Brazil, Rio de Janeiro!!!!Saturday May 19th, 2007 by Daniëlle
Our trip to Brazil was a long one, but we survived. Our plane left from Vancouver through Chicago, Sao Paulo towards our final stop Rio de Janeiro. Everything went smoothly and we arrived tired, but with all our luggage in this sunny city.
The funny thing was that apparently no terrorists try to enter the US from the direction of Canada, since we were not questioned about fluids, we did not have to pick up our luggage in between stops or what ever nonsense you can imagine.
At the airport of Rio we had to get to another terminal to find an ATM for a cashwithdrawal. Since our Portugese is not that great we tried four cashmachines, before we found one which really continues in English, when you ask it to, before we succeeded .
Hopping on the bus we explained to the driver, who only spoke Portugese, with our Rough Guide, something different for a change instead of the Lonely Planet, where we wanted to be dropped off. At a certain point in time we got the feeling we had already past our stop. After searching for streetsigns and trying to find them on the maps in our Rough Guide, we found out that indeed we had passed it. Edvar approached the driver, who apologised and said that we indeed had past our stop. But no problem he would turn at the end and drop us off on the way back.
Fine, it took another hour before the bus reached its endpoint, but we enjoyed our sightseeing tour of Rio despite the fact we were pretty tired. But when we were at the end, we were ordered by another man to leave the bus since this was the end of the line. We tried to explain to him that we still had to go back, but no we really had to get out.
Our own driver returned and said that we had to pay for the trip, since we had past the gate. The gate seems to register the passengers and otherwise he would have to pay for our trip. We got a little angy, since we had a different agreement. After me emotinally raving half in Italian half in Spanish for a few moments, a very friendly Brazilian lady, who spoke English fluently came to the rescue and translated everything so at least we could understand eachother. After an unkind look of the man who ordered us out of the bus, we were able to get on without having to pay.
Did not really get the feeling that our driver had any problems with it, he was still very friendly, so I think it was nonsense that he had to pay for our ride. We were dropped of at the hotel as promised. The price of the hotel was twice as high as stated in our Rough Guide, so we decided to try and find a cheaper place to stay and we found a nice little hotel near the beach. We will be staying here for seven nights, which will give us time to relax, before we will be heading towards the Pantanal.
The food is really delicious, buffet where you pay per kilo, or lovely mixed grill. This morning we discovered the lovely breakfast in our hotel, which we will definitely enjoy for the days to come!
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Lovely warm in Brazil? No way, it is winter!Monday June 4th, 2007 by Daniëlle
Rio de Janeiro…..beautiful beaches, palmtrees, lovely warm weather, wouldn´t you think? But no, my skirts and tops will remain where they are in my backpack. When the sun is out, it is lovely warm, but when a cloud appears the cold sets in immediately. So trousers and sweaters it is.
My face and arms and my neck are nice and brown, but the rest of my skin is white as milk. Due to the changing temperatures Edvar and I both catched a cold. I am pretty much over it, but Edvar is still coughing a little bit.
Rio was nice and relaxing, we read a lot and slept a lot, we probably needed it. A lot of people we met during our trip mentioned that you should have a break after three months to empty your head, so it will be ready for all the new impressions to come. Both Edvar and I feel a little bit overwhelmed with all impressions of the last months.
So we decided to slow down and relax in Rio. We visited the centre to get a haircut. No one can do this as well as Mom can, Edvar would have liked it a little shorter. But Brazilian hairdressers are quite impressed by blond hair and try to cut it as little as possible. Which was fine with me since in the Netherlands they often cut of too much, but here they just cut the dead ends and not a millimeter more.
To be able to get the lonely planet from Madagascar we visited quite a few bookstores and in the end succeeded. The Brazilian people are very helpfull and friendly, communication is sometimes difficult, because our Portuguese sucks and their English is not that great either, but with the use of hands and feet we manage to understand each other. I think I got that from my Dad, don´t worry if what you say is exactly right, just keep talking and you will manage to get what you want. We also sent home a package to make sure all our pictures are save and to get rid of the weight of some books.
After a week in Rio we left to visit the Pantanal, a swamp area with again a lot of animals (birds, cayman, monkeys, armadillos, giant otters, foxes, some kind of raccoon, deer and snakes) to spot. Our guide Mario at the lodge knew a lot, but took it quite far to please tourists, he caught an armadillo and a cayman. We thought this was not really ecological and animal friendly, so we talked to him about it. That you can also approach animals in a different way was demonstrated by Sandros who was our guide at the campsite. He was able to approach the animals with the group up close by being quiet and relaxed without scaring the shit out of the animals. Due to the cold weather we were not able to see the anacondas and the anteater managed to be unseen aswell.
We participated in the following acitivities: a jeep safari, a stroll through the swamp, horse riding, a boattrip along the river and fishing for piranha´s. The walk through the swamp was torture to the untrained feet of the tourists, who are definetly used to a lot less than the locals feet. Most people in our group had wounds and cuts under their feet from walking through the water that almost reached your groins.
We had a very nice group of people at the lodge: Per a Canadian guy (with a Norwegian father), James and Jenny from Londen, Chris from America and Allison and Robert, who used to live in the Netherlands for a while, but now in England. In the evening we played a cardgame Bullshit with the group which was quite funny, but most of the time we would hit the sack early, since we had to rise and shine early every morning.
The lodge was fine, a little primitive and with a cold shower brrr. Edvar got sick the second evening and got a fever, so he decided to skip the piranha fishing and stay in the warm cosiness of his bed. Apparently I catched the same cold as Edvar, but luckily not as bad as him. The third day we moved from the lodge to the campsite. Since all the tents were occupied the only possibility left for us was to sleep in the hammock, which was not that great since we both already were not feeling that well. Thermal underwear, ski trousers and jackets on, with an additional blanket, but it was still cold. Luckily we were able to get a tent the second night which was much warmer and we slept a little bit better.
After five days of the same food we were happy to get back to civilisation and a warm bed in Campo Grande. The next day we took the bus to Iguaçu Falls. We will be staying here for at least five nights, hope that Edvar will get rid of his cold and visit the falls on both the Brazilian and Argentinian site. Yesterday we visited the small zoo, where we saw two magnificent jaguars and a lot of other animals, the entrance was free to our surprise.
Brazilians really have a sweet tooth, at breakfast you can eat all kinds of sweet cookies and even complete chocolate pies. Luckily you can also eat bread with ham or cheese or a piece of fruit, which will prevent me to gain ten pounds. Yesterday we discovered a channel on the televison where they spoke German and English, a big relief after the dubbed Portugese movies we were exposed to lately. We watched Jurrasic Park and CSI, which was nice since, we had not watched television for quite a while. After Iguaçu Falls we will head on towards Sao Paulo, where we will stay, until we fly on to Madagascar.
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Magnificent force of nature and a trip with the trainMonday June 11th, 2007 by Daniëlle
Our lovely hotel in Iguaçu Falls (Foz do Iguaçu) was really perfect, lovely bed, nice breakfast and a television with a proper English channel, a lovely spot for Edvar to get rid of his cold. The little town was very quiet, especially on Sunday and on the national holiday, internet was nearby and there were nice restaurants. The pizzajoint had great pizzas, which we enjoyed two times. The Japanese restaurant was also very nice with great Japanese service performed by Brazilians and large mugs filled with sake. The “Biergarten” did not have Bratwurst, but the meat was delicious.
The trips towards the falls both on the Brazilian and Argentinian side were easy to arrange ourselves, which was nice, since this saved us the money to book a tour. The Brazilian side was very impressive, whow, I have seen my share of falls in my lifetime, but these really exceeded all of them. Falls as far as the eye can see. Soken wet by the mist, but it was a sunny day so that did not spoil the fun.
The Argentinian side was at least as, I believe even more impressive. You can get really close to the falls and near “the throat of the devil”. The name is a good description of the force of water violence you can see over there. Edvar is uploading the pictures right now and I wonder if they captured the views well. Of course the sound and the mist makes it even more spectacular. Passing the border was not much more than getting a stamp from the Argentinians, the Brazilians do not seem to mind who gets in or out of the country. Another country mentioned in our passports, you almost get the tendency to start collecting them .
The falls are located in a national park, but you are not able to see many animals because of the crowds, except butterflies, coatimundi (sort of raccoon), agoutis (large rodents) and wild guinea pigs. The coatimundi were searching for food in the trash bins, which was a pitty. At our last day in Iguaçu Falls we decided to have a look at the Itaipu Dam, world´s largest hydroelectric powerplant. With 14 GW, this dam deliveres a quarter of the electricity of Brazil and ninety procent of the electricity of Paraguay, which is quite a lot.
After our stay in Iguaçu Falls we decided to make a stop at Curitiba, before we would head towards Sao Paulo. Curitiba is a nice little town and we strolled around it and visited a park filled with cages, mainly with parrots. We both got a little mixed feelings at the park, since we prefer to see them in the wild. In the end we were able to enjoy our German Bratwurst in Curitiba afterall.
The next day we catched the train towards Morretes, this is supposed to be a nice idyllic trip with the train, passing by steep canyons, ending in a nice little town called Morretes. Unluckily we were seated at the wrong side both ways, but we were clearly less impressed with the view than the Brazilian passengers. Probably due to the fact that there are not many trains in Brazil, which makes a trip with a train special in the first place and we are probably too spoiled . The town was nice and we had a good time.
The next day we got up early to catch our bus towards Sao Paulo, where we arrived safely. In the evening when we were heading for a restaurant, we were surprised by a lot of people in the streets. Quite a few couples of the same sex and a bunch of transvestites. The atmosphere was friendly so in the end we had fun watching people and were able to get something to eat at a shabby little place. Apparently the gay parade had taken place in Sao Paulo that day, which explained a lot. For instance why I was asked if Edvar was my brother and Edvar got a lot of attention from some guys . Of course I can imagine why, since he is a very sexy man, but he is mine .
Today we spend half the day trying to get our laundry done, since the washing machine and dryer did not really work that well, but in the end our laundry is reasonably clean and dry. Only a few days left in Sao Paulo, maybe we will visit the zoo and the Ferrari dealer. Thursday we will be flying to Madagascar and we will already be halfway our trip in days and once around the globe, since we will have passed Amsterdam again.
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Shit hit the fence!Saturday June 16th, 2007 by Daniëlle
A trip around the world, what a great adventure! Our last days in Brazil I was thinking, it is not really a big deal, everything is working out according plan, no trouble so far. Maybe I tempted faith by thinking these thoughts, because things started to go not as planned……
Our last two days in Brazil we visited the Ferrari dealer and the zoo as planned. We enjoyed both days. In the zoo it seemed that we were an almost bigger attraction than the animals. A lot of schools obviously decided to visit the zoo at the same day we did and everywhere we went we were gazed at, followed or approached by these schoolchildren, which was really funny.
Since it is supposed to be rather difficult to get cash in Madagascar, we decided to get some dollars in advance in Brazil. Easier said than done, since banks are only allowed to sell dollars to Brazilians not to tourists. The only way to get dollars was to get Reals from the ATM and change these Reals to dollars. At one of the banks they wanted to charge 30 Reals (ten euros) commission and see our tickets first to make sure we would leave the country soon. After seeing six banks and touristoffices we managed to arrange it without commission at a touristoffice.
At our last day we checked out early and had six hours to reach the airport and make our flight. We wanted to take the subway and than the final part with the bus, which would be much cheaper than a taxi or the airportbus. This would leave us with some Brazilian money to get a snack at the airport.
Heading towards the subway station we noticed it was very busy with traffic and people on the streets. Arriving at the station we discovered why. The subway personnel decided to strike on our day of departure! Brazilians are very helpfull and told us the stations would probably reopen at one o’clock.What to do wait or start walking?
The bus we needed would leave 5 subway stations further and traffic was terrible in the city centre, so grabbing a cab or the airportshuttle did not really seem a good solution either. In the end we would first need more cash to be able to pay for them anyway. The weather was nice so what the hack we started walking. Half the city seemed to walk and the tour would pass by the other subway stations anyway, so if they stopped the strike we could still be able to catch the subway and we had enough time.
We ended up, sooking wet from sweat with two bruises on my hips from my 22 kilo backpack, walking 5 subway stations to reach the Bresser subway station where we should be able to catch the bus. But the bus did not leave here, but at the mainroad where we just came from, approximately a 15 minutes walk back, nice pointed out writers of the Rough Guide!
Edvar sat down in despair. I thought maybe I can get a taxidriver to bring us to the airport from here for the remaining 31 Reals we have. No, was the first reaction I got, this will cost you 70 Reals, sorry but I only have 31, for 50 I am willing to take you, sorry but than we will take the bus…. The third taxidriver probably thought, ah what the hack I am not sure I will be able to catch a ride here anyway, I will probably have a bigger chance at the airport and this sweetheart took us to the airport!
In the end all ends well and we got on the airport and catched our plane in time, with no money left for a snack. At the airport we were not able to use our creditcard, so we ended up hanging over a waterfountain in the toilet and hoping for a good airplane meal. Bye bye Brazil, Madagascar here we come!
We safely arrived in Madagascar, unluckily without our luggage, which we hope to retrieve on Sunday. Our mobile phone does not work here and typing on a French keyboard is not easy, but for the rest we are doing great!