Three weeks ago I left Bolivia and came to Brazil. We took a train to the border, got our Bolivian stamps and everything went just great… until we reached something that I would like to refer to as "Limbo". When you're in Limbo you're not in Bolivia nor in Brazil, it's just a place where a plethora of people get stuck and there's simply nothing there. It was at this place where we met our fellow English victims from England, "Grampz" and Fin, and the Chinese-Malaysian Conan (aka the Barbarian). The cue at the Brazilian Migration office was huge and things started to look even grimmer when we realized that we weren't moving at all. Apparently, there was only one person working at the office and Bolivian people need a lot of process time due to all documents they have to show to be allowed to enter Brazil. To make matters even worse the computer system broke down. We waited the whole day only to be told that we should come back the next day to get our stamp.
They told us that we could stay at the Brazilian side, so we took a cab to the Brazilian town Corumba and stayed the night there. I don't know exactly how this works, but I assume that made our stay in Brazil officially illegal (hell yeah!!).
The next day we woke up early to beat the cue, but when we got there it was already too late. There was already a long cue and when the office opened its doors it seemed that we weren't getting any closer, because many Bolivians subtly got in line. Due to this unethical Bolivian behavior I went up to the officer and explained the situation in my perfect Spanish. He replied in Portuguese and it worked…. Portuñol works! The officer just had to process the smaller cue of people entering Bolivia and would approach us and give us a special treatment afterwards.
After a couple of hours he would let us in and we got ourselves a stamp. Without hesitation we went back to Corumba again and set up our itinerary from there on. Fin and Melluish decided to carry on without us and the Barbarian, Sten and I booked a tour to the Pantanal.
The Pantanal is known as the best place for wildlife spotting. It's one of the world's largest tropical wetland areas (larger than France). Based on the great stories we had heard from fellow backpackers we approached this adventure with high expectations. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out to be that spectacular.
We found out that we had paid too much for this tour. The Pantanal is a gigantic area, so there are many "fazendas" or "pousadas" (converted ranch houses with decent basic facilities) where one can go to. It appeared that we went to the worst place of them all. There wasn't much to do and to see and most of the time we had been sitting around doing nothing. We spotted some animals, but not that many. Though the tour wasn't really what we had expected it had some good elements too. The food was very good and we witnessed the amazingly clear sky of the Pantanal which allowed us to spot the bright stars.
Bonito was our next destination! It's a small and picturesque town. The surroundings of this town are like an ecological paradise and Bonito has become one of Brazil's major ecotourist destinations, with caves, rivers and nature reserves. We did some snorkeling in the beautiful and crystal clear waters of Rio da Prata. I had never done snorkeling before, but I believe it's not a technique that is hard to wield. Besides hitting a few rocks this was a great experience.
The day after we went to a cave called "Las Grutas del Lago Azul". It's an interesting cave and researchers are still trying to learn more about this cave. An interesting fact is that the water is blue in the morning, because the sun is shining on it with a certain angle. Once you dive into it you will see that it's nothing more but an optical illusion.
Iguacú & Iguazu
Of course, we had to go to the famous waterfalls everyone is so enthusiastic about. We went to the Brazilan side as well as the Argentinian side of the waterfalls. Many people say they like the Argentinian side better, but in my opinion it's just a matter of taste. Where the Brazilian side offers a more panoramic view of the waterfalls, the Argentinian side gives you the opportunity to get closer to them.
Next stop: Florianópolis. This area has 42 beaches and it's the perfect place for good partying and relaxing. We had been travelling quite fast lately, so I think we really needed this pit stop. We didn't do much here except for chilling out, going to the beach and going out.
Rio de Janeiro
And we made it to Rio… and I'm still here as we speak! There are no words to describe how sick this city is, I simply love it! It's a beautiful city and it has so much to offer: beach, beautiful women, sports, good food, great juices and crazy nightlife! The only downside is that Rio is expensive, but you can still live cheaply if you look for the right places and the right deals.
My friend "B" was staying in Rio (I call him B, because I don't want to get him in trouble). His company had sent him to Rio for a couple of weeks to do some work. They had put him in a 5-star hotel right next to the Copacabana beach and I was able to stay at this hotel for free and oftentimes he would pay for my food and drinks too and put it on the company tab. Life wasn't that bad at all. Unfortunately, he has left now and I found myself a nice hostel close to the Copacabana beach.
The past few days I've been wandering around the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. I went to the famous Christ Statue, the Sugar Loaf, the artistic stairs of Selarón and the bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa, and of course I had to go out in the Lapa area.
I'll stay here for a bit longer and the plan is to visit the "favelas" (poor neighborhoods where druglords run sh*t) and to see a live football match. I will end this post by informing you guys that I'm going to do something that involves a lot of adrenaline again. That is if the weather gods won't be too cruel to me…