I´m in beautiful Paraty now, a few hours south of Rio, but I´ll tell you about that in a bit....so, following on from weeks ago...After the visit to the amazing falls I spent another day in Puerto Iguazu just relaxing by the pool and the next day I headed over to Brazil! The buses over here have generally been really good, far better than National Express anyway!! My experience of Brazilian buses so far is that they´re expensive and not that great. My journey over to Florianopolis in Brazil took 18 hours and cost 280 pesos (about 60 quid) but they didn´t give us any food...apparently no Brazilian buses do. Instead they stop off at crappy restaurants so that you can buy crappy food. I was quiet sad to leave Argentina - goodbye steak, goodbye mate tea, goodbye dulce de leche, goodbye stray dogs, goodbye bad time keeping (i hope!!)...When we crossed the border in to Brazil it was a shock to the system, I´d just cracked it with Spanish and could finally communicate...then I have to try and tackle Portuguese!! I got off the bus and went to buy a drink, then I remembered where I was and froze, I didn´t know whether to speak English or Spanish, so I just didn´t speak!! I got the bus with 2 Australian girls who were booked in to the same hostel as me. We had the most complicated directions in the world to our hostel. We had to get 2 buses from the bus station (which we did, and observation number 1 about Brazil is the totally unnecessary turnstyles everywhere, especially on the buses...I had to squeeze through with my big backpack...). When we got off the bus it was absolutely pouring down, a full on tropical storm. Our next direction told us to look for a green gate....we spotted one and rushed over before we got soaked...we went through the gate and up a stupidly steep path (it rivalled the inca trail)...we thought it was strange that the directions didn´t mention a huge hill yet we carried on...we got to the top and it was someone´s apartment....so back we trapsed all the way down (by this time we were soaked through), only to spot another green gate right where we got off the bus, with rather an obvious hostel sign outside. Silly us. Anyway, luckily the hostel was really really nice, 5 minutes from the beach and overlooking the sea. We headed straight down to the beach, my first Brazilian beach experience - lots of flesh!! All the women in thong bikinis and men in speedos (all men, even those that really shouldn´t). We stayed 5 nights in that hostel and spent most of our time on the beach. One day we got the bus to the next beach down where there´s a nice little lagoon you can swim in too. Another day a minibus load of us went to another beach to go sandboarding, so much fun! To start with I was totally rubbish, but after an hour I´d mastered it and was speeding down the steep dunes...getting sand everywhere, I´m still finding it in my pockets! The nightlife was cool too, our hostel was next door to a club, and the hostel also organised buses to other clubs. One night we got the ´party bus´ to Pacha...an incredibly tacky bus with music, drinks and even strobe lights. Nice. We only found out about an hour before we were due to leave that it was a ´white party´...I didn´t have any white clothes so the lovely lady working in reception at the hostel took me back to her house to raid her wardrobe! After 5 nights in the hostel we checked out and went to the south of the island for another 2 nights to a much quieter hostel with a beautiful less touristy beach. Getting there was quiet a mission. We´d been told we had to take 2 buses and it´d take about an hour and a half. There ended up being 11 of us from our hostel that decided to go down there so we hired a minibus instead....well, we thought it was going to be a minibus but it was actually a tini combi van. There was 12 of us (including the driver), 11 bags and 2 surfboards crammed in the van! Cosy!! It was worth it though, relaxing days on the beach, went running along the beach (first exercise in a while!), walks to waterfalls (which we never actually found...)
After Florianopolis, the aussie girls, Fran (a friend of Caroline´s) and I went to Ilha do Mel ...a tiny island with no cars (no roads in fact), limited electricity, just laid back people surfing and listening to Bob Marley! It wasn´t touristy at all, in fact not many people had heard of the place, I was told about it by a girl that had been there. We had to get 2 buses and a boat to get there, it took the best part of a day but it was definitely worth it. Our hostel was right on the beach, beautiful views. The weather on our first day there wasn´t great, it was hot but overcast, so we decided it was perfect walking weather and set out on a hike across to the other side of the island. As with everything in South America, nothing is ever as simple as it is made out to be...the walk started off really easy...the path took us to the centre of the island through all the jungley parts and then on to a gorgeous beach. We climbed up a hill where we got a great view across the island, despite the clouds. Then the ´trail´ took us across some rocks (this bit wasn´t mentioned on the map!!)...we had to walk along the beach then climb over loads of huge rocks as the tide was coming in and crashing against us...not the safest walk I´ve ever done!! Once over the rocks we were on another amazing beach. The trail then took us up to a lighthouse where we got incredible views across the whole island, such a shame the weather wasn´t clear! We then ended up on yet another amazing beach and then to the thinnest part of the island, which was literally a strip of sand, with sea either side. The island really was paradise! In the evening we went to the only open bar on the island, down a little dark track from our hostel (torches eseential!). It was a pretty cool little bar, just a few people crammed in to a tiny room and a couple of crazy guys playing guitar! Our next day there was perfect, clear blue skies! The walk from the day before would have been amazing with perfect weather, but it would have been too hot. To make up for it I decided to do part of the walk again, just up the first hill, to take some good photos! Afterwards we went to the beach....total heaven...there was no-one else for about 800 metres (apart from a few vultures!!)...perfect sand, perfect sea, just perfect place! In the evening we found another little bar playing samba and reggae, I think everyone on the island was there, all 30 people!
After 3 nights on Ilha do Mel we managed to drag ourselves away. We got the first boat off the island in the morning. I was really tired as the mosquitos had kept me awake, so I was just having a little snooze on the boat when I was woken up and told to move down to the other end of the boat as we´d got stuck on something in the water! After that little bit of drama we arrived in Paranagua where we had to take a very crowded local bus to Morretes. I spent the hour long bus journey stood up, holding on to all our luggage to stop it falling on all the elderly passengers! We could have got the bus straight to Curitiba where we needed to be, but we opted for this more difficult route in order to incorporate a train journey, ´one of the most spectacular train journeys in the world´ apparently. When we got to Morretes we had 3 hours before the train so we went to the nearest restaurant for lunch, the first time I´d eaten out in Brazil due to dwindling funds!! We had no idea what anything on the menu was so we made a random choice. Fran´s a vegetarian so couldn´t find anything to eat. The rest of us randomly picked something from the menu...we ended up with tons of food, and the main dish was rather strange....it was like a meat stew thing that came with a pot of flour which you were meant to mix together on your plate. After lunch we got on the train, our seats were on the right-hand side as advised by the lonely planet! Unfortunately we had the most annoying men in our carriage. They were cyclists (not that you´d know it by looking at them) and they were so loud and drunk and kept taking photos of everyone. The train journey was incredible, despite this! I think the best way to describe it is by copying it from my book!! `Numerous tunnels with sudden views of deep gorges and high peaks and waterfalls as the train rumbles over dizzy bridges and viaducts´. The weather was very stormy so we probably didn´t see half of it but the clouds and rain made it look all mysterious! We arrived in Curitiba with 6 hours to kill until our bus to Sao Paulo at midnight. We could have got an earlier bus but we didn´t want to be stuck in dangerous Sao Paulo in the middle of the night.
We arrived in the huge Sao Paulo bus station at about 6.30am and got a bus to Ubatuba at 7am (yes, it is a real place...a few hours North of Sao Paulo).....I have to go now so I will leave you in anticipation of my next adventures...xxx