27.09.2010 - 30.10.2010
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Greetings from La Plata, Argentina. We are very fortunate to be staying with a couple of locals, our friends Guille and Cami. As usual, the blog update takes place several weeks after the facts...but, as a popular Spanish saying goes "mas vale tarde, que nunca..." Continuing with the narration of the trip... we flew from Salvador de Bahia to Rio de Janeiro on September 28th.
Unlike the Northeast part of the country, Cidade Maravilhosa the weather in Rio really sucked. To wait out the weather we took a side trip to Arraial do Cabo, one of the best dive spots in Brazil -after touristy and outrageously expensive Fernando de Noronha.
To our surprise the water temperature was so low that one could even see penguins fishing on the beach. That did not stop us from booking a
couple of dives in a nearby Island to keep our license up to date.
Even though, sometimes it felt as though we were about to get hypothermia, the experience was well worth it. Despite the crap visibility we saw many colorful fishies, puffers, turtles and even rare nudy-branches (colorful worm-lookin things). The best part of it all was that, for the first time, we dove on our own, without a guide. It was not the original plan but the cheap deal came with a surprise. "Brazil is one of the least professional scuba diving destinations in the world" complained an upset German diver after her dive master opted not to dive, because he was tired.
Back in Rio de Janeiro we were lucky enough to find a basic affordable Pousada in pricey Copacabana, run by a friendly Paraguayan lady... We decided to stay until the weather improved, which only happened for a couple of days during the week. The best days were when Jay was bedridden from jailroom constipation and the day we left...drag... However, regardless of the bad weather we enjoyed walking along the most famous beaches in the world, Copacabana and Ipanema. Without the sun, Rio starts to look a little bit like Lima, and that's not so good (?)!
On one of those cloudy days Jay and I decided to climb more than 700 meters to the top of the Corcovado Hill (the big Christ Statue)
hoping for the skies to open... unfortunately as we approached the summit, it only got worse.
However, the one-and-a- half hour steep hike amidst the Mata Atlântica was well worth it. No one else dared to climb that day, so we had it all for ourselves. Not only we saved money by not taking the "gringo train" but we enjoyed walking in the forests of Parque Nacional da Tijuca. When we reached the top it was so misty that we could hardly see the huge statue of Christ the Redeemer... and only for a few minutes, when the wind blew strongly enough the Wonderful City would appear to greet the visitor.
We had better luck with the weather on the day we went to the Sugar Loaf. It was a sunny day yet the capricious Pao de Açúcar did not show its summit to us. A cloud was forming right on the top of the hill covering it almost completely... Never mind, we interpret the whole situation as hint that we have to go back to Rio. The next time we will bring my mom along, since it has been
her dream to return to Rio one day.
Election day in Brazil!! Politics are so hilarious, no matter where you are in the world.
We just love the televised debates and commercials, as well as the politicians` desperate attempts to make themselves look like
heroes while making the opponent candidates look like crap. Our Carioca friend, Alexandre, and his wife, Luciana, took us with them to vote in a public school. The have a beautiful 8 month old baby girl named Sofia.
Brazilians elect president, members of the congress, governors and prefeitos every four years from a very long list of
candidates. In order to vote, people have to memorize numbers of up to 5 digits (crazy!) to enter them in little machines... "A device that has the power to predict the future of a country" accoding to a Government commercial. Therefore, candidates have to find effective ways to make their numbers known. The most popular advertized method was to compose"cheesy" and repetitive songs using Forro and other popular melodies which are played continuously on the streets (using cars with souped-up stereos) as if they were Buddhist mantras... .
The next stop on the trip was my all times favorite Ilha Grande. Thank God, after all these years, my dream comes true to return little paradise with love of my life . Regardless of the dynamic weather we had a number of wonderful, sunny days. There are about 116 beaches in the Island, but only a few of them are accessible on foot. On the trails you see can easily see Howler Monkeys, Micos, lizards, squirrels and lots of tropical birds. During our 11 day stay on the Island we went to a different beach each day, a waterfall, some ruins and even went twice to the so-called second most beautiful beach of Brazil: Lopes Mendes.
Without a doubt, the very best day was the day of our near'1000 meter hike to the second highest peak of the island: Pico do Papagaio. The weather was E-MAC-U-L8!!! A lunch at the top and two hours of contemplating life with views of nearly half the island below our feet...who could ask for more?
In Abraao, the main town on the Island we stayed in a hotel run by a Carioca artist whose paintings were graciously decorating the trendy posada. He managed to serve us well and politely almost until the last day when Jay found out that our
breakfast was not served on time -whattttt!?- and we had to leave soon. So he went knocking on the paintor´s door. The
guy exploded to his helper -who was supposed to be in charge that day- by quoting Jay: "knock, knock, knock...Cafe da manha!!" and them
cursed out loud: porra!!!!! we didn´t know what to think since it wasn't our fault, but after a good laugh we concluded that the guy is not content with his job and simply plays the part of a temperamental "artist."
Upon our exeunt from Ilha Grande we were dog-tired but not enough to keep us from pushing on to Paraty. The enchanting and picturesque town welcomed and hosted us for the next 5 days. We stayed in a low-key posada with a nice balcony right outside of the historic center, the best spot for cheaper food and people-watching. We sat for hours watching passers-by on foot, bike, motorcycle, car, and even horseback & horse and carriage. All this while playing cards and sipping on some caipirinhas a la Jay.
Wandering the rocky streets of Paraty we found a whipping pole by the main church where a sculptural black guy talked about the history of the place -for free, to the curious tourists. The guy held a chain in his hand and was shirtless giving him the look of a runaway slave. Praia do Jabaquara, a short walk away from town, became our favorite spot. The tranquil and beautiful setting allowed us to finish reading a couple of books and play around with the local kids. Though the most beautiful beaches nearby were in Trinidade.
The mega metropolis of Sao Paulo is now a pleasant memory of a 3-day stay which were spent riding one of the best metro systems in the world, walking amidst the unique architecture of Av. Paulista, climbing the second tallest building in town for great views (free entry), listening to Gregorian songs in Sao Bento and visiting my old twin college friends, Alfredito and Gonzalito.
How cool it must be to have a twin sibling, don't you think? Alfredo and Gonzalo took turns to keep us company without missing any of their normal activities. With Gonzalo we went to see some trendy contemporary art in Parque do Ibirapuera. He also joined us to watch the highly recommended Tropa de Elite 2 in a cool shopping mall... Alfredo introduced us to his lovely fiance, Valeria, and her hospitable family. We enjoyed dinning and conversing with them so much that time just flew by. We left Sao Paulo a bit sad, wishing we had more time and hoping to go back for their wedding in May.
The last stop in Brazil was the marvelous Iguazù Falls... oh dear! one can only get speechless at such wonder... You need at least two days to get to see the Cataratas properly: one day for the Brazilian side and one for the Argentinian side. On the Brazilian side we stood in awe and were inspired by the picturesque, panoramic views of hundreds of water falls of all sizes that found their way through the dense forest and the many butterflies that could be carried on your fingertips...
on the Argentinian side awaits the visitor a more "hands on" experience due to the multiple sidewalks that take you right on top, on the side and underneath the falls. It is unsual to remain dry after wandering about... you get so close to the fall that you can feel the energy of the falling water.
A thought kept visiting my mind... how a geological fault and a river can produce such a beautiful work of art... hundreds of white walls of bright white and drops of water reflecting the light and forming rainbows. What else could you add to this precious setting? Wildlife! The exotic toucans with huge colorful bills and their peculiar way of flying and hundreds if not thousands of swifts gliding around the water drops and disappearing into the falls as they get back to their nests... Not to mention the many mamals that inhabit the park.... Indubidably, a World Wonder. In short, this place does NOT suck at all.
One day we took a bus around the three borders to see Paraguay, or Ciudad del Este, to be more precise... I am not sure this was worth it. The main reason we went??? Bragging rights for entering another country?? Guilty as charged. We did meet a couple of other nice travelers to sit down and talk with for a while. It was also interesting to see the hustle and bustle of the tax-free commercial area where 4 currencies are constantly exchanged and 4 languages are spoken.
From Puerto Iguazu we took a bus to Corrientes to see Esteros del Ibera, one of the best places in South America to see wildlife... indeed!!! For the last 5 weeks for our VERY long trip we shall be exploring Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Puerto Madryn, Mendoza and Santiago de Chile. I will tell you about that in the next and last entry... until then and God bless y`all!