A perfect end

The weather hadn’t been kind to us in Rio when we started our trip, nor initially when we returned. So it was a relief to wake up on our last morning to mostly blue skies and plenty of sunshine. We started with some relaxation on Copacabana beach (45 minutes is about my limit for lying on a beach, I left Val to enjoy another hour cooking herself). Then, by metro, bus and funicular, we got ourselves to Corcovado (we wouldn’t have had the confidence to try and work out the public transport ourselves two months ago, but now we are old hands at it…). Whereas on our first day, it was just a sea of cloud beneath us and Cristo Redentor; on our last day it was Rio in all its glory, great views in all directions.

After a brief return to the hotel to shower and pack we headed for Sugarloaf . The hill projects out into the bay giving fabulous views back over Rio. Again, we’d seen almost nothing from Sugarloaf on our first day, and had no idea just how much we’d missed out on. And it was one of the best sunsets I’ve seen. There was some cloud cover by then, but we could see the sun would dip below it before setting, and when it did, the clouds were illuminated spectacularly. From Sugarloaf, you can see that Christ the Redeemer is watching over the city from the highest hilltop in the area. And when the sun had set, the lights of Rio and the illumination of the statue give a different but equally beautiful view.

Our taxi driver arrived early, so was waiting for us when we got back to the hotel. Strangely, he insisted on taking us to the wrong terminal! He knew we were flying BA, and I was sure I’d seen a sign as we arrived saying BA were in terminal one, but he went to two. I queried this, he double checked the paperwork with our flight number and was insistent he was in the right place, but we weren’t. Fortunately, there’s a walkway between the two, it just wasted 10 minutes (and we had loads of time to spare).

As we took off I got one last view of the bay and the city. The Lonely Planet described it as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city in the world”, and I wouldn’t argue.

The flight left at midnight, and we’re home safely now.

Thank you for following our travels, we had a truly fantastic time.

Us on Copacabana beach!

Us on Copacabana beach!

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Sunset over Rio. A perfect way to end our adventure!

Sunset over Rio. A perfect way to end our adventure!

Maracana

69 of our 70 nights gone! 35 hotels,  including a boat (and one or two others not really worthy of the word hotel). 17 flights, I think, with tomorrow`s flight at five to midnight to go.

It wasn`t quite as miserable as the forecast for the day had suggested, but it`s been cloudy all day, and rained some of the time too. We decided to head to the Maracana stadium for a look around, it`ll be hosting the world cup final next year (no I don`t think England will be there, but I`d be happy to be wrong…). We got the hang of the metro, and we got to the stadium at 11.45, but all tours were fully booked until 3pm. That gave us a chance to go a couple of stops back down the line, and explore the city centre, pop into a couple of churches. One of them had seen two coronations of Portuguese kings – their royal Family had moved to Brazil when Portugal was invaded by the French.

I really enjoyed the tour. I sat in the VIP seats, we visited the press area, and the changing rooms. We walked out through the players tunnel, they told us we weren`t allowed to walk on the hallowed turf – yeah right, I made sure I did! It`s actually the Brazilian cup final tomorrow (second leg), which is probably why there were some deafening sound tests going on – every time our guide tried to speak, she was drowned out.

We`ve just had an excellent dinner near our hotel, a brazilian BBQ, they keep bring succulent cuts of meat (and fish) to the table and cutting us pieces. The trick is to learn to say no sometimes! Plus a spendid buffet including such things as parma ham, asparagus, and oysters. We ate as much as we possibly could.

Forecast for tomorrow is a bit better, but still has scattered thunderstorms. Fingers crossed for a nice last day…

 

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Sue Barker has better posture!

Sue Barker has better posture!

Wet, wet, wet

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We’ve come back from Ilha Grande ( pronounced eel-ah gran-gee). It was supposed be my chance to chill in the sun after a busy trip! More chill than sun!

The main activities are beaches and walking. We did do both of those, but in the gloom!  There are no cars on the island.

People  kept telling us how beautiful the island  is ….. Trouble is she shouldn’t wear grey…… Just not her colour!!

Our journey back began in drizzle but the  rain got heavier and heavier. Greg and  I were sitting facing the weather  and  held on because wrapped in a plastic at least our bottoms  were dry. But the water did a Heineken and seeped through, so we moved to the other side of the boat. So had everyone else, which wasn’t  good for the boat’s equilibrium and we were asked to spread out!

It was so misty when we reached shore, the “driver” couldn’t see the way to the pier!

Off  the boat  and  a 10 minute wait (in the rain of course!)  for the connecting minibus!

The minibus was full and soon steamed up with it’s cargo of sodden people.

I was sitting next to the driver  and his windscreen fan wasn’t working. He had to keep wiping his bit of screen, but he didn’t clear my bit….. I was just driving into the  grey as he zipped in and out of lanes , passing buses and trucks.

When I asked about my lack of seat belt he shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, smiled and said ¨ You have good driver!¨ to which I replied ¨but he can´t see!¨.

Anyway we got here OK. We empted our soaked cases and the contents are now strewn around the warm drying!

Another memory  made!

Ilha Grande

What a difference a day makes!

 A series of thunderstorms rolled in after our jeep trip, and the next day dawned cloudy and cooler, down from about 30 degrees to 19. We were transferring to Ilha Grande, which was maybe 3 hours in a minibus, followed by 15 minutes in a zodiac boat. There weren`t enough seats on the boat – we took the ones at the front rather than stand, but it was raining hard by then and it was driving into our faces as we made the crossing, could barely open my eyes and we were soaked even with cagoules on. Then it turned out to be a fair walk to our pousada (there are no roads or cars on the island). Fortunately one of the boat guys offered to help Val with her luggage as we`d never have made it (or found it) otherwise. I was carrying my suitcase on my head at one stage, it was all either beach or narrow alleys.

Today we`ve done a trip by boat to Lopez Mendez beach, rated the second most beautiful beach in all Brazil. Not today it wasn`t! Barely saw the sun, and we had light rain a couple of times. We saw some tiny little monkeys – don`t know what they´re called (but I think it`s the one you see in the Pirates of the Caribbean films). It was a nice trip in spite of the weather, but makes us realise we were pretty lucky in Parati. The forecast for tomorrow is very wet.

The pousada is nice enough. It has aircon. No luxuries such as furniture – just a bed, somewhere to put the cases, and a coat stand. Haven`t seen bedside tables for a while now! Internet is poor here on the island, can take 20 minutes to load a page at the pousada, hence we are at an internet cafe at the moment.

There`s a cafe round the corner with a feeder for the humming birds. I never tire of watching them, we had dinner a couple of metres from them yesterday, they fly inches from you sometimes!

Parati

We`ve had a good couple of days here in Parati. Although there was no hot water or wifi when we arrived at our ¨poussada¨, they`ve been working fine since then.

Our boat tour was really nice yesterday. The weather was perfect, and there are loads of little islands you can stop at.  The schooner had about 50 passengers (didn`t hear any language other than portuguese spoken, it seems most of the tourists here are Brazilian). When we stopped near the first beach, there was a queue to go down the ladder into the sea, so I decided to jump off the side… forgetting what a rotten swimmer I am! I was still wearing my sandles (for the beach) and carrying my mask and snorkel for later, and frankly it was a real struggle to make it to the beach. Had to sit in the surf for a few minutes to get my breath back. Val`s done a life saving course before (partly I`m sure with my ability to sink like a stone in mind), but she was patiently queuing. We had three more stops, one at a beach, two in rocky coves (but to be honest the snorkelling equipment was a waste of time). The water was nice, and I was sure to take one of those woggle things, like everyone else, to keep me afloat.

Boats in a bay, Val in the sea, sun shining, all is welll

Boats in a bay, Val in the sea, sun shining, all is welll

Q: How can you tell the water is warm? A: Greg's in it!

Q: How can you tell the water is warm?
A: Greg’s in it!

Today we had a jeep tour inland. First stop was at the bottom of a small waterfall. The water was really cold, but today was a really sticky day, I had to throw myself in anyway, if only for a couple of minutes, to cool down. Then we had a trip to a local distillery, followed by lunch, then a short walk to another river. This had a fantastic expanse of smooth, undulating rock, with mostly just a couple of inches of water cascading down it, and it makes a brilliant waterslide, they even have some sort of competition here every December, the locals can slide down standing up! I had several goes, some with a swing start as in the photo – it’s great fun, but it was pot luck which way I was facing by the time I crashed into the water at the bottom. There’s just enough clear water at the bottom to ensure you don’t do yourself much damage (I did skin a bit of my foot, but the cold water acts as anaesthetic anyway) you can stand up within seconds, and (if you’re careful) you can climb back up through the water rather than taking the muddy path. Val was the only woman in our group who was brave (or crazy?) enough to have a go.

It starts like this....

It starts like this….

... Or like this

… Or like this

Then a few yards further upstream was a small but powerful waterfall – our guide showed us a path to it and you can then plunge through it to a hollow just big enough for two. Once inside, Val was really a bit scared with the tiny space and a thick curtain of water in front. I thrust my head back through and I then saw our guide was signalling that we should go with the flow, i.e. slide down and out with the flow of the water (it wasn’t deep). It was a really nice trip, and the Brazilians with us were very friendly.

Before we ducked down behind the waterfall!

Before we ducked down behind the waterfall!

And on to Parati

We emailed our friends Paul and Ali recently to arrange to meet up. After our return to the UK we meant of course, but it turned out they were coming to Rio for a few days for a conference! It was lovely to meet up last night for a few drinks. Much as Val and I enjoy each other`s company, and we´ve had a drink or two with fellow travellers, it was great to see some familiar faces other than each other`s!image

It was a brief stop in Rio for us, we flew in early afternoon, and left this morning. It was two months to the day since we flew in to Rio at the start of our trip. It feels like a lifetime ago, we`ve done a lot since then. We were at the Ibis – the same as any Ibis anywhere, a tiny room but nice, and the hotel is very well situated. Can`t actually see Copacabana beach, but it`s just two blocks away, and the metro is two minutes walk away (which could be useful when we return there next week).

Before I left, I told my colleagues that a picture of me on Copacabana beach would be just what they needed to cheer them up on a grim November day! The weather forecast for Dorking does indeed look pretty bleak. We wandered down to the beach and Val took a photo for you. It was late in the afternoon, soon after we checked in, so you are spared me in my speedos…

On Copacabana beach - photo to cheer Greg's colleagues!

On Copacabana beach – photo to cheer Greg’s colleagues!

We had arranged a 6 night trip to Parati and Ilha Grande, south of Rio, before we left the UK. We were picked up by minibus at 10.30am, transferred to the bus station, and got to Parati at 4.30pm. It`s a nice old colonial town. The accommodation is not great to be honest, a pretty small double bed,  a fan rather than aircon (it`s very warm here), and no sign of any hot water in the shower so far. No one speaks a word of English – we were expecting to do a couple of trips over the next two days, but they didn`t seem to know anything about it. We`ve e-mailed the company we booked with, they say they are sorting it, fingers crossed for our boat trip tomorrow.

Don’t cry for me…

because I’ve had a lovely day in Argentina! (Buenos Aires)

Our first sortie was to the Anglican cathedral for an English/Spanish communion service.They were a bit low on English speakers so asked me to read the lesson (not a great number of Spanish speakers either!)

Next stop was the Casa Rosada, the government building. They do governing the country in the week and guided tours at week-ends!  We were allowed on the balcony, whence Eva Peron addressed the people. (Marradona showed off the World Cup there too!). I had Evita songs going through my head, I refrained from singing to the tour group. Very restrained.

We took a taxi to La Recoleta, where we visited the cemetery! It’s almost like a village as the tombs are like small houses. We saw the Duarte one, where Evita is buried

We’re staying in San Telmo and they have a large market here on Sundays. Lots of streets are closed. There were people dancing tango in the square.

We’re off to Rio tomorrow and hope to meet up with some friends from Dorking!

Val

Greg's got the hang of the ice-cream thing, Mum!

Greg’s got the hang of the ice-cream thing, Mum!

Tango in the street

Tango in the street

Casa Rosada

Casa Rosada

The Duarte mausoleum

The Duarte mausoleum