvador has lost that genuine Brazilian carnaval feeling that it is all about. Whereas you got to buy tickets to view the parades from a distance in the more famous places in Olinda/ Recife everything is free and you can join in all the parades if you wish and dance away with the locals! As we will soon find out it will turn out to be so much fun but also completely mental with fun loving people filling the streets with dance and party!

We stayed at a hostel in a central location. Being carnaval we did not get to stay in the same dorm initially and they also managed to cram more beds into tiny spaces which made the dorms crammed, and hot hot, hot! Hostel was great with great common areas for meeting people and a pool. K initially stayed in a girls dorm with two Spanish girls. The first night had an opening in Recife which was suppose to be great and as we just had arrived we asked if we could hook up with the Spanish girls to go to Recife as it involved a bus ride...They initially seemed very enthusiastic and we agreed to meet up later that evening. In the meantime we met really cool people that asked us to join us in Recife too and although we knew we would have a great laugh with them we said we'd better wait for the Spanish girls...Big mistake- when they came back (late) they showed no interest and it would turn out that they wanted to hook up with these Brazilian guys and they basically DUMPED us (how dare they- we are so much fun- promise:-) )!! We cursed ourselves for not joining the other crew and had to make our way to Recife ourselves.

After mad bus journeys (people everywhere) we arrived to Recife and just caught the opening of the drums. This involves a parade of 100s of drums and it was absolutely amazing. We could not believe that this was just the start of it!!! Later there was a concert by some famous Brazilian dude (and Manu Chao) that we had been told to go to and as we managed to find a spot in the crowds in front of the stage it started lashing rain (seriously raining) and it did not stop for the night.. it did not stop the peole around us from having fun though and although we were soaked we quickly learnt to shrugg it off! In the crowds we met Lynne and Andy (who we would continue to bump into and hang out with during the carnaval ..... and amazingly 3 months later in Thailand....) and during the night we would be joined by several people dying to practice their English or just chat away dying to get to know us even though they had no English and we very little Portuguese. Funny how you don't need languages when having fun! We were embraced by two gay guys in particular who were really cool but we did not understand anything they said!!! Finally this famous Brazilian singer came on stage and although he was joined by all the 100s of drummers on stage (which was really cool) we frankly could not see what the fuss was about. Our gay friends nearly died with excitement as this middle aged guy in tight yellow jeans came on stage. He looked like a cross between Dustin Hoffman and Richard Gere and sang like Tome Jones. Despite this the Brazilians loved him and there was a great atmosphere!!! Many beers later we were soaked and decided to make our way home. Like everybody else! We had no clue how to get home to Olinda and despite there being plenty of Brazilians (so friendly but everybody was clueless) trying to help us to catch the right bus homwe we fianlly found a cab which naturally overcharged us gringos to take us home.

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Next morning we woke up excited as we had heard that the caranval during the day in Olinda should be brilliant. We headed around 10am and thought we would be early but how wrong were we! It is hard to imagine the sight that met us- the streets were already mental with people singing and dancing on the streets everywhere! We hooked up with a Brazilian guy with a totally unpronounceable name who surfed for a living and 2 sleazy swedes. Not for long though, it all became a bit weird so we dumped them! Blocos (which are parades- these can be organised ones or just a bunch of friends dancing in groups down the street) were everywhere and despite the early hour everybody was drinking beers and carpirinhas. We would soon learn that Brazilians are the most fun loving nation we had ever met (they EVEN beat the Irish - K's comment!!) and they just love to party. We initially found the early morning drinking weird and decided on water but half an hour early we were somehow standing with a beer each in our hands ( it was impossible but to get sucked into the party atmosphere) and by 12 o'clock we were on Carpirinhas and by 1 we were hammered! The scorching sun did of course not help the amount of liquids we needed to take on!!! We wandered the streets and just looked at all the madness but it was not long until our feet were trying to copy the Brazilians dancing samba (impossible). even though we were well aware of that our attempts to samba were pathetic it is impossible not to get sucked in and we just had to get used to looking like idiots- happy ones though! Anyway, sometimes the crowds were so mad that you had no choice but to jump around like the crowds as the pressure would not allow us to keep our feet on the ground!

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We found a favourite spot to watch all the partying which was a square which provided us both with shade and a great place to view ll the blocos. As we were watching the going on we suddenly saw a blocko of people covered in mud. It turns out that it was the whole gang of people from our hostel who had asked us to join us to Receife the night before who were dancing in a huge bloco of mud covered people. It looked like so much fun! We cursed the Spanish girls as we realised that that would have been us had we just stuck with that gang the night before! We spent the day just hanging out and having so much fun and we quickly realised the urgent need of going back to the hostel due to the state of us (no way we could have lasted the day drinking). In addition we were so sticky- the heat was something else!!!

It was a bit bizarre to return to the hostel in the middle of the day hammered. Turns out we were not the only ones. The hostel would quickly become a meeting point for everyone were we would meet up after a day of partying- have some food and relax by the pool- until the partying started back in the hostel and we all went out together again.

Our 5 days of Carnaval would turn out to look very similar but each day the group of people who hung around grew! The five days were just days of having a ridiculous amount of fun- going to bed only to do it gain the next day. The caranval did have some highlights- the parade of the 500 dolls ( giant dolls parading down the street), the mid night man (when we waited in the middle of the night for the famous doll to come out in the pouring rain in a dodgy area and he was so late we missed him. It rained so much we had to wade through the streets with floods of water up to our knees), getting stuck in a stall due to the rain and ended up trying to help the stall owner (Mario -the half French/Brazillian) sell beer and chocolate, great concerts and fabulous blocos. In the main though the caranaval is all about dancing, people getting together dressing up in brilliant outfits and having fun, fun, fun. So many people hook up and Brazilians are so friendly. We cant count the times we were told by friendly Brazilians to look after our stuff and many times did we hear them give out to vendors for trying to charge us gringo prices. Despite the edge that is involved in carnaval and you really have to be careful with your stuff for each dodgy Brazilian there are thousand more that really try to protect foreigners from being robbed and really want us to you in on the fun and have a great experience.

Despite all the greatness Brazil and carnaval is not all perfect! It is annoying that you cant bring ANYTHING out with you. Unless you wear scruffy clothes and make sure you have no watches, jewelery etc you are an immediate target. It was very annoying not to be able to bring the camera- particularly not at night time- and during the day you would be nervous for having it out! For that reason we do not have enough pictures that adequately capture the carnaval but better safe than sorry. Carnaval is great but it is definitely with an edge. Day time was always fine but at night all the kids come out and it is a much edgier atmosphere. We did not let this stop us from having fun of course!!! Also the Brazilain guys! OMG! We dont even know the beginning of sleazy at home. The would take every opportunity to touch ANY part of your body and have no qualms grabbing you so that you cant get away. K soon found here weapon in all this: Esther from Holland who happened to be blond and tall. She made sure Esther followed (or lead) everywhere. As long as Esther was in front and you could hide behind her she got ll the attention! poor Esther- luckily she did not mind it too much and she had Martin as her bodyguard!

We got on amazingly with so many people from the hostel. And despite what you might think we were not sick of the partying and all the fun and we were not ready to leave each other. It was quickly arranged that we would continue to travel together to Pipa which is a beautiful beach place. 11 of us from 9 different counties went to Pipa. It was Esther and Jessica from Holland, Gianluca the Italian Chiropracter, Phil and Ollie- the diplomats from the UK, John- another diplomat from Australia, Lucine and Kathryn from the UK and Mikaela from Germany. We were then joined by Alex from the UK and Marta from Portugal. The fun would not stop for a long time!

Posted by kmandmc 13:50 Archived in Brazil Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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