An overnight train took us to the Brazilian border where we joined a long, slow queue in the sweltering heat for around three hours before entering our last country (number 30!). Once we were through a bus took us to a remote ranch in the middle of the Pantanal where we stayed for three nights. We slept in hammocks which was so cool. Even coming from Australia we hadn’t experienced so many bugs, flies, and mosquitos! While we were there, we fished for piranhas and then ate them for dinner, did some safari drives where we spotted lots of native birds, caimans (crocodiles), howler monkeys, Capybara (Brazils largest rodent), and more. We also went horse riding, and one night had a bonfire where we toasted marshmallows and enjoyed plenty of Cachaca (Brazilian rum)!
Bonito is a small town surrounded by lots of water based activities in the clear rivers around the area. Unfortunately lots of the activities are priced through the roof (its been quite an adjustment coming into the Brazilian prices after being in Bolivia). We spent the day at one of the cheaper options where we could swim in a river besides waterfalls, ride a zip line into the water, sunbake etc. The only downside from the day was the sunburn!
After an uncomfortable overnight bus coming from Bonito, we were definitely woken up when we heard the thunder and then laid eyes on the amazing Iguazu Falls! The falls are on the Brazilian/Argentine border and are made up of around 275 individual waterfalls, some are majestic, some are thunderous. We headed straight out to the falls to view them from the Brazilian side, and what a view it was! We ended the day with an all you can eat Brazilian (chorizo) BBQ and a night out in the local bars.
The following day we were up early to cross over the border in to Argentina to experience the falls from the Argentinian side. The views from this side, even though most of the water falls on this side were totally mind-blowing. The highlight was taking a boat ride right into the middle of the falls, getting soaking wet, and literally feeling the force of the falls! An absolute highlight!
We were up at 4am to make a flight from Iguazu to Sao Paulo, then a three hour bus to Paraty. We had three nights here which was just as well as we all needed to catch up on some sleep! On the first full day we did a booze-cruise sailing in the bay visiting islands and beaches with all the food and drink included! Some of us may have had one too many caparinhas (Bazilian Rum) by the end of the day though…
The next day a few of us took a local bus to the tiny town of Trindade where we spent the day chilling on the beautiful beach there. Now that we have hit the Brazilian coast, we are getting into the laid back, beach life!
A short bus/ferry trip and we were onto the beautiful island, Ilhe Grande! The island is mostly jungle with some small villages, no cars or paved roads and no ATMs. Its all about the beaches here and on our second day we trekked 2.5 hours through the jungle to come out at Lopes Mendes Beach, a beautiful white sand beach that actually has waves! It was a nice chilled stop before we hit Rio!
Rio De Janeiro
For us Rio was a short stop (this time) where we said goodbye to our friends in the G Adventures group and reorganised ourselves ready for Christmas and New Year with Tony and Kath. We had our first sighting of Copacabana beach, and also a night out on the town in Lapa, being the last night with our group. For now, we look forward to coming back for a week of new year!
What a perfect place to spend Christmas! Buzios; a gorgeous little beach town popular with Brazilian holidaymakers. We were pretty relieved/surprised to find how nice the apartment was that we booked to share with Tony and Kath over Christmas was – an amazing view straight out onto the ocean.
We were in Buzios for four nights and spent most of our time chilling on the beaches, and most importantly celebrating Christmas, where we spent the morning on the beach drinking champagne, swimming in the sea and soaking up the sun before heading back to our apartment to cook a great Christmas meal – followed by an evening on the town.
Rio de Janeiro
It was back to Rio for seven nights this time staying at the Golden Tulip, an awesome spot right on Copacabana Beach over the New Year period. This was a holiday not only for Tony and Kath, but for us also.
We partied hard in Lapa, relaxed in the sweltering heat on Copacabana and Ipanema Beach, had a Samba class to learn the basics of this traditional dance, followed by a night at the world famous Rio Scenarium club (one of the top 10 bars in the world!!) where we practiced our newly-found moves!
We queued for hours to see the famous Christ the Redeemer, climbed to a view point for the ultimate views of Sugar Loaf and panoramic views of the city, strolled around the quaint and cosmo suburb of Santa Teresa, ate some mouth-watering steaks, and did a fantastic tour of two of the Favelas – the shanty towns dotted along the hillsides which have housed immigrants for the last 100 years, consisting of mazes within mazes, some of which are still controlled by drug lords and patrolled by heavily armed police.
New Years Eve was one of the ultimate highlights for us though. We partied through the night in one of the Favelas at a house owned by a local guy who was born and raised in the Favela. His rooftop party overlooks the city and Copacabana Beach where the fireworks take off from. Half of the tickets are sold to foreigners, and the other half to the locals. We had a fantastic night and an incredible view of the 15minute long firework display, washed down with plenty of Caprinias and beers!! After the party we joined the celebrations taking place still on Copacabana Beach. A unique and incredible way to welcome in the new year!
See next: Mendoza, Argentina