rioBrazil is our first stop on our Americas adventure with our best friend Ben. Although we’re not covering a lot of ground in this massive country, we’re certainly experiencing the parts that we are!

We ended our time in London with a ‘hand over’ dinner, where Ben, our best friend from Oz met Jono, our best friend from the UK. It also happened to be that the project I was working on when I left work was having its go live party the only night we were in London. So I went along to see some of the crew and say goodbye.

But next day, we said our sad goodbyes to Jono and jumped onto the red double decker bus for the last time. After getting stuck in horrible Brixton traffic, we met Ben at a tube station and headed for Heathrow. Umpteen hours later, we landed in Rio de Janeiro. Temperature in the mid 30’s. Lovely.

We felt like we had to avoid the vampires so we opted for a taxi over a bus as we arrived after dark. We got taken for a ride (in both senses) by our taxi driver to our hostel. After we checked in, we met an Irish guy who told us all the stories of people having their stuff stolen from them right in front of him. He warned us not to take anything of value on us when we walked outside the hostel. Great. A wonderful first impression of Rio! But we were staying in Lapa and given the extremely stressful visa situation I had found myself in 3 months prior, it was evident I hadn’t done my research on where to stay in Rio.

First day was gorgeous and we took a bus south along the coast to a place called ‘Fashion Mall’. Everything was closed until 3pm (given it was Sunday) so we wandered along the beach. I’m still recovering from the sight of white budgie smugglers. But there were people everywhere – the beach was jam packed! We wandered for a bit, then bought some havaianas at a supermarket (yep, a supermarket) and headed home to recover from our jet lag a little.

Next day we wandered around the busy streets of centro before we headed to Maracana stadium to check out the ground and what the fuss is all about. We got there no worries, but when we tried to get inside, we ended up walking the whole way around before finding the gate. Then when we tried to pay for a tour, we realised we only had enough cash for two and the ATM wasn’t an international one! So I opted out (as I’m not that fussed about soccer), but the guy let me in for half price anyway :)

We had a cool chick show us around and saw where the pope and Queen Elizabeth II sat when they visited Brazil. Kind of strange that they were at the soccer stadium I think, but who am I to judge?! She told us about the private seats that people lease for the whole year and showed us the media boxes and locker rooms before we went onto the ground for a looksy.

Next we headed back to the central area where we sat down for lunch and ordered 3 mystery meals (ie we couldn’t understand the menu). When the waiter came out with the food and announced our orders, all we could do was shrug! What we thought was linguini was actually sausage and arroz happened to be rice. You live and learn!

santa-teresaAfter that, we got caught in a rain storm so went back to the hostel to grab our rain jackets before taking the last tram in Brazil (or South America?) through Santa Teresa. The tram went across the ancient aqua ducts (where our hotel was), and up into the hills into gorgeous little streets with adorable shops, houses and pretty cool graffiti art. The only worrying thing was when the driver got out and filled the tracks with sand for traction on a particularly steep slope!

lapaNext day was our last in Rio, so we figured we probably should catch the ‘big’ sights of the city. So we took a train and bus to sugarloaf mountain to see what the fuss was all about. When we got there, we couldn’t see the top for the clouds. It was just our luck! We decided to go up anyway and luckily the clouds cleared a little – enough for us to get a great look over the city of Rio and the bay. It was pretty spectacular!! We also saw some gorgeous little monkey-type creatures that were entertaining themselves on the cliffs.

After that, we headed to Copacabana to check out some shops. We tried getting money out everywhere until eventually we found a HSBC – our saviour in Brazil! We bought some more havaianas (all of us) and then headed for the ‘Big Jesus’. We found a train station and navigated our way on the bus only to find the train that goes up the mountain was out for the day due to a tree falling over the tracks. Just our luck again! I negotiated with a taxi guy to take us up for the same cost as the train (given that he was getting a damn good rate, I was unwilling to budge), but ended up paying US$1 more for him to take us to a lookout. It was the principle of the thing, alright?!

We went to a lookout point where we waited and waited for the clouds to part so we could get a shot of Mr J, but there were only very brief breaks! They then drove us further to where we drove up to the top. It was eerie up there in the clouds, but we managed to take a few photos and spend some time there before going back down again. We met some traveling Canadians who told us about Galapagos and a few other places which was awesome!

So we caught a bus back to the hostel, grabbed some dinner then had a crazy taxi driver get us to the airport in what could only be record time. Hopped on the plane at 10:30pm and got to Manaus, in the middle of the Amazon, at 03:00am where our tour agency picked us up to take us to our hostel. Temperature 35 degrees, humidity 90%. This was going to be a long week!

teatro-amazonasAs our air conditioning was turned on only between the hours of 9pm and 7am, it wasn’t long after 7am that we were up and having breaky. We wandered down to the Teatro Amazonas (Amazon Opera House) where we got a tour. Very interesting place. A pity we wouldn’t be in Manaus for the nights there were shows on.

meeting_watersWe then headed outside in the scorching heat in search of a plaza. We found it, but in typical style, it was fenced off for renovations. So we headed down the main drag and checked out the supermarket before we got picked up by Marcos from Amazon Mystery Tours where he took us to the Meeting of the Waters. It was more fascinating than the photos we had seen and the dolphins we saw just topped it off :)

After that, he took us through a museum where we saw loads of fish, spiders and butterflies (they were stuffed). Some were extremely impressive, but of course it would have been better if I had seen them AFTER our 5 day kayak trip so I didn’t know exactly what was lurking in those waters. I’m talking huge fish here – in excess of 200kg. Freaky.

Marcos then drove us to Ponte Negro which is a beach on the Negro River with a very fancy hotel. The hotel even had its own zoo which we walked through (me silently as I was upset at the tiny cages and sad, bored animals who were locked inside).

coconutHe then drove us back to the hostel via a coconut water ‘drive through’ where we sipped straight from the shells. We then packed up our stuff ready for our 5 day kayak adventure down the Urubu river (Urubu means Vulture in Portuguese).

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