A Travellerspoint blog

El Bolsón, Argentina

Hippie town with an awesome craft and food market

sunny 27 °C

We had booked a hostel, Hostel del Viajero, which translates as Hostel of Travellers, which was also a small holding and sounded right up our street, plus they picked us up from the bus station - winner! Augustine and Laura, the couple running the 'hostel' were very sweet. It was a series of log cabins across the river from the town, on their plot of land filled with trees, fruit bushes, vegetable garden, chickens and a fire to cook food on. The beds were matresses on the floor surrounded by curtains, it was very cute and cosey and we immediately settled in, Josh making as much mess as he could in the little time to make us feel comfortable.

Our shared log cabin

Our shared log cabin

Our room

Our room

Inside the log cabin

Inside the log cabin

Nina

Nina

Rocko

Rocko

IMG_0225.jpg(Rio Negro - running next to the town and near our hostel)

We headed straight for the market in the central plaza, whilst Rob had a sleep. It was full of cheap but quality goods and we both wished it was time to buy presents for everyone at home as the jewelery, crockery and furniture was all beautiful and quite unique. We also found the food part of the market, where we ate for the rest of the week whenever the market was on (tues, thurs, sat and sun). It was full of cheap and also veggie food: pizzas, pies, cakes, home-made beer, smoothies, chips - i was in heaven! Purely by chance we met some of the guys from the hostel in Bariloche and agreed to meet up that night.

Plaza Plaga where the food and craft market was held, and music too:
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IMG_0249.jpg (Hand made Alfajores at the fruit farm. They are everywhere here and are 2 shortbread biscuits with dulce de leche in the middle - delicious but soooo sickly, even for me!)

We tried to find a club that night but the town was too quiet in the week so we hung out together in a bar for the evening instead. The rest of the week we explored the town; went to a fruit farm; got to know some of the other people staying in our cabin; walked up Mount Piltriquitron (the biggest peak on the ridge surrounding the town); had a 2hour, wonderful body massage; and relaxed in the park. Unfortunately, my body was still letting me down so I didn't make it all the ay up Mount Piltriquitron. I had tripped over the previous day and hit my face and knee on the pavement - ouch. So I walked from the refugio alone down the mountain feeling very useless and disappointed that my knee was stiff, as I really wanted to get to the top. I hitch hiked with a family down the mountain road and chilled out cooking dinner waiting for the boys to return.

IMG_0248.jpg (Fruit farm)

IMG_0242.jpg (views from Mount Piltriquitron)

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IMG_0240.jpg (the refugio 2.5 hours from the top)

We also visited Lago Puelo:
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And a puppy found us:
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She got on very well with Nina, 1 of the 2 dogs at the hostel. Rocko didn't like her too much but after searching we couldn't seem to find where she had come from. We planned to try again the next day but then she was gone - it was strange as Augustine had said he would try and ask his friends at the market if they wanted her but claimed he hadn't managed to find her that morning, she just disappeared :(

On our last afternoon I went horse riding up to the mirrador (look out) over the Rio Negro Canyon, it was breathtaking, but I forgot my camera :( Whilst i was riding Josh and Rob went to buy our tickets to return to Bariloche the next morning. We decided we had to see a glacier before we left Patagonia, seeing as none of us had ever seen one before. So we dragged ourselves to the bust station early the next morning only to discover upon arrival at Bariloche that the only bus to Pampa Linda where the glaciers were was early the next morning! Doh!

IMG_0259.jpg (El Bolson early morning)

Posted by BlondSuzie 10:24 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina

PATAGONIA!!

sunny 26 °C

IMG_0216.jpg (Laguna Nahuel Huapi - the lake Bariloche is next to)

I spent 21 hours on 2 buses to get to Bariloche and arrived to a grey and COLD day. I was completely not ready for the cold as had been in hot weather the entire time in South America, but it made a refreshing change: putting on socks and jumpers was weird! Josh had booked me into the hostel Rob and him were staying at so I headed straight there: Hostel San Antonio, on the outskirts of town. It was lovely to see them both so we hung out together for the evening in a coffee shop they had found previously, away from the cold, and eating yummy choclate cake and hot chocolate! needless to say we all walked back to the hostel feeling sick from all the sugar!! haha.

The next day me and Josh walked as far as we could get up Cerro Catedral, which was a mountain with a ski resort for the winter and a litle Swiss-looking town at the bottom. It gave us nice views and got us wanting to do longer hikes into the mountains, so the day after we did!

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The walk to Laguna Negra, a mountain-top glacier lake, was a 14km walk next to a river in a pine forest for most of the way, up and down, and then an agonising 2 hour ascent up the mountain. The dude in the hostel who reccomended the walk, hugely underestimated the length and so we went realtively unprepared with little food apart from dinner that night to cook and breakfast - oops! So after over 3 hours of up and down we reached the base of the mountain. We were all hungry but knew we had to get up there that night as we didnt have enough food to be walking all the next day and it was supposed to be magical up by the lake under the stars...so we took 10 minutes and dragged ourselves up. As soon as we hit the ascent my legs said 'no' and my tummy groaned, it was quite funny looking back as we were so silly not eating all day, it made a usually challenging but enjoyable walk, quite uncomfortable. Anyway, after many stops and a lie down at the top of the mountain, we reached the summit, crossed the peak and finally set our eyes on the beautiful Laguna Negra.

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IMG_0183.jpg (the boys and our tent right by the lake)
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We camped right by the lake and cooked our spaghetti and sauce dinner in the pan Josh and Rob had brought on a real fire that the boys delighted in making and then talking about for hours, scrupulating over whether it needed to be higher, lower, what kind of fuel was needed and how well it was cooking the food!
Refugio Italia was AMAZING! We were expecting a house with a kitchen that people could use. that's it, but instead were mer by a cosey, warm building offering a beacutiful farmers kitchen, home made pizzas and bread, beer, wine, cookies, candles and a lovely friendly atmosphere. So after our gourmet meal, we headed for the warmth of the refugio for a while. It was pretty cold and unfortunately, our small sleeping bags did not hold out, even with all our clothes, silk liners inside and a roll matt, it was a shivery night. Rob didn't even have a roll matt because he thought they were a waste of time, so he spent the night having the heat sapped out of him by the hard rock floor, not fun. We were all glad for the warmth the porridge and sunshine brought in the morning and headed back down the mountain.

IMG_0192.jpg (me on the edge of the world - amazing views!)

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IMG_0198.jpg (the waterfalls made by the snow melt lake)

When we got to the bottom, Josh and Rob decided to brave the icey waters and have a dip in the river. All I will say is they didn't stay in very long!

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IMG_0205.jpg (looking very pleased after going in the river)

IMG_0213.jpg (View from no.10 bus on the bus ride back!)
Shortly after this they had to brave the river again, but not out of choice, because the poles from the tent fell off Rob's bag and timed to perfection, it happened just at the time we spent 20 seconds walking above the river, so they disappeared into the strong current. We searched for ages and in the end Josh went in and found them trapped under a rock, unfortunately so stuck that they broke when he pulled them out. They both got out looking disappointed and frozen :( But in the end the tent rental man didn't care anyway as the tent was so old and din't have zips that worked so he probabluy was just glad we hadn't asked for our money back!

The next day we lay about aching and being very glad that we had made it up there. We caught up on our blogs as we had not the energy to do anything else. We also boooked the bus for the next day to El Bolson, as we couldn't get a hostel there that night so settled for the next night.

Posted by BlondSuzie 12:28 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Mendoza, Argentina

sunny 34 °C

We arrived in Mendoza, meaning to head to San Rafael, but the first bus was so slow that we missed our connection, so we decided to stay in Mendoza - I hadn't seen any of Mendoza yet so was happy with this decision.
We headed to a really cool hostel that the boys had stayed in briefly before; Quninto Rufino Hostel. They had a great lounge to relax in, a roof top terrace, they made your bed for you and gave us towels, which most hostels don't so that was a nice surprise.

Quinto Rufino Hostel

Quinto Rufino Hostel

We explored Mendoza the next day and organised a rafting trip for the day after. The rafting was fun, but nothing on rafting I had done before, way too easy! We spent the rest of the day sun bathing by the pool and sleeping, waiting for the bus back to Mendoza.

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View on way to rafting

View on way to rafting

Rafting river

Rafting river

The pool at the rafting place

The pool at the rafting place

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IMG_9506.jpg (I am on the right hand side of the raft, the second person back)
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We all were not feeling too well so couldn't hit the wine so we cooked for ourselves in the hostel and chilled out there watching a movie. The boys had NEVER had curry so I made a huge pot of curry, which most people in the hostel had some of as everyone was curious as to what it was. Everyone seemed to like it :)

We shopped for presents for their girlfriends and mum the next day and then went to a hug park on the edge of the city where we relaxed in the stifling afternoon heat. Then it was time to say goodbye :( as they got their bus to Buenos Aires for their last few days of their holiday, and I headed to Bariloche to meet Josh and Rob. I was sad to say goodbye; I really felt like we had been good friends for a long time and had a lot of fun together, but I promised to visit them in Brasil (how awful that will be!) and they want to come to England some day.

Next stop....Patagonia!

Posted by BlondSuzie 12:12 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Santiago, Chile

An unexpected stop, but well worth it.

sunny 28 °C

From Buenos Aires I headed to Mendoza to meet Thiago, Luiz Felipe, Leandro and Fernando, to give Rob and Josh a bit of time to catch up and I got on really well with the guys so was a good opportunity to catch up with them again. They decided at the last minute to head to santiago and then return to Mendoza a few days later so I booked a bus straight there from Mendoza's bus station and agreed to meet them the next morning when they arrived. The bus journey was beautiful; it went across the Andes! But the wait at the border was not so nice, and very cold!

The view from the bus, Mendoza to Santiago

The view from the bus, Mendoza to Santiago

I met Kris on the bus, a half Swedish, half Chilean guy on the bus who was living in Chile and making a documentary. He told me how to get to the cntre on the metro, where i could find come good hostels and agreed to meet us the next day, but we didn't find each other at the HUGE bus station so I didn't see him again! I arrived at 10pm and all the hostels I found were full, but eventually I found a hostel by accident with the help of a guy running another hostel; Plaza de Armas Hostel in a perfect central location, on the 6th floor of a beautiful building with an amazing view of Santiago and Plaza de Armas, they even had room for the boys the next day! So at 2am after emailing the guys to let them know where to come to, I crawled into a very comfy bed with fresh sheets and everything.... heaven after 2days on buses!

<em>The beautiful building our hostel was in

<em>The beautiful building our hostel was in

When I woke the next morning the boys were already at the hostel and they had met a Brasilian girl, Fabiana, on the bus so she stayed with us too. We went to get some breakfast while they waited to be able to check in and then later that day we walked around Santiago taking pics and seeing some of the sights, oh and eating delicious and cheap vegetarian pizza!

Seeing the sites in Santiago

Seeing the sites in Santiago

Universidad de Chile

Universidad de Chile

That night we went out for cocktails and to a club on Constitucion St. The music wasn't that great but we were all glad to just be able to dance and have fun.

Plaza de Armas by night

Plaza de Armas by night

View from the hostel balcony

View from the hostel balcony

Out on Constitucion St

Out on Constitucion St

The next day we recovered from the night before walking around more of Santiago; the Centro Mercado, the old train station and went to the hill with a statue of the Virgin Mary, where the views were spectacular of Santiago. Then chilled out together with other people at the hostel who seemed to have a party every night on the balcony.

Plaza de Armas2

Plaza de Armas2

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas

Art in Plaza dos Armas

Art in Plaza dos Armas

Obelisk near market

Obelisk near market

Centro Mercado

Centro Mercado

Old train station, like Grand Central Station, NY

Old train station, like Grand Central Station, NY

Fernando, Leandro, Luiz Felip, me, Thiago and Fabiana in the old train station

Fernando, Leandro, Luiz Felip, me, Thiago and Fabiana in the old train station

Church

Church

Constitucion Road, Santiago

Constitucion Road, Santiago

Virgin Mary on the hill above Santiago

Virgin Mary on the hill above Santiago

At the view of Santiago

At the view of Santiago

View of Santiago3

View of Santiago3

View of Santiago2

View of Santiago2

View of Santiago

View of Santiago

Dog sleeping in flower bed

Dog sleeping in flower bed

Church in Santiago

Church in Santiago

For our last day in Santiago we visited Viña del Mar, a coastal town 2 hours away from Santiago, and spent the day on the beach. The sea was freezing, as cold as English sea I reccon, but that didn't stop me and they all thought I was mad going in. I eventually managed to encourage the boys to come in, but only for about a minute - wimps!!

Viña del Mar

Viña del Mar

Viña del Mar

Viña del Mar

We left the next morning to go to Mendoza, but unfortunately were down to just 3 of us; me, Luiz Felipe and Thiago, as everyone else had to go back to Brasil. This time the border crossing took even longer, but at least this time I didn't have to talk to myself in boredom! LOL!

Posted by BlondSuzie 14:18 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Buenos Aires

sunny 34 °C

We celebrated New Year's Eve in Rob's hostel (Puerto Limon) with loads of other people, mostly Brasilian's, which was a nice surprise as we were really missing Brasil. We danced the night away to Funk! Then we headed out to a club and I managed to get left behind waiting for people and spent hours looking for Josh and Rob, what a wally!
We met Thiago, Luiz Felipe, Leandro and Fernando, who I travelled with to Mendoza and Santiago after BA.

We spent a couple of days walking around seeing a bit of BA. We tried to find a tango show but no luck that night, but we did then see some in the Antiques Fair the day we left. We got our first taste of Argentina; very European feeling, much less lively than Brasil but cleaner, and we didn't understand a word anyone was saying - oops, time to learn some more Spanish!

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IMG_0023.jpg (The Presidential Palace - Evita's famous balcony!)

Posted by BlondSuzie 13:59 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Foz do Iguaçu

AMAZING!!!!!

sunny 35 °C

We saw both sides of the falls; one the day after we arrived and then the next day we crossed the border on a tour with the hostel (saw the falls and then got dropped at the bus station to go to Buenos Aires for New Year's Eve).
We stayed in Hostel Paudimar and met Matt, and Australian guy who we saw the Brasilian Falls with.

FOZ DO IGUAÇU, BRASIL:

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IMG_1769.jpg (Hydro electric power plant and Itaipua Dam - supplies 75% of Uruguay's electricity and 25% of Brasil's!!)

PUERTO IGUAZU; ARGENTINA:

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P1020222.jpg (Our favourite fall, you stood right next to the bottom of it and could feel the thunderous power!!)
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P1020260.jpg (The biggest and most amazing, looking down on Garganta do Diablo!!)

Posted by BlondSuzie 13:36 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

REGUA - the last 3 weeks

sunny 39 °C

IMG_1648.jpg (The new wetlands full)

WEEK 16
We only worked for 2 days this week, finishing the recycling area and Josh's bench he had been busy making (whilst he was supposed to be resting after having his wisdom teeth removed might I add!!)

IMG_1510.jpg (Josue, me and Josh in the revamped recycling area)

IMG_1511.jpg (Josh's bench)

IMG_1512.jpg (Josh's bench, engraved)

IMG_1513.jpg (Josh, Sidinei, Regonal and Mayara testing Josh's bench)

After this we headed to Ouro Preto and Parque Natural do Caraça for the rest of the week! BEAUTIFUL PLACE!
CARAÇA:
Lobo guara (Maned Wolf) feeding on the steps of the church

Lobo guara (Maned Wolf) feeding on the steps of the church

Lobo Guara

Lobo Guara

The valley surrounding the Santuario

The valley surrounding the Santuario

Cascatinha

Cascatinha

The Church

The Church

The Santuario (the room we stayed is here)

The Santuario (the room we stayed is here)

The Courtyard

The Courtyard

The Church

The Church

Reflection of the Church in the library windows

Reflection of the Church in the library windows

The dining hall at the Santuario do Caraça

The dining hall at the Santuario do Caraça

OURO PRETO:

Chruch near our hostel

Chruch near our hostel

View of Ouro Preto

View of Ouro Preto

The Streets of Ouro Preto

The Streets of Ouro Preto

The steep and beautiful streets of Ouro Preto

The steep and beautiful streets of Ouro Preto

Ouro Preto's Main Square

Ouro Preto's Main Square

Museu de Inconfidencia - on the main square

Museu de Inconfidencia - on the main square

Church on the hill

Church on the hill

Church on the hill2

Church on the hill2

View from the church on the hill

View from the church on the hill

Another view

Another view

The Second most opulent church in Brasil

The Second most opulent church in Brasil

WEEK 17+18
We returned Monday afternoon, but very little work was going on so we caught up with people to say goodbye and helped clean and weed and sort everything for Christmas and their holidays in January.
I planted a Jequitiba tree on the day of Grandad's funeral.

IMG_1645.jpg (Jequitiba tree in memory of Grandad)

We went to Rio to buy our bus tickets to Foz de Iguaçu as we couldn't buy them online. We were leaving on the 27th as it was easier to travel after Christmas and we wanted to stay with people we knew for Christmas but when Christmas day came everyone was busy so we thought we were going to be alone, until Tom came down and invited us to lunch at his house - yay! So we cycled in the nearly 40 degree heat up the hill to their house (which nearly killed me), but got to swim in their natural swimming pool when we go there. It was lovely to be in a family for Christmas Day as we were both missing home a lot. We ate lovely food, swam in the pool and watched Fawlty Towers, LOL! We stayed over and had to brave the descent from their house on bikes without any breaks!
Needless to say there was a lot of screaming on my part and I pretty much ruined my sandals trying to use my feet as breaks! We spent the rest of the day packing and then headed to Guapiaçu late that night to say goodbye to everyone.

IMG_1291.jpg (Nicholas and Raquel's beautiful house!)

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The next day as we boarded the famous Guapiaçu bus for the last time we bid farewell to REGUA, the trees, the people, the feijao (amazing bean dish), the dogs, the feral children and our home we had made in the rainforest!! We will miss REGUA a lot :(

IMG_1154.jpg (REGUA staff, volunteers and rangers)

Posted by BlondSuzie 16:03 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

REGUA (Reserva Ecologica de Guapiaçu) - the first 15 weeks

Volunteering in the Mata Atlantica (Atlantic Rainforest) - one of the most amazing places I have ever been!

all seasons in one day 35 °C

We were at REGUA for over 4 months!! And definitely felt like part of the family there - the time just flew by!

REGUA is a reserve in the Atlantic Rainforest with the aims of conserving and restoring as much of the upper Guapiaçu river basin as possible, which at the moment is about 7,000 hectares. They also do environmental education in the community, mainly a Young Rangers programme and School visits; re-introduction of the red-billed curasow; eco-tourism at the Bird lodge; and encourage research of the flora, fauna and ecology of the rainforest. Nicholas and Raquel run the project helped by their very friendly and welcoming staff, and are backed financially by sponsors. It is a dynamic, flexible work-place and every day comes with a new surprise. We have learnt much from being here, particularly about the Brasilian people; they are very happy, welcoming, open people who have a very relaxed attitude towards keeping plans and time but work hard and are always there to help. They have become wonderful friends to us, and most of all have confirmed that you can have very little in terms of money and material possesions and live a very basic lifestyle, and still be genuinely happy!
We were involved in a little of everything at REGUA and Raquel coordinated the weeks with us, helping us solve problems (anything from teeth problems and ear ache to changing sheets and missing guides) and encouraged us to work in areas we were interested in aswel as getting the jobs done that need doing like cleaning and maintenance. When I first got there I was most interested in the reforestation side of things, seeing the forest and seeing what environmental education involved. I have been lucky to do a bit of all of these and also a bit of everything else, including some good hard manual labour and starting an English teaching programme with 2 of the other volunteers and teaching the staffs' children informally on my own. The enthusiasm of the young peole there is amazing and I can't help but be in awe of them, they are so eager to learn and will cycle miles in the rain along dirt tracks to come here for their lessons. The children whom I taught English were always asking for more lessons - it was great! The Young Rangers programme (Jovem Guardas) is a group of children from the surrouding schools aged 10-17 who go to REGUA once a week for an afternoon and get involved in a range of activities such as walking and learning about the rainforest, cleaning up their villages, recycling, learning about the planet, learning ranging skills and generally being immersed in the outdoors; showing them the incredible beauty they have around them and how special it is and that they can have a part in protecting it. We joined in on some of the activities and also went to local schools to do a presentation on recycling, which is something that is beginning to happen here, but is an alien concept, which we were asked to try and explain and promote.

We had a varied 18 weeks and so the easiest way to share this I think is by doing a summary for each week sharing some of the crazy moments, which were a regular occurence at REGUA!

WEEK 1
We arrived on the late bus at 6pm one evening and were greeted by 3 other volunteers in the rain! Holly, Sam and Humphrey then spent the next day showing us around the reserve and introducing us to the staff. 2 of them then left that weekend so left just 3 of us, which was nice because it meant meant lots of hard work in the nursery. Mauricio runs the nursery and does such a good job. He manages 25,000 trees, growing them from seeds that they collect and getting them ready for planting. He is one of our closet friends we have made at REGUA; a child trapped in a mans body and we have such fun with him!
We were given a presentation by Nicholas about what REGUA is and what they do, and we chatted about how we could be of help and what areas we were most interested in and had skills in. After this it kind of sunk in a bit more that we were actually in the rainforest in BRASIL and could actually have an opportunity to hopefully make a little bit of a difference in this wonderful project!!
At the weekend we met Tom, Nicholas and Raquel's son. He is much like his parents, energetic and fun and he invited us to Nova Friburgo the following weekend where he is at university, for a few nights out and a tour of the city - wahoo, party time!

IMG_1329.jpg (The volunteer houses)

6IMG_0958.jpg (Our first sunset at REGUA)

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IMG_1058.jpg (Mauricio's Tree Nursery)

WEEK 2
We went on our first proper trail walk this week. We went up the green trail, which is one of the marked trails patrolled by the rangers of REGUA. We had the task of putting out new marker signs and were accompanied by 2 of the rangers, both who were lovely and smiley and put up with out shocking attempts at speaking our non-existent Portuguese! We spent the day running back up and down the trail though, as we measured the markers out accurately, but then found that they had previously been put out a little wrong and so the correseponding map now did not match, so we had to change them all again to match the map! Afterwards we swam in our first waterfall at REGUA - Poço Verde - it was soooo cold but very refreshing after all the running.

IMG_0982.jpg (Poço Verde on the Green Trail - very cold but refreshing swimming)

The next day we headed out for a mornings bird spotting with Lelei. He is one of the 2 bird specialists they have here. He was a hunter in the past and stopped when he started work here, but due to his past activities he has a huge knowledge of the rainforest, knows hundreds of bird species and most amazing of all; can call the birds close and seems to be able to communicate with them! It was amazing, I couldn't believe my eyes watching him do it! He actually called birds from the trees using his voice and near perfect imitation of their calls. The birds came into the trees above us from quite some distance away and sang for quite some time, it was amazing!

IMG_1004.jpg (Lelei calling the birds)

At the weekend we headed to Friburgo and graced the local club with Tom. Everyone was so friendly and attempted English for us. We got to know Friburgo a little, which is a swiss looking town named after Freiburg where the first people who lived here came from. We spent a lot of time in the sauna nearby, had a BBQ and in 2 days I somehow managed to pick up the nickname 'Barbie' from his friends! It was a bank holiday on the monday and so we came back to Guapiacu for a glorious day in the sunshine, and my first visit to the jumping spot at the river. It is such a beautiful place, secluded and surrounded by rainforest with the perfect tree branch and rocks to do quite high jumps - incredible.

WEEK 3
More nursery work, planting ferns around the wetlands and raking leaves. They have the raking done regularly here to give a clean, neat first impression, to encourage people to look after the place whilst visiting. We also did a lot of planting this week - so we can come back in 10 years and see the rainforest that we helped plant!!
A new volunteer, Alex, arrived late thursday night so we spent time showing her around and getting to know her. We all went to Rio for the weekend for some shopping and to say goodbye to Matan, our friend we had met spent time with in Salvador and Rio de Janeiro.

WEEK 4
Another new volunteer arrives (Paul). More nursery work and some planting. I completed my community outreach purely by accident by missing the last bus home from Cachoeiras de Macacu (the nearest big town an hour away) and eventually having to have a lift back off the police - oops!
We walked on the newly purchased land with Nicholas trying to find the original land markers and then walked back through Matumbo - which was a scorchingly hot walk, but beautiful too. In true Brasilian under-estimation style, Nicholas said it was an obvious route back, only one path and would take us an hour. So after 2 T-junctions on the path and 2 and a half hours later we arrived at the reserve!HAHA! Oh and we saw some huge spiders on the way back - I know I'm a Zoologist, but GROSS!!

IMG_1097.jpg (Huge spider)

IMG_1115.jpg (Walking back through Matumbo)

IMG_1113.jpg (A typical bar here)

WEEK 5
Me and Alex did a huge sort of the recycling, which was disgusting as it was weeks and weeks worth of rubbish mixed in, and with the heat and all the bugs/maggots/cockroaches - it was pretty awful! Was good to have it all sorted though and we decided to design a banner and some signs for the bins to make it even more clear that only clean recycling was to go in. We completed and presented our recycling presentation to the staff and rangers this week too. They were very open and all seemed to really enjoy it and take in what we had said - success!
On Saturday there was a cycle ride followed by a party to raise money for one of the schools in the village of Matumbo. Josh had spent the week assesing and mending the reserves bikes so that we could all participate. Somehow he worked a miracle and got 4 bikes up and running - so off we went at 7am on saturday morning, joined by the Young Rangers and school children. Unfortunately disaster struck quite quickly and one of the bikes gears fell off, followed by another bikes' wheel rim splitting in half and then another losing its pedal! It was crazy, but showed how old and neglected the bikes were. So we spent the rest of the cycle ride taking it in turns. Luckily we were followed by REGUA's red van in case of emergencies so we were able to hop in and out. We then planted some trees with the children and headed to the party. Much to our surprise there was BINGO and the prizes were.......... bikes! So we all brought cards and sat for HOURS playing 10 games of BINGO! I was the only one mad enough to play right through to the end, but no luck whatsoever, so back to the drawing board about the broken bikes! It was Mauricio's birthday and we were joined by Lelei, Andre and some of the other rangers for a bit of a celebration. Then later the frog researches joined us too so we were quite a crowd! We went back to the Research House (Casa Pesquisa) after the party and were shown their dead frog collection and photos of the frogs they had found - very interesting activities for a party! LOL!

IMG_1049.jpg ('A Fantastic little blue bike' HAHA!)

IMG_1175.jpg (Guapiaçu bike ride)

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IMG_1215.jpg (Mass tree planting after the bike ride)

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IMG_1042.jpg (pasture land and palm oil plantations together - 2 of the biggest causes of rainforest destruction!

IMG_1240.jpg (Me and Mauricio at the Matumbo party)

WEEK 6
More raking and nursery work this week aswel as the task of clearing the wetlands of Duck Weed that covers the whole of the surface. Josh set to work problem solving what sort of net or scoop device we should make and then the 5 of us (including another new volunteer, Jenny) sat sewing and moulding lead to make a weighted net and headed to the wetlands in he rain to try it out with their 2 little boats. Unfortunately no success as there was just so much of it that it got clogged in seconds! Back to the drawing board!
We helped Nicholas photograph the wetlands before the drainage was to be blocked up.

IMG_1283.jpg (Nicholas taking pics)

IMG_1279.jpg (The 'new' wetalnds before they were full)

IMG_1263.jpg (Jararaca - the most deadly snake here - found in the wetlands behind our house!)

The day before our VISAs were to run out, Josh and I headed to Rio de Janeiro airport with Alçeni to go to the VISA office. Alçeni is one of the drivers and general helpers here. He is a little man with a huge smile, who always dresses smartly, unfortunately giving him a look of an African dictator. He knows quite a lot of English and talks so much, always asking what everything is in English and teaching us Portuguese. He has been known to talk his way out of any situation including not having the right documents with him for the van he was driving, which usually would result in quite a hefty fine and not being able to drive any further, but he apparently managed to talk at the policeman for so long that they let him off! He always greets everyone with a big smile and the girls with 2 kisses on the cheeks, even if you have seen him a few hours previously! He was as usual on top form on this occasion. We left at 6am and discussed the words for clouds, right through to saying you had arrived at the airport! Luckily Josh was more awake than me so he held the fort. Alçeni also pointed out some of the local Japanese community by shouting "Japo" out of the window - which he acted like was a perfectly normal thing to do. We couldn't believe he had done it, i laughed so hard i nearly fell out of the van door! We got our VISA extended so spent the rest of the day walking around Rio and travelling back to REGUA, very happy to still be there!!

IMG_1458.jpg (Alçeni - the guy on the left)

WEEK 7
We had a physically hard week this week - which I LOVED! It started with moving wheelbarrows and wheelbarrows of soil for Mauricio in the nursery in the blazing sun, but it was fun and we all felt great when it was done. The week continued this way and by the weekend when me and Josh and Jenny headed to Rio, we felt grateful of the rest. We tried out a new hostel, where we stayed in a lovely room and headed to the cinema as the rain would not relent. I bid Josh farewell at the bus station and headed back to REGUA as he went off for an adventure of his own. I ran into trouble straight away alone as they had double booked my seat on the coach and told me I had to wait 2 hours for the last bus where there were free seats! This meant I would miss the last bus back to REGUA, which was not good news! I pleaded for them to let me on, and evenutally was let on with the help of 6 people, one lady who spoke some English, all trying to help me and arguing with the bus driver and cashier ladies to let me on! It was amazing, I couldn't believe that they had all gone out of their way to help me and to such lengths too - I couldn't stop smiling all the way back!

WEEK 8

There was a Fereado Naçional (Bank Holiday) on Monday so we headed into Guapiaçu (one of the 2 nearby villages) with Raquel who took us for a swim at Prainha - a small beach like area on the curve of the river. It was quite busy, with people coming all the way from Rio for the bank holiday weekend in Guapiaçu! It was a great swimming spot.
We gave our recycling presentation to the children of Guapiaçu school, which they seemed to enjoy and were invited to dinner at Zilma's house (a local lady interested in telling us about the local folklore) the next evening. It was an interesting evening at Zilma's. We met Erika, her daughter, a lovely girl my age who is learning English and kept me company whilst the others were waffling away in Portuguese. I had tried to get out of going for the meal as I didn't want Zilma to be put out cooking vegetarian for me, but she insisted that she would be cooking beans anyway so it was fine. It ended up with me being a bit of a spectacle to her and her friends who kept popping in though; they couldn't believe someone would choose not to eat meat!

IMG_1316.jpg (Teaching at Guapiaçu school)

That weekend was Sidinei'is birthday so there was celebrations at REGUA. Sidinei is the groundskeeper here, the one we help with all the raking and maintenance. He walks like a cowboy and can fix and do anything anyone needs, much like Josue who is the handyman. He lives on site with his wife Lisangela (one of the cooks here) and their 2 children, Cassiano and Mayara. I have fallen in love with both of these children. Mayara is 8 and is a feral child who is a complete DIVA already. She is so strong willed and has such a character but is a real sweety too. Cassiano is 15 and very shy but over time has come out of himself with me and Josh.
Anyway, the family and also most of the staff are Evangelical, so for his brithday they arranged that the church would come to their house. So we had an evening filled with preaching, shouting and very loud singing and the biggest cake I have ever seen. It was as big as 2 of the dining tables here and I helped serve enormous wedges of it to the huge conregation that had turned up on the local Gupiaçu-Cachoeiras bus! The next day the celebrations continued with a BBQ and after we swam in the river with Tom.

IMG_1422.jpg (Mayara)

IMG_1308.jpg (Cassiano)

IMG_1504.jpg (The famous 'Colletivo Guapiaçu)

IMG_1507.jpg

WEEK 9
Another hard and varied week, starting with lunch delivery up the Green Trail to some tourists on a walk. Then filling in all the holes along the access road to REGUA with Paul, which took us all day, about 50 wheelbarrows full of gravel and a whole swimming pool of sweat! We also weeded all around the volunteer houses with large hoes (an amazing tool which we just don't use at home and should!) and I kept one of the tourists company at hospital for a couple of afternoons as his wife was quite ill and wanted to go home. He happened to be from a Banking family in England and was a rather interesting, extroverted, very friendly character, who kept us all entertained with his ideas and stories.
That weekend Alex, Paul and Jenny (the 3 other volunteers) headed to Teresopolis to explore. I decided to stay behind and have a bit of quiet time to myself. It was nice to just read and write my journal and walk all alone for a change, but a little scary being alone at night, especially with the monster that lives in our roof!

WEEK 10
I met up with Josh this week and together we went to explore Sana, a place we had told we could not miss, by Jonathon in Itacare. Unfortunately we got the wrong time of year for it and everything was shut. We enjoyed the tranquility though and had a lovely walk up towards a famous stone on the mountain. After Sana, which was a bit of an anti-climax, we headed back into Rio for the weekend to meet Alex and Jenny for some partying. We went to the strangest exhibition in Lapa, it was a mixture of documentary showing, ballet, clowns, tight-rope walking, interactive art and displays - really fun. After we hit Lapa's finest club, the one of the corner with no windows, just an enormous sound system, a lot of Brasilian Funk and lots of people dancing. It was perfect and we danced the night away, Jenny and Alex seeing the Brasilian Funk dancing for the first time - much to their horror. A Brasilian lasy helped us and I remembered a few moves I'd learnt, and away we went - it must have looked ridiculous!

WEEK 11
Another Bank Holiday, which meant the horses had the day off, so me Cassiano, Mayara, Reginal (Cassiano and Mayara's friend) and Paul headed to the river for a swim on the horses! The horses were a little fresh after 3 days of no work, but Cassiano was amazing with them and rode the most nuts horse, controlling it in a calm and impressive manner. We swam in Prainha then rode back in the thunder storm. This resulted in us cantering through the village (not very wise) and most of the way back to REGUA in the huge storm - we were soaked, but all still smiling and enjoying the exhiliration.
The rest of the week was filled with various tasks, cleaning windows, cleaning the pool, and walking in the forest on the newly purchased Lengruber land with Mauricio and Masias (one of the rangers) to collect seeds.

IMG_1375.jpg

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It was scorching hot so every afternoon we played in the pool with Cassiano, Mayara and Reginald as there were no tourists at the lodge. It was such a welcome relief from the ever rising, stifling heat, and lots of fun being silly for hours with the children. Mayara's hair amazed me every day, it was like a sponge and didn't really get wet, it was baffling!
That weekend was hot still so we headed to Guapiaçu and spent most of the day by the river. Tom came with us and arranged to meet us for some drinks as it had been his brithday that week. After the river we all sat in a bar by the river; Jo, Bruce Baby Jetson, Paul, Josh, Lisa and I, then me and Josh stayed to wait for Tom. He never showed so we hung out with Mauricio and Irdes his friend, who had a gorgeous big motorbike, which everyone wanted a go on.
The next day we went back to Guapiaçu, Jo and Bruce had some interviews to do there so we all met at the river again and then me Josh and Lisa stayed in for a drink with Tom and Irdes. It was so hot that when it rained we all stayed sitting in it and got soaked and a little cooler....for a few minutes until the sun came back out!

IMG_1406.jpg (Prainha)

IMG_1403.jpg (Prainha2)

IMG_1410.jpg (Jetson and Josh)

IMG_1160.jpg (View from the bridge at Guapiaçu)

WEEK 12
I spent most of this week ill with a middle ear infection. Josue kindly took me into Cachoeiras to the hospital, as he had the shopping to do there. We ended up seeing one doctor then driving around 6 other clinics on his referral to try and find an ear specialist to see me! Josue was so nice and went into every clinic asking for me and trying to sort it out. By this point I couldn't believe how much pain I was in, from something as simple as an ear infection! I hadn't eaten for a while as my jaw hurt, and now my head and back were throbbing too and I couldn't take any medication as they didn't know what the specialist would give me so I nearlly fainted whilst waiting 7 hours for an open clinic that evening - I felt like such a wimp! Josue was my hero though and looked after me so well, he even brought me Doce de Leite (condensed milk toffee) filled cake to try and get me to eat! He is such a good man, and one of the main staff here. He is very shy, but very friendly and kind too and works very hard. His wife is Patricia, one of the cooks who works in the kitchens here. She is the opposite of him and is very strong and domineering, but lovely too.
I finally saw the specialist and she gave me 7 DIFFERENT DRUGS!! I couldn't believe it, I don't think I have taken this many before all at once, but withing half an hour of taking them I felt a whole world better.
Later that week we all went to a planting site about half an hours drive away, with Alçeni in the Land Rover. Unfortunatley there had been an ongoing problem with the car and whilst waiting for the part to mend it, it had just been welded to keep it going. Well at the moment we had just crossed a Ford in the Land Rover and were going up a steep hill, the car decided to give out, so we ended up rolling back down the hill, into the river and luckily hitting a boulder which stopped us - thank goodness it hadn't been one of the bridges we had crossed earlier that we crashed back into!! Anyway, it was a close call with Paul and Alçeni escaping going under the car, but everyone was ok. Another adventure at REGUA!
It was not my lucky week with vehicles that week though as 2 days after that at the weekend I had 2 small accidents on Motorbikes with the boys, in the same night, and ended up rather battered and bruised. Don't worry Mum, lesson learnt - I don't like motorbikes anymore!

WEEK 13
We had a slower week this week, with 2 of the guided walks we were supposed to do called off due to no show of guides :( But they were replaced with lots of digging and helping Marley (Sidinei's mum) and Mauricio in the nursery, which is always fun! I also got to play vet to one of the dogs who had two 10 pence sized holes in his side from what they call 'Berny', which is like a bot fly. It inserts its eggs under the skin and then they eat their way out, getting bigger and bigger. Well this one maggot had grown to an enormous size and was sticking out of the dogs side. No-one else wanted to touch it so I pulled it out, along with about 12 other smaller maggots - GROSS!
There was yet another fereado (bank holiday) that friday (i'm not complaining!) and so we all chilled out together with Tom too, then headed into Cachoeiras for the 'African day' celebrations, which turned out to be like a school show, of children doing dancing and capoeira etc. Whilst we were gone, there was a HUGE storm with 100km+ winds which blew some of the trees down and the electricity pylons too. It was very very localised, which is what is even more amazing, because we were only half an hours drive away and had no wind, rain or anything, just sun!

WEEK 14
We spent the first couple of days collecting the sacks that they use to grow the saplings in, from the planting sites. Unfortunatley they have to use plastic sacks (like a big plant pot) at the moment as they don't know what else to use. It creates a huge amount of waste because when the saplings are planted out the bag has to be ripped and so is unusable again! Me and Josh have been brainstorming this at Nicholas and Raquel's encouragement to see
what else could be used.....watch this space, lol!
We finally did one of the famous walks that Raquel often talked about this week - to Salina's, Friburgo. It was all uphill (or should i say up-mounthrough secondary rainforest, which was beautiful and we couldn't believe we were actually walking to Friburgo, a city that takes an hour on the bus around the mountains, and we were just going to walk over them! We walked all up the 'paved way', which is actually just stones put on a very narrow path, all uphill. It was done by slaves, which must have taken them forever. It used to be the main pass to Friburgo from this side of the mountains, so people would grow their goods and than walk this way to sell them in Friburgo. This was very hard with donkeys so they decided to have it paved, crazy! Unfortunately the paving actually makes it more dangerous now as they rocks are slick, wet and covered in moss and algae - perfect conditions for a slide all the way down the mountain. We all fell whilst walking down, and it was exhausting, so we were very glad when we eventually arrived back at the car!

IMG_1448.jpg (Josh in a fallen tree on the walk to Salina's)

The next day there was an end of year BBQ for the staff and their families. It was lovely to see everyone and all the children and was a nice way for everyone to say goodbye to Paul (one of the voilunteers) who was leaving the next day. We woke up super early the next day - at 5.30am (i bet you didnt think i could ever wake up that early did you Dad!)- to go to Rio Water Planet with Erica and Irdes and some other people form Guapiaçu. It was ace, and we had a day running around like children on all the slides! It was very sweet of them to all include us like we had known them for ages!

IMG_1420.jpg (Churasco time)

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IMG_1421.jpg (Sidinei doing the BBQ)

IMG_1347.jpg (Wendesson, me, Mayara and Marlesson)

IMG_1470.jpg (Guapiaçu crew at Rio Water Planet)

WEEK 15
Josh had his next 2 wisdom teeth removed so I was basically working alone this week, as he needed to rest and stay out of the sun, and Lisa (the only other volunteer left) was doing her own thing. I did get to go to Friburgo though and hang out with Tom - shopping! We said goodbye to Jo, Bruce, Jetson and Lisa.........and then there was 2!! We also said goodbye to Raquel and Nicholas as they were heading to England for 3 weeks for talks with the donors of REGUA.
At the weekend we woke up early again for the super early bus to go to Aleni's house with Mauricio for the day. Aleni is the reforester here, she works independantly from REGUA on a government project but works with Mauricio too, collecting seeds, making a catalogue etc. We had a BBQ, a swim and she took us to see Jequitiba (pronounced Yikitchiba). It is one of the last few remaining 'giant' trees - it is truly amazing. This tree is so big it takes 13 men to get around its circumference holding hands and is 40 metres tall! AMAZING! I planted one of these in memory of Grandad, as did Josh, so my great-great-great grandchildren can come back in 1000 years and see how special it is!

IMG_1476.jpg (HUGE seed)

IMG_1488.jpg (Giant Jequitiba tree)

IMG_1491.jpg (Mauricio and his daughter, Aleni, me and Josh in front of Jequtiba tree)

IMG_1493.jpg (Jequitiba info)

The last 3 weeks are on a separate blog entry as I wrote too much to fit on one page - oops!

Posted by BlondSuzie 15:36 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Rio de Janeiro

One amazing, beautiful city!

sunny 30 °C
View The route on BlondSuzie's travel map.

In the end we were in Rio for 3 weeks and loved it! We arrived on the bus from Porto Seguro and went straight to Mellow Yellow - a hostel with mixed reviews but where the guys we had met in Lencois were going to stay so to meet up with them we decided to go there first. They arrived the next day and in true Mellow Yellow style we ended up staying 8 nights!! Ooooops. It was over-priced and pretty grungy, 3-tired bunk beds that made you feel like you were sleeping on the ceiling, and definitely showed its true colours as a mass city hostel for hundreds of people. The bathroom floors were gross and warranted flip-flops all the time, which i constantly forgot then walked around on tip-toes to keep minimum amount of foot in contact with the floor. Ok so it wasn´t that bad, but the funny thing is a lot of people come there as their first stop straight off the plane and think that this is what hostels are like! The pousadas and hostels in Brazil have been nicely surprising, and this was more expensive and less nice than all the others which didn´t seem such a good deal!

So we spent the week with the guys going to the various parties/clubs around Rio and then slepping in late the next day and missing the sun. Kinda silly but we got a good feel of Rio and managed to do some of the tours and walks in the afternoons. One afternoon after we all just got to breakfast for 1pm we decided to walk around Centro on the walk described in the Lonely Planet. Josh, Icke and his brother, Deena, Cathy, Abraham, Ashley, Ariel and me wondered around the old streets of Rio and had the best day! We saw a different side of Rio that we hadn´t seen yet and we all agreed that we felt we liked Rio even more after seeing all of that. We visited the lapa steps where the Snoop Dogg and Pharell music video ´Beautiful´was filmed (have a look on youtube if your not sure and see the steps we´re sat on!) and saw the famous arches that the tram to Santa Teresa goes on.

P1000988.jpg (Uruguiana market)

P1000997.jpg (famous faces on a beautiful building on our walk around Centro)

P1010003.jpg (Centro)

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P1010037.jpg (huge stained galss windows in Rio´s strange Darlick look-a-like Cathedral)

P1010056.jpg (the story of the Lapa steps)

P1010054.jpg (Icke, Chima, Ashley, Ab, Me and Josh all posing on the Lapa steps)

P1010052.jpg (me relaxing on the steps - Hayley you should be proud of me, I´m posing!!)

P1010039.jpg (the famous Arco do Lapa (Lapa Arches) - that the tram goes across)

On Sunday we went to the Maracana stadium and watched Flamengo (a Rio team) vs. Corintians (a Sao Paulo team). The crowd were wild, it was such a good atmosphere (waiting for photos from ash!) Then to a Funk´party in one of the favelas, which was fun but it seems people had peed all over the lower dance floor so wearing flip-flops was an experience! Me and these 2 blonde Irish girls also experienced a bit more of the relentless Brasilian men´s confidence towards women - apparently if you like it, grab it and kiss it!! Lucky for them they didnt get a Muay Thai elbow in their face - after the 3rd pull away and yell, they kinda got the message, lol.

So the guys left on tuesday and we moved to a different hostel called CabanaCopa - which is so nice!! The guy running it and the receptionist are so lovely and the receptionist also happen to be a beautiful Brasilian woman - needless to stay I think Josh really likes the place and will stay for a while :) Matan arrived from Salvador on tuesday so we caught up with him on wednesday which was really nice. I went to a club with some guys I had met in Mellow Yellow and been out with the night before, we went to ´House´ which was a fun night of live samba then hip-hop, RnB and Funky. I have completely fallen in love with Brasilian Funky music. Its like fun, fast hip-hop/RnB, but the dancing to it is quite different - lets just say that it would certainly kick up a storm at home if someone danced like this. So I am to try and bring some back with me and see if it takes on in England.

Me and Josh hit Uruguiana market one day with a hope to find Brasilian sim cards, havaianas (the ONLY make of flip flops in Brasil - EVERYONE has them) and long sleeved tops to keep away the mossies in the jungle. No luck on any as even though the only thing we did find was Brasilian sim cards, we now have to go and register them somewhere and so are still on the UK ones! It was busy and was entertaining to just walk through and hear how each of the stalls attract people to stop. One stall had a beautiful Brasilian woman who spoke some English beaming at everyone. I´m female and she even had me captivated - the men had no chance! We headed back to meet others at the hostel to head up Pao de Açucar (Sugar Loaf mountain) for sunset.
It was worth the week or so wait as we travelled up in 2 cable cars and caught a glimpse of the view - the whole of Rio spread between mountains and sea, and the day couldn´t have been more beautiful and sunny - it was perfect! There was even monkeys up on the first mountain which I had to be dragged away from to carry on up to Sugarloaf. As the sun started to go down me and Josh didn´t realise what a good view place we were stood in until everyone crowded round behind us, standing on benches and hanging over the edge to get a picture. We stayed up until well into darkness (and coldness might I add), but could have stayed there all night enjoying the view.

P1010260.jpg (the cable cars to Sugarloaf Mountain)

IMG_0760.jpg (one of the monkeys that are quite common in Brasil)

P1010246.jpg (Sugarloaf Mountain)

P1010253.jpg (MORE photos of Cargoships (taken from Sugarloaf) - i think i have a problem!)

P1010271.jpg (Sunset on Sugarloaf Mountain)

P1010339.jpg (Rio at night from Sugarloaf Mountain)

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We moved to Ipanema for a few nights, as the area is much more busy and every building on the main street is a shop or somewhere to eat or get dessert, which is more likeable than Copacabana which has less going on. We stayed at a hostel on a little alleyway that is lined with small hostels. Ours was called ´A girl from Ipanema Beach´- it was nice and cosey and cheaper than the others but when they said breakfast, they meant tea and coffee - how is that breakfast??!! The beach at Ipanema is great too, and is so full at the weekends. There is not a chance of finding anyone on there though so when we naively arranged to meet Fred, Nick and Chris on the beach between Posts 9 and 10, we got there to be faced with literally a sea of people strewn along about a mile stretch that was between Posts 9 and 10! Its a cleaner beach than Copacabana and better for swimming and people watching so we enjoyed a couple of days on our own, fighting the waves and spotting the best bums - Josh´s idea of a good game, lol.

P1010354.jpg (Ipanema beach)

P1010353.jpg (Ipanema beach again)

We moved back to CabanaCopa as Josh was pining for beautiful Brazilian women and we wanted to be closer to Matan who we wanted to see a bit more. We cycled around the Lake (Lagoa) on a tandem the next day, it was a beautiful day and the lake looked AMAZING. Some of the city surrounded it and you could see Cristo Redentor up on the mountains!

IMG_0779.jpg (Josh with the tandem!)

IMG_0771.jpg (Lagoa Rodriga de Freitas)

IMG_0792.jpg (Feeling arty)

For my brithday we decided to go and see a busy music and food market out of the main part of Rio and then the National Museum. Unfortunately it rained all day :( The worst weather i think i have ever had on my birthday and i'm in Brazil - what is that about??! The market was mostly shut, perhaps due to it being thursday (not being a weekend) but in the guide it didnt mention that. So we walked around the sad looking market in the rain then traipsed off to the Museum which was ok but also a bit of an anti-climax (only because we had the Natural History Museum, London as our frame of reference!) It was a lovely relaxed day tho and Josh took me to dinner at a YUMMY 'pour kilo' restaurant in Ipanema. Unfortunately it was a lot more than expected (still less than 10 pounds each!) so we only just had enough to get the minivan back otherwise we would have had to walk miles in the rain - we literally had 15 cents of cash left when we got back!
Some of the girls in the hostel had brought me a slice of cake, which was very sweet, and we all hung out together before going to Zero Zero, a rather swanky club which is usually pretty expensive but not on a thursday night - YAY! Matan, the girls, Danny (an American guy who had arrived that day) and Arden came with us and it was fab. All my fave songs came on and we danced for hours!

On the girls last night we all went to Mangueira Samba party, which is supposed to be the rehersals for Carnival the next year (they reherse every week until February!) It was a huge hall full of families and people of all ages, drinking and eating and dancing samba. The lights were on so we all felt quite self conscious trying to dance samba but as the night went on it got easier (i think the drink may have helped :) )

We planned to leave to go to REGUA (our first volunteer project) that weekend but had to wait for the hospital to be open for Josh to go and see a doctor about this very weird thing on his foot. Much to our relief they didn't think it was a worm under the skin like many people had told us it was, so he got some cream and we excitedly headed for REGUA the next day!!

Posted by BlondSuzie 16:19 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

Salvador-Take 2, then Porto Seguro and Arraial dÁjuda

sunny 28 °C
View The route on BlondSuzie's travel map.

We decided it was time to head to Rio de Janeiro so we had to head back to Salvador to catch a bus to Rio and so decided to stop off in Salvador again to spend a bit more time with Lobke and Elodie before they left, and to see Matan again, who was still staying at the Nega Maluca hostel practicing Capoeira everyday. Then after that to break up the 30 hour bus journey to Rio from Salvador, we looked at the map and decided to then stop at Arraial dÁjuda.

It was so nice to have a friendly greeting from Katryny, the receptionist at Nega Maluca in Salvador. She is a small Brasilian woman who taught me to dance some forro when we were out at Sakofa, a salsa/samba club and always smiled at us after that - probably remembering how badly i danced! We didnt get to Salvador until late due to road works between Lençcis and Salvador so we quicky got in touch with Lobke and Elodie and waited for Matan to get back from practice. We missed the street party and then unfortunately drove around in a taxi for 30 minutes trying to find Beto´s appartment in a Barra where everyone was hanging out but got there just as people were leaving :( Instead we spent the evening hanging out with Matan, playing the guitar and chatting to everyone.

We spent the next couple of days going to the beach (the one at Villa des Atlantico; a beautiful, quiet beach about an hour away from Salvador, and Barra; the locals beach) and remarking at how much more friendly and safe Salvador felt the second time around. Perhaps because we were a bit more accustomed to the vibe of South America and being away from the familliarities of home, and also perhaps becuase we felt happier.

Just off the bus at Porto Seguro, we met Oliver, walking away from the bus station with a local, so to save money we walked the 2 miles or so to Porto Seguro with them, with our packs on, in the midday heat - which surprisingly didn´t kill us!! We walked around Arraial trying to find a pousada and were guided to one which seemed like miles away which had a pool, friendly (maybe gay??) owners and a room just for the 3 of us for a good price. We headed straight to the EcoParque and spent the day acting like kids; on waterslides, in the lazy river and being ripped off for some disgusting crisp-like food which turned out to be off-cuttings of pastry, fried and then served at some astonishing price - yuk!!

IMG_0636.jpg (the view from the main road at Porto Seguro)

IMG_0639.jpg (the Ferry from Porto Seguro to Arraial d´Ajuda)

IMG_0643.jpg (Buganville Pousada - our room!)

We used the buses to and from the port a few times, aswel as the combi-vans and found out that the buses are ALL free for the local school kids, which was realy nice to hear. On our first night there Oliver and Josh met a drunk who told them that he had been to EVERY country and had 4 wives - crazy! But he also told them that the following day there would be a Capoeira show as i finale for the championships that had been in Arraial the few days before (that we were completely unaware of!). We eventually found the place as they don´t advertise anything here in Brasil, you have to ask or just fall across it! Anyway, it was AMAZING! It was the School - Sul da Bahia´s championships that happens every 2 years and we were watching the celebration of them all passing their transitions to the next level. There was dance shows of all kinds from tango to theater mixed with dancing and LOADS of Capoeira from people of all ages. We watched for hours and couldn´t believe how lucky we were that we had seen such an important event.

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P1000940.jpg (drums at the Capoeira Show)

P1000954.jpg (salsa dancing at the Capoeira championships)

P1000945.jpg (traditional theatre/dance)

On our last of the 3 days at Arraial we decided to horse ride along the beach, but when the horses turned up we soon turned it down. They were skinny, MUCH too small for Josh and Oliver to ride, and when I brought this up with the man, he proceeded to show us how fast he (a tiny man) could gallop the horses along the cobble road and then pull them to a halt all of a sudden so that they skidded all over the place; as if this was some sort of proof that these souless looking creatures were fine for 2 big guys to canter around :(

We were sad to leave Oliver but caught the 20 hour bus to Rio that evening. It flew by for me as I fell asleep straight away after being ill and staying up late all of the week before. I woke as we reached the service station for dinner (pour kilo restaurant) and then fell asleep after!! In the morning after breakfast of fruit at a stupidly overpriced pour kilo restaurant (restaurants that are popular in Brazil where there is a huge buffet of different food and you pay per weight - the ones in Salvador were awful!) they put on a movie and to our happy surprise - it was in English!! After this we started driving into Rio so we watched as the scenery turned from greenery and hardly any signs of civilisation - to sky scrapers and billboards - very American. We took loads of pictures as we drove past the port, I now have a strange obsession with Cargo ships, and the excitement heightened as we saw that one of them was a Maruba and another an MSC!!!!!

IMG_0676.jpg (a car container ship - my new love and obsession - cargo ships!)

IMG_0675.jpg (an MSC container ship - we raced the MSC Japan at one point on our journey here - Udo and Daniel, this is for you!)

Rio - wahoo!!!!!!!!!

Posted by BlondSuzie 17:32 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Lençois and Parque Naçional da Chapada Diamantina

Swimming in waterfalls, caves and sunset on Pai Inaceu

sunny
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So I am a bit late writing this (ok VERY late), have been meaning to for a while....

We eventually left Itacare after 13 days including about 2 days of trying to decide where to go next (you know what I´m like at decisions!) And decided that even though we would be retracing our steps back up North, it would be worth it for the beautiful Parque Naçional da Chapada Diamantina. So we said a sad farewell to ´le chat´(our adopted kitten) and Jonathon and Janey - the couple who were running Buddy´s hostel where we were staying and to Davien and Lynsey - a couple who had been living in Port Allegre and loved Itacare so much they were looking for somewhere to live there!

We arrived in Lencois the next day and were pleased to find a beautiful little town surrounded by national park, it was everything we had imagined Salvador to be - colourful houses, cobbled streets, kids playing and people making crafts and food on the streets - but without the mass poverty and degradedness (is that a word??) of everything that is found in Salvador. It was so sweet. We met Lobke, a dutch girl, on the way to our Pousada, Pousada Dos Duendes, and decided to all do a tour together the next day then spent the evening walking around the little streets taking in the idyllic surroundings.

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The tour ended up being amazing. We were the only 3 English speaking people so fortunately for us they put us on our own with an English speaking guide named Lee. She took us in her car and took us around individually for the whole day! She was nuts, but in a good way and had stories for every place. We started off going to Poço Diablo (Devil´s Well), a swimming hole with a warerfall on the Rio (river) Mucegzinho. The pool was named after the slaves who had dived for diamonds at the bottom of the 8-10 metre deep pool and died doing so. The water was tea coloured due to plant tannins, which made it look really dark in colour and make you hair and skin feel so soft afterwards. We swam for a while in this beautiful pool - it was incredible and so refreshing from the heat of the day!

IMG_0402.jpg (feeding monkeys)

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IMG_0419.jpg (Poço Diablo and the waterfall - we swam under this - it was unreal)

IMG_0411.jpg (beautiful flowers - taken with Macro - thanks to Josh´s teaching!)

Next we bundled back into the car, stopping for photos of the camel mountains, and the three brothers mountains, on to Lapa Doçe, a cave with strange and wonderful stalagmite and stalagtite formations, viewed with a guide and his lantern, in the pitch black. There was also a very interesting sign outside the caves - instructing us as to what we could and couldn´t do in the caves! (see below)

IMG_0477.jpg (jellyfish stalagmite)

IMG_0473.jpg (ínteresting stalagmite)

IMG_0452.jpg (another interesting stalagmite, lol - sorry had to put these up!)

IMG_0438.jpg (a very informative sign - see the picture on the right!)

IMG_0432.jpg (the knotted tree)

Then to lunch - where Lee gave us a commentary on all the food and where it came from and where we could find the plants, and then to Blue Cave and Pratinha Cave. Blue Cave is named so as the minerals in the water, mainly calcium, turn the water brilliant blue in the sunlight best viewed between 1 - 3pm. We then snorkelled in the darkness (kinda pointless snorkelling) in Pratinha Cave and Lee kindly asked the guys running the snorkelling if we could snorkel out into the lake after to see the fish - it was beautiful, and we lost track of time as we swam watching the schoals of fish dance and loop around the plants.

IMG_0499.jpg (Blue Cave)

IMG_0512.jpg (snorkelling in Pratinha Cave)

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IMG_0490.jpg (air roots - these are so strange, the tree drops roots from up high and when they reach the ground, they can dig in and become thick trunks!)

Minutes after this we were hurtling toward Pai Inacio in Lee´s little VW Gol along the dirt tracks with pot holes that make Froxmere Lane look like a paved motorway! Then a hike up the mountain taking weird posed shots on the way at Lee´s demonstration (see below), and listening to the beautiful love story of Inacio and the Colonel´s Wife! All building up to the sunset - WOW!

IMG_0530.jpg (enjoying the view of Pai Inacio)

IMG_0532.jpg (the heart of Pai Inacio - can you see the stone?)

IMG_0542.jpg (Josh flying)

IMG_0545.jpg (Lee falling off!)

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IMG_0546.jpg (me, Josh and Lobke)

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After seeing a bit of everything that day we decided to take a non-guided walk out of Lençois the next day, following our trusty Lonely Planet Guide. I quote á walk for the adventurous but no need for a guide...´turned out to be utter crap, as the simple walk it explained in a few words turned out to lead into a maze of dust paths into the wilderness of Chapada Diamintina. So after half an hour walking away from the river as there were no paths that followed the river like it said, we took a short cut through the bush, being super wary of snakes, back to the river and went back to find a guide - a 12 yr old boy who had offered to guide us earlier on. So we visitied a swimming holes and a little waterfall - aptly named Cachoeirinha (Little Waterfall) and when he had to leave we followed a group of chatty French people with their smiley Brazillian guide back to the town.

IMG_0568.jpg (our guide - a 10yr old boy! He was jumping into this tiny pool over and over. The rocks were on all sides yet he knew exactly where to jump to avoid them, I cringed just watching)

IMG_0578.jpg (a view of Lençois)

IMG_0573.jpg (Josh on the waterfall at Poço Halley - swimming hole)

IMG_0580.jpg (walking back into Lençois with the French group)

That night we caught up with Luciano and the group he was guiding who were from London and the States. Luciano seems to keep popping up in our trip which is kinda strange. We met him in Salvador, where he taught me to dance Samba and Forro (Afro-Brasillian dance) and then he called to say he wouldn´t be in Salvador as he was going to Lancois - exactly when we had arranged to go - and neither of us had mentioned it to him and vice versa - weird! We spent a lot of time with him and his group in Lencois and then have sinced bumped into him again in Salvador and are seeing him and the guys from London in Rio this week - small world or what! Anyway, they later showed us this 7ft snake they had found dead on a hike and had skinned so that Luciano could sell the skin in Salvador - so we were right to have listened to Lee and be wary of snakes here!

The next day we went to the natural waterslides about an hours walk away from Lencois. They were SO much fun. It was a steep slick nature-made rock slide which looked like it had been man-made into a waterslide apart from the bumpiness of it and the way it shouted out ´safety hazard´! So we threw caution to the wind (lol) and climbed up the slippy sides of it and then in true English style tried to slowly slide down it. Josh was successful at this but me and Lobke went down together, hit the hump and FLEW down like a rocket, with screams of terror as we turned, slid to the side of the slide and hit the water backwards!! Blizzard Beach Water Park eat you heart out!!

IMG_0588.jpg (the natural waterslide)

IMG_0590.jpg (me and Luciano eyeing up the jump)

That night we went to a BBQ at the French dudes house with all of them and the London guys, Luciano and the Brazillian dudes we had met in the pousada who actually turned out to be the French guys guide, Beto´s, friends! Again what a small world!

IMG_0599.jpg (Abraham, Tobi, Henock and Ashley - the London boys)

IMG_0592.jpg (Kacey, Nammy and Abraham)

Everyone left the next day so we booked our bus tickets for the next day and chilled out for the day. I went and helped at the volunteer project that the hostel ran for the afternoon. It was an out of school club for the local children, to help teach them hygiene, respect for eachother and to support them with their school work. It was amazing to see the different abilities of these children compared to ones of the same age in schools at home. Even just basic manners and attitudes were completely different and made it really hard work for the very patient people running the project.

IMG_0621.jpg (waiting for the bus back to Salvador)

Needless to say we were sad to leave Lençois and it has so far been the most beautiful place we have visited and where we have felt the most safe and content. Next stop - Salvador take 2!

Posted by BlondSuzie 16:57 Archived in Brazil Comments (4)

Itacare

Surfing lessons and fruit cocktails

semi-overcast 27 °C
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So we´re now in Itacare, which is a little fishing/surfing town south of Salvador. Its so much more relaxed here than Salvador as you don´t have the feeling that you might get mugged/acosted any minute. Its a shame we didn´t get to do/see more of the dance scene in Salvador but 5 days felt enough for us and we were reccomended Itacare.

The days have flown by since we have been here and my brain has turned to mush so I am finding it hard to remember what we have done since we have been here! We have had surfing lessons which were fun. We are told that the waves at the moment are awful for learning and you spend about half an hour trying to get back out when you come in on a wave but we can both stand and are hoping to go to a good beach tomorrow if the wind holds back. Its strange that very very few girls surf here, in fact I have seen 1 so far which is crazy cuz its so much fun - apart from the sore eyes, bruises and drinking half the ocean!
IMG_0370.jpg (Its easy to get used to paradise!)

There are 2 bars next to eachother here that serve fresh fruit smoothie cocktails - yum! They are the only 2 bars here so when there is live reggae everyone goes there which is cool, but its still pretty quiet here. We have met a few Brazilians boys who are here on holiday who are good fun and a couple from America and the couple who run the pousada who are all lovely but its only just the beginning of their winter holidays so is only just getting busy. Our Israeli friends we met in Salvador arrived a couple of days ago and freakily accidentally came across our pousada and we found them there one night after coming back from the beach!
IMG_0356.jpg (Agua, Josh and David)
IMG_0368.jpg (All of us on the beach - Refael and Agua have just tried surfing without any lessons - crazy!)

We have adopted a kitten too - oops! She is so sweet (this is her pic below) and has befriended us and now lives at the pousada, sneaking into our room most nights - especially when I leave the door open - by accident of course :)
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Right, Josh and Agua are busy making fire for the BBQ - they have even prepared all the food too so I should go and do some ego boosting as I have been sleeping and then here - they are well trained boys!

Missing you all xxxxxx

Posted by BlondSuzie 19:26 Archived in Brazil Comments (4)

The Maruba Maxima and arriving in Salvador

sunny 30 °C
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So here we are in Salvador, Brazil!!! Crazy stuff, can't believe we're actually here in South America after years of dreaming of this its like being in a dream and I have to keep pinching myself to make sure I'm awake (although all the mosquitos are making sure I feel enough to know I'm awake and keep me awake at night - I have been bitten more then Hayley is usually when we're on holiday!!!)

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Anyway so the trip across the Atlantic on the Maruba Maxima was amazing! We were so looked after, the sun was out nearlly all the time and the Philipino crew were the nicest people you could ever meet, so we have 20 new friends already, aswel as the 2 German guys that were aboard! We are missing the boat journey now as things obviously are a lot different here, but we will get used to it. There is so much more poverty everywhere than I thought there would be and all day you are hassled by children asking for money, which is sad but you can't give them anything or it encourages them to do it more apparently. You also have to constantly watch what you have out in your hands and not really take anything out with you, which after 3 days is already tiring. But its lovely hot weather and it all certainly opens your eyes to how lucky we are!

The hostel is nice and serves a big breakfast which we make sure keeps us going til dinner as the food here is pretty shocking - I haven't eaten 1 nice thing out in Salvador yet, but we're determined to find somewhere today that serves cheap, good food! Wish us luck, haha.

We visited some amazing Catholic churches yesterday, the stories behind them are amazing. They were built by slaves for the Portugese Catholics and so to get their own back in this one church the slaves carved the cherubs wrong, giving them distorted faces, huge reproductive parts and some of them are pregnant. Its quite funny as the church has tried to cover it up by cutting parts off the cherubs but its so obvious that its silly! We have also been to the locals beach where we were the only tourists - it was so busy! But we met some nice local guys and the sea was amazing to swim in so it was a good day.

P1000740.jpg (the Golden Church - Convento de Sao Francisco)
P1000732.jpg (Streets in the Pelourinho)
P1000752.jpg (One of the main squares - all the streamers are from the huge Índependance of Bahia´party)

Right gotta go, have some stuff to post home already so to the post office I go!
Miss you all xxxx

Posted by BlondSuzie 08:45 Archived in Brazil Tagged boating Comments (2)

Le Havre

Waiting for the Maruba Maxima

sunny 23 °C
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Hi to all,

We're sat in the internet cafe again trying to set-up travel blogs and after much deliberation have chosen the travellers point one (this one obviously) as we have used travellers point for so much info whilst planning this trip.

Ok so we've finally left and are enjoying le havre as it is sunny and the hotel is nice. The nerves have well and truly kicked in now though and we are already missing everyone. We are being collected today at 4pm to board the Maruba Maxima to Salvador, Brazil. I don't think there is outward communication on the ship but will of course be in touch if there is. Take care and this is goodbye for 10 days xxxxxx

Posted by BlondSuzie 12:27 Archived in France Comments (0)

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