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Carol’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 07 Oct 2007

Location: Brazil

MapI thought my laptop at J&J was slow, but I take it all back now that I´ve had to use South American internet cafes! Sorry for the delay in actually getting around to writing my first blog, but here goes....

Brazil (Rio de Janeiro, Ilse Grande, Sao Paulo).

Having to get up at some unGodly hour of the morning to get to Heathrow was not the best way to start the trip, but the cup of tea in bed at 4:45am in the morning made it all the more bearable (thanks Dad!). First stop was Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, via a short stop off for our connection in Madrid. We´d decided to stay in Ipanema (Emma - we stayed at the Girl from Ipanema hostel which turned out to be great, so thanks for the recommendation!), which is just next door to Copacabana, and apparently one of the safer areas of Rio. Despite hearing lots of horror stories about people getting mugged all over the place, luckily we managed to emerge unscathed and with all valuable items intact.

We stayed in Ipanema for our whole time in Rio - fabulous place and I can certainly recommend it. It didn´t take us long to spot that all the local women wore the most miniscule of bikinis (even those approaching their more ´senior´ years), and the guys wore the smallest speedos imaginable......Mmmm - certainly enough to put you off your afternoon tea and cake. But the beaches were lovely, and Jules managed not to frazzle in the sun too much, courtesy of lashings of factor 30. A 5 minute walk from our hostel in the opposite direction from the beach was a huge lake (Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas), very picturesque, which we ran around on a couple of occasions (7.5 km once round) - I´m sure in a couple of weeks the keenness to try to keep fit will have completely vanished.

We visited Sugarloaf Mountain one morning - you can get a two stage cable car up to the top which gives you views over the whole of Rio. We decided to hike up to the first cable car station - about a half an hour trek up through the trees, which actually turned into about an hours hike as we missed the turning off the main path for the route up to the first station....oops! But the views from the top were well worth it. Later that day Jules somehow managed to ensure that we were in a pub that was showing the last of the England pool matches in the rugby world cup......hmmmm - not quite sure how that happened. The pint and the hazy screen (and dodgy Portuguese commentary) seemed to keep him quite for an hour and a half though :o)

During our stay in Rio we also went to the Macarena stadium one evening to see a local football match between Flamengos and Atletico. The stadium holds 200,000 people and seemed pretty packed (although it was probably only about half full), so the atmosphere was awesome. Lots of enthusiastic singing/drumming/shouting/clapping from the crowd - am sure that what they were actually singing was as rude as the English footy songs though. During the bus journey to and from the stadium we all had to cling on for dear life.....I think the bus driver had aspirations of being a Formula 1 driver one day, as he took most corners on two wheels and insisted on braking at the last minute whenever he needed to slow down. But we made it there and back in one piece....

After a few days in Rio we decided to make a little detour to an island off the coast of Brazil called Ilse Grande - very picturesque and perfect for chilling of the beach. It was here that I discovered the danger of too many Caipirinhia´s (a local Brazilian drink).....a very sore head the next morning!

Next stop was Sao Paulo, via a 7.5 hour coach journey after we got back to the mainland from Ilse Grande. We were due to stay for just one night in Sao Paulo, then fly off to Buenos Aires in Argentina for the next leg of our journey. Having got to the airport bright and early at 4:50 am we were told that our flight had been cancelled.....nightmare!!!! Our only British Airways flight too - give me a budget airline any day! BA put us in a posh Marriott hotel just by the airport which was all very nice, but really not where we wanted to be. The next flight out of Sao Paulo with BA wasn´t for another two days, so we pretty much had to sit and wait. On the upside, this did mean that Jules got to see England´s quarter final game against Australia for the rugby world cup.....AND the other France v New Zealand quarter final. Hmmmm......I can see a trend developing here.....

Anyway, two days later we were up early again and at the airport by 5am for our second attempt at escaping from Sao Paulo. Luckily this time we made it......and as an extra bonus we were upgraded to business class so got a funky little pod each to sit in, private TV screen with huge selection of movies, slap up three course breakfast with the choice of champagne or orange juice......well, maybe BA is a bit better than the budget airlines in some respects...... :o)

Next stop Argentina.......