09.02.2013 - 24.02.2013
09.02.2013 - 24.02.2013 37 °C
Brasil was originally not on my planning, but convinced by other travellers and driven by the urge to see what all this carnival is about, I decided to go anyway. And what a good decision, Brasil has been extreme in any way: the carnival, the people, the weather the beaches,… I already know: I’ll be back!
It’s a 19h but very comfortable bus drive from Montevideo (Uruguay) to Florianópolis (Brasil). The bus company is Brazilian and I immediately understand it will be very difficult to understand anything of the Portuguese language. Written, it is similar to Spanish, but it sounds completely different, at least in the beginning. During my stay in Brasil, I also learn there are almost no Brazilians that speak English, or even Spanish.
When I arrive to Florianópolis (Floripa in short), it is evening and I feel very tired because I didn’t catch a lot of sleep on the bus. I do explore the town, which is nothing special, but I do get a first taste of Brazilian carnival. The next day I explore the south of Ilha Santa Catarina, the island on which Floripa is located. It’s extremely hot, about 38 °C and the humidity of the tropical forest doesn’t help. I take a hike to a beautiful beach and when I can finally swim in the cool water of the ocean, watching the white beach with the green mountains behind it, it feels like heaven. On the way back, I try an alternative route. The very small path through the jungle sometimes leads into a dead end and slowly I work my way back. I meet strange animals: huge lizards or leguanos, chicken-like running birds, colorful butterflies and too often I literally run into spider webs. A little later I see a big sign indicating ‘Área Militar’. I don’t speak Portuguese, but this I understand, I’ve been walking for over an hour in military domain…
A refreshing shower makes me ready for the carnival later at night. What a party… The crowd literally goes crazy, a lot of stories are no material for this blog… But it’s a great party, the shows and the people are amazing and we celebrate until the morning comes. Although the next day is cloudy, I wake up too early because of the heat. Around noon it even rains for an hour, but the rest of the afternoon I can spend on the beach relaxing and sleeping to get ready for another carnival night. It is as crazy as the first one, what an atmosphere!
The next day I head to Rio de Janeiro, but not without problems. First I have difficulties getting money from Western Union, but in the end I manage to get it anyway. When arriving at the bus station, the direct bus to Rio is full and I have to go via Sao Paulo. It turns out to take a little more time, but it’s a little cheaper so no problem.
I arrive in Rio early in the morning and spend the rest of the day exploring the north of the city. In the evening I take the lift to Pão do Açuúcar, a 400m high rock with magnificent views over Rio. It’s crowded there, but as the night falls over Rio, people start heading home. I enjoy valentine’s night there in this quiet place, the view of the city is just spectacular and so relaxing. I must have been sitting there for two hours, when a guard calls me the latest lift down is about to leave.
The next day I take the small train to Cristo Redentor, the Christ statue overlooking Rio and one of the new world wonders. It’s a fun train ride with live samba music, but not a very nice experience once at the top. There are way too many people, so no chance of taking some time to enjoy the views over Rio or of the statue. I take the obligatory pictures to prove I’ve been there but go back down quite soon. I do south of the city, including Ipanema and Copacabana beach. Although the official carnival is overstill a lot of people have the rest of the week off. so the beaches are very crowded and full of life: guys showing their football skills, girls parading up and down the beach, everyone taking a refreshing swim now and then,… In the night we go to a samba club in Lapa, where I try the dance moves and envy the locals that are samba masters. Incredible!
The next day in the afternoon, I take the bus to Parque National da Tijuca. It’s only a 30 min drive from Rio, but you’re in the middle of tropical rain forest. It’s a nice walk through the jungle, along some waterfalls. But still, it’s só hot and humid and everything I crave for after the walk is an ice cold beer. At night, I go to Sambódromo, thé carnival parade everyone must have seen images from on tv. It’s the champion’s night: the 6 best samba schools show their skills in a parade that lasts 8 hours in total. After every school, you think the parade cannot get any better, beautiful or more impressive and yet it builds up to an absolute climax around 4h in the morning. This parade was só impressive and this only would have been worth coming to Brasil for.
Rio… It’s a city you MUST love as a tourist. It has everything and more: history and economy, beaches and mountains, hide-aways and busy nightlife,… But in a way I’m glad this is my last night in the city as well. Having to be so careful in order not to be robbed is not the nicest feeling. And in the city itself: it’s busy, noisy, very often dirty and smelly, incredibly hot,…
So after a very short night, I get up in time to travel to Ilha Grande. By bus and boat I get to the island. The two days there I spend walking, but mostly relaxing on the beach: finding and opening coconuts, swimming at the absolutely gorgeous Lopes Mendes beach, playing coconut jeu de boules, having caiperiñas,… It’s a nice and relaxing time, a nice break after the madness in Rio.
Getting from Ilha Grande to Foz do Iguaçu, my last stop in Brasil, turns out to be difficult. I have problems, once again, getting my money from Western Union and by the time my parents can make the necessary changes, banks are closed. I don’t have enough money for transportation so I lose a day by staying in this small town to get the money from the bank only the next day.
In Foz do Iguaçu, close to the border with Argentina, I spend 2 full days to see the main attractions there. First of all there are the Iguaçu waterfalls, and absolute wonder of nature. An uncountable number of waterfalls form a spectacular scene. You can walk around all day, seeing the waterfalls from from below and above, from close and far,… It’s something you can just keep looking at.
The next day I go to the Itaipú dam. It was the biggest dam in the world, until they built that new one in China. Yet, it remains the biggest hydroelectrical plant in the world. From far away it doesn’t seem that impressive, until you realize that what you see is 140m high and 8km wide. And when you go close and inside, you realize how huge this is. As an engineer, of course I’m thrilled to do the visit. A technical world wonder you could say.
The next day I leave for Paraguay, where I can spend just a few days before flying back to Lima. It’s been a fantastic time in Brazil and I’m glad I changed my planning. Of course I don’t know what I’ve missed out on in Bolivia, so that remains on my to do list.