Brazil, where to start...it's pretty much a continent in itself and with only 6 weeks to get from the very north of Venezuela to Buenos Aires, Argentina we had to pick a few key places and just bus our way past everything else. We had been warned by everybody we met that Brazil was expensive but we kept thinking 'well it couldn't cost more than Argentina'! The second we got to Brazil we realised our budget was out of the window just on bus tickets! We had travelled the whole or Ecuador for less than our first bus ticket! We got a taxi from the border to a town called Boavista and realised just how good the scenery was about to get.
We arrived the next morning in Manaus, a huge city right in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. Manaus was surprisingly nice; it had a cool square with a world renowned opera theatre! We spent a day organising a trip into the jungle and booking our boat to the coast. I was sceptical about the Amazon trips because our guide book made them sound extremely touristy, destructive to the jungle and generally just a pretty fake experience of such a natural place. The more we spoke to tour guides, however, the more I wanted to do a weeklong trip! As a cynical Brit you might think I was sucked into their sales speeches but one thing that is very hard to describe about South America is how genuine the people are and what they say is what you get. If they say you get all meals included then you eat like a king! We ended up booking a 3 day 2 night trip and it was one of the best experiences of my life. The first day and a half we were on our own with a guide but as usual in South America there were about 5 people involved in getting us to the lodge and 5 different types of transport too! For the last day and a half 2 Dutch girls, an American girl and an English girl joined us.
On our first day we arrived at the lodge, went swimming in the river and had an amazing lunch. We then set off in a tiny wooden boat with a tiny engine to look for Sloths, dolphins and get to the camp where we would stay the night in the jungle. It was quite a weird feeling getting into my hammock hearing so many animals around me knowing I was deep in the Amazon rainforest! We then heard a massive crash and our guide reassuringly said "That's just a Jaguar"! Surprisingly I slept like a baby! The next morning we got up early to go bird watching, monkey watching and to watch anything else we could find really! We then went back to the lodge, had a swim, met up with the girls and had another fantastic lunch! That afternoon we went Piranha fishing...our guide had joked "No fish, no dinner" but the amount of times he 'joked' it had started to get us all a bit worried! Embarrassingly the girls caught us a few Piranhas and Kunaal and I only managed to get extremely irate and feed the Piranhas about a kilo of bait! We then went Cayman spotting once it was dark. It was incredible how he just flashed his torch in the water and the next thing I know he's holding a 2 ft long Crocodile! Kunaal got to hold it first and decided the funniest thing to do is shove it in my face even after being told that once it bites it cannot release its jaw! We went back to the lodge and there were our Piranhas on the table ready to eat! The next day we did a jungle walk where our guide enticed a Tarantula like spider out from a tree and picked it up! We drank from water vines, tried drinking rubber and saw some huge ants' nests the size of me! The weather for the whole 3 days was amazing and the whole trip really couldn't have been any better.
The next day we got on the boat to Belem which arrived a whopping 5 days later! We were packed into hammocks like sardines and just when we thought we couldn't move a muscle to avoid bashing into people someone would put a hammock up in between us! We met 3 Swedes and a English guy which meant most of the nights got pretty messy playing ring of fire and countless other drinking orientated games! We stayed a day in Belem and then got the bus straight to Salvador with Rob while the Swedes went to a beach town further north. We went to a little beach town first called Praia de Forte and relaxed there for a couple of days. Salvador was a cool city, the city centre was old with nice architecture whereas Barra, where we stayed, was a cool beach side suburb with a party atmosphere. We got a taxi to THE place where everyone goes out...it's a car park with loads of plastic chairs and a few people selling beers from a concrete hut! It sounds shocking but it's a great place to go to have a few cheep drinks, relax with friends, meet people and its right on the beach.
We then left Rob in Salvador and got the bus to Rio. I have enjoyed Brazil until then but it hadn't really stood out like Colombia until I got to Rio...WOW! It's now my favourite city in the world beating Hong Kong, London, Barcelona, Sydney and even Buenos Aires (where I am now). I think my pictures will go a long way to explain why but apart from the amazing location and views the people are incredible. Every single girl there is absolutely stunning and everyone is so happy go lucky, funny and amazingly friendly. Nearly every interaction ends with a thumbs up and a nod even after we've appallingly tried to mix Spanglish with Portuguese! Ipanema and Copacabana beaches are world famous but somehow they felt completely relaxed and friendly. We just walked along the beaches most days just grabbing a beer every few kilometres and watching people play beach football and relax in the 30 degree heat. Compare that to Bondi beach in Sydney, for example, I don't know anybody who actually likes going to Bondi! Our first night we went to the Maracana, the massive circular football stadium which used to hold 200,000 people! We watched the local team, Vasco de la Gama play the rich Sao Paulo team, Corinthias. The next day we went to Christ Redeemer and looked over the whole city from the biggest statue in the world. We then did a Favela tour which was an amazing experience mainly because of how safe you feel. The drug lords run the Favelas and stamp out all crime so that people are not afraid to come to the Favela to buy drugs. Another incredible thing was how people have built themselves a city illegally in such prime areas of the most iconic city in South America, steal electricity, pay no tax and the city still supply them with water!
On the last morning we went up Sugar Loaf Mountain, it was an amazing day with views of the whole city but I was feeling a little worse for wear having not slept in 2 days! The reason was...LAPA! Lapa is something that would never work in England, probably not in Europe either and is the best example of how the Brazilians love to have fun without any kind of trouble. It's an all night street party by a viaduct in the centre of Rio. There is a whole strip of small clubs but outside there are streets of vendors selling 3 beers for £1.50, 3 tequila shots for £1.50 and best of all Caiparinha's for £2! A Caiparinha is a Brazillian drink similar to a Mojito but made was Cachaca (a sugar cane spirit), lots of lime, sugar and ice. The best bit about ordering these is they make it perfectly but then give you the bottle of Cachaca and let you make it as strong as you want! It feels a bit like Reading festival when you're there but then suddenly you pay £1.50 and you're in a club buying beer for an expensive £1 a can instead of 50p! We had an awesome last night out with the guys from the boat and hated them for having another week left in Rio! Against our will we had to leave Rio the next day because we had about 12 days to do Iguazu Falls, see a bit of Paraguay and Uraguay and see Buenos Aires before flying home!
We arrived at Iguazu at 6am and it was absolutely freezing compared to the 30 degrees in Rio but sadly I hear it's the same temperature as England at the moment! We saw the Brazillian side of the falls the next day which were pretty impressive, you get the view from low down in front of the falls but a little far away. The next day we popped to Paraguay for a couple of hours to see the world's second largest hydroelectric dam (we'd already seen the biggest in China!). The day after we did the Argentinean side of the falls and wow did we leave the best until last! You stand right on the edge of the falls and look over. The immense noise and spray make you realise just how massive they are. Not to take anything away from the falls but the Itaipu dam we saw the day before can process 40 times more water than the falls themselves! We then got a posh bus to Buenos Aires which had free hot food, wine and massive bed-like chairs! I'll leave it there now even though most of you are probably at work and avoiding doing any kind of physical or mental labour I think you might be getting bored! I'll do one last blog when I get home about Buenos Aires and generally summing up the whole trip. I can't believe I'll be back in England in about 4 days after being away for over 300!!