Saturday, 10 July 2010

New York, New York

June 22nd at 05.35 our flight from San Paulo arrives safely at John F. Kennedy airport in New York, but noooooooo we can't get off the plane cause the immigration/customs staff don't start until 06.00, so we sit in the plane until we're allowed to disembark.  Apparently all the people on the plane had international passports, so I was the only one in the US line, which meant I got to fly through to the baggage claim and within minutes my bag was there and within a few more minutes I was outside the security doors meeting my dad.

We were out of the airport parking lot by 06.45 . . . I think that's some sort of record, since my plane was scheduled to arrive at 06.20.

The reason I am bothering to post about being back in the USofA is mostly because my first experience back was not the greatest and to be honest rather embarrassing for the US!  I decided it was a good idea to use the toilet before heading out on our 6 hour drive back to the Adirondacks.  So after using the toilet I went to wash my hands and to make a long story shortish, there were 8 sinks, 8 soap dispensers and not a one of them had any soap in them!  Then I went to dry my hands and neither of the two hand dryers were working and there was no paper towel.  Having done a boat load of travelling at this point, I was ashamed of the quality of service I was receiving - I mean I found these things in developing countries without a problem, why can JFK not get with the program . . . or does the cleaning staff not come in till 08.00?

Friday, 9 July 2010

Rio, Brazil

A few hours after our ferry dropped us off from Ilha Grande we arrived in Rio.  Since we'd hit quite a bit of traffic and I was leaving in 2 days, I wanted to make the most of my time here, so I got an afternoon city tour.  We visited Christ the Redeemer, drove by the beaches, drove into downtown (old city), drove to where the carnival is held to see all the bleachers, visited the soccer stadium, where they have a museum, and took the gondola up Sugarloaf just in time to see the sunset!

The following day, I took a favela tour, which was AWESOME!  As you can see from the photo below this favela is built on a hill, so first we were dropped off at the bottom of the hill and then took motorbikes up to the top of the hill to start our tour.  You walk all the way down through the "slums" and meet the local people, avoid eye contact & take no photos of the drug dealers, and I thought it was the highlight of my time in Rio.

Here is an example of the art work which comes out of the area:

This is one of the paintings my mate bought since I don't have a photo of mine - amazing huh???

That afternoon, after the favela tour, was the second Brazil match & everything in Brazil was shutting down, so we quickly changed into our green & yellow outfits and walked down to Copacabana beach to watch the match on the jumbo-tron.  Amy & I (as you can see below) got tired of standing up during half time so we decided to relax in the sand, but you can see all the legs surrounding us, cause there were thousands of people there!  Luckily for us, Brazil won again, so the city was happy.

My last day in Rio, I had a taxi coming around 3pm, so I didn't do much of anything, had breakfast, packed my bag, showered before the taxi arrived and hung out with my mate who were lucky enough to be staying a few more day.

At 2pm the taxi arrived, took me to the airport & that evening I flew from Rio to San Paulo, then had a few hours in the airport while I waited for the second half of my flight into New York.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Ilha Grande, Brazil

A short 50 minute ferry ride from mainland Brazil and we arrived in Ilha Grande (Big Island for those of you who don't speak Portuguese).  We settled into our rooms and went to check out the pool, which turned out to be FREEZING cold!  So we decided to take a walk around the downtown & see what the beach had to offer.  At this point, I start to feel a bit headachey & sore throaty & over all just crappy, so after a short walk, I head back to the hotel & sit by the pool in the shade.  By dinner time I'm in bed, not hungry and just wanted to sleep until I'm better. 

The next morning our plan was to do the hike which goes to all the beautiful beaches, but I cannot even get out of bed.  So off they all went & I stayed in bed until around noon, when I got too hot & stuffy in the room, so I went back out to my shady chair next to the pool, which was great, cause nobody was there.  I even spent a bit of time dangling my feet in the freezing cold water, it made me feel a lot better.

That night I eat a little pizza, but was still not really hungry.  The next morning, I eat breakfast & went right back to my pool side shaded chair and relaxed.  Our 3rd day I was a bit more active and went looking in a few shops before the England match, but after it was over I went right back to bed.  On the 4th day, we went right to the ferry for a 9am departure and were picked up on the other end and drove to Rio!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Paraty, Brazil

As you can tell from the title, next on my adventures was Paraty, Brazil.  In order to get there, we had to take 22.5 hours of buses . . . sounds like fun right?  Well as it was our last long haul over night bus, I decided to fork over the US$50 to get an upgraded seat on the cama bus (semi-cama is what I'd been riding it's like an economy airline seat).  Cama seats are more like business class airplane seats, where they recline almost completely & are wider, so easier to sleep in & move around in.  We got on the bus, organised my seating area (water bottle out of bag & into seat pocket in front of me, blanket out, shoes off, iPod out, etc).  As it was only about 6pm when we boarded the bus, I decided not to go right to sleep since the journey was 17.5 hours long!  By 9pm, I was so bored I had to try to go to sleep just so I didn't want to scratch my eyes out of boredom.  It's tough to sleep on a bus when Brazilians are also on the bus because, they just love to talk, walk around, don't say excuse me when they bump you, and often like to bribe the driver into stopping extra places to drop things off or pick things up (I'd say mostly illegal dealings)  17.5 hour later, we arrived in San Paulo, which is a freakin huge city!  We arrived at the bus station, collected our bags and then walked to the far end of the station to get on our next bus, but this time it was a much smaller bus, just a mini van type thing, which could hold 20 people comfortably.  Away we went towards Paraty and just 5 hours later we were there!  We settled into our hostel and then did a little walking tour of the town.  Had dinner and went to bed.

The next day was the first Brazil match for the world cup and the town was all decked out in green & yellow.  My mate & I decided to take a jeep tour of the surrounding area which would end and have us back in town in time to watch the match.  What we did not realise was that the tour company had given the English speaking guide the day off . . . we did not learn this until the first stop (about 40 minutes outside of the town).  Luckily for us there was a bilingual couple also on the tour who were able to translate the important bits to us.  It was a bit annoying since of course the couple could not translate everything, but the scenery was divine!  We saw lots of small waterfalls, which had it been warmer we could have swum in.  We also saw 2 rum distilleries, one of which was run by water power!  The tour ended just in time for the match to start, so we went to find a restaurant where we could see the match and get a bite to eat, as it was nearly 3pm and we were rather hungry!  Brazil won 3-1 and the town went MENTAL!!!  All night long people were dancing in the streets, everyone was in green and yellow, there was music blasting out of every window, and everyone was happy.

The next morning, we left at 8am and drove just over an hour to catch our ferry over to Ilha Grande.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Iguassu Falls, Argentina & Foz de Iguassu, Brazil

As I mentioned in my last post, we'd been in Salto, Uruguay which is up in the north west corner of Uruguay, so a taxi drove us about 40 minutes across the Uruguay - Argentina border and dropped us off at a bus station, where we proceeded to get on a yet another night bus for 10 hours.  This night bus however, was not nearly as nice as the buses in Chile, it was cold & they did not offer blankets or pillows.

10 hours later we arrived into the bus station, where a mini bus picked us up and drove us to see Iguassu Falls from the Argentinian side.  (they are half in Brazil & half in Argentina)  The cool part about this side of the falls is that you can walk out on these metal walkways so that you are "on the top" of the falls.  It's a great view and you can feel the mist everywhere you go, because the force of the water is so high it almost feels like it's raining.

After a few hours exploring there, we drove across the Argentina - Brazil border and spent the night in Foz de Iguassu, Brazil, which is just the Brazilian side of the falls & since they speak Portuguese instead of Spanish, the name changes a bit.  The following morning we went to see the Brazilian side of the falls, which I think I actually enjoyed more, because you see the falls from further away and you can see how wide & vast they are.  I mean the Argentina side is great, but if I had to chose just one, I'd chose the Brazilian side.

On our second day in Foz de Iguassu we decided we'd take a day trip over into Paraguay.  It took about 20 minutes to get to the border and about 2 seconds to cross it cause nobody checks at all, which just amazed me!  We hung out there for about 3 hours, walking around the shops and street vendors before deciding we really wanted to see the Itapu Hydro Electric Dam which is on a river which divides Brazil & Paraguay, so off we went to see Itapu.  If you've never seen a hydroelectric dam, it's pretty darn cool!  It was the world's largest one, until recently when China's new dam was commissioned.  We ended up there at noon, which would have been a fine time, aside from the fact that the English version of  the movie & tour are only at 11am and 2pm . . . we didn't have time to wait till 2pm, so we took the Portuguese tour & luckily the guide spoke English as well and translated for us.  That evening we took another night bus, this time for 17.5 hours to San Paulo, Brazil and then changed buses and rode from another 5 hours until we arrived in Paraty, Brazil.  More on that another time . . .

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Montevideo & Salto, Uraguay

So I know it's been forever since I last updated & I apologise for that, but the internet connections in Argentina & Brazil were not the greatest & since I was limited on time I didn't want to waste an hour in an internet cafe updating the blog, so I'm going to try to give a few short updates over the next week or so, so you can see how the trip ended up.

Last time I wrote I was headed to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay.  We arrived there safely, settled into our cold hotel room and went out for Chinese.  The service was horrible but the food was tasty.  The following morning I went on an organised city tour, which was very cool!  I got to see the first world cup stadium (football/soccer) which is just outside the city centre and it was for the 1950 match.  We also got to see the beaches and the old city centre with it's cobble stone streets and section of the old city wall which they've saved.

From Montevideo, we headed north west to Salto, Uruguay.  We spent a day &  a half there, which from my point of view is more than enough time.  It's a town known for it's spas and not much else past that!

The following day we headed back into Argentina to see the Iguassu Falls . . . more on that later

Monday, 7 June 2010

Colonia, Uraguay

Sorry I wasn´t able to update from Beunos Aires because as it turned out I spent less than 24 hours there . . . I know some of you who have been there are now screaming at the computer screen because you told me BA was one of your favourite spots in all of South America, BUT such is life . . . I´ll just have to come back :-)  Jo & I chose to spend extra time in Pucon and miss out on time in BA and we´re both happy about our decision, no regrets.

We arrived into BA around half 2, were at the hotel by half 3, and eating Argentinian steak by half 4 - YUMMERS!!!!  In the evening we went to see a tango show & had an introductory level tango lesson.  We all thought we were doing amazingly well until later on when we saw the proffessionals, were we realised we have a lot to learn about tango!  We got back to the hotel around midnight from the tango show and went straight to bed.  Jo´s flight was at 11am the next morning and my ferry to Uraguay was leaving at 10am.

I arrived into Colonia, Uraguay around half 11, dropped my stuff off at the hotel and went to explore the marina area and find a spot for lunch.  I had a delicious salmon meal.  Then wondered around the town, saw the lighthouse, the city wall and gate, checked out a few touristy shops, and then decided to walk to the bull ring, which was opened in 1910.  The only problem with my lack of Spanish was that what I didn´t realise is that it´s not still open (lol), so after walking 5K down the beach to see this bull ring, you can´t go inside, you can only walk around the outside.  It´s still an interesting building and the weather was nice to be walking down the beach.  So around half 5 I turned around and started to head back to the city centre, enjoying the sunset as well.  At 8pm we went out to dinner for Brett´s birthday, but I was so full from my salmon lunch I just had a salad.

Today I´m heading to Montevideo, which is about a 3 hour bus ride from Colonia.  I´ll be there for about 2 days before heading north to Salto.  I am enjoying Uraguay so far, but I do miss my Pucon breakfasts!!

¿Hey anyone up for going to Chile in December or January to climb a volcano?  I´m thinking of it as a 33rd birhday present to myself . . . but I don´t want to go alone.  I know great cabins we can stay at and there are lots of other amazing things we can do in and around Pucon . . . think about it!

p.s. sorry for spelling errors, the spell check here is for spanish only!