Saturday, 28 September 2013

Bogota. Muy Bonita.

Flying over the Andes
We have had such a brilliant time here in Bogota, not counting the day we arrived when we were just too tired we had 4 days here.

Day 1 - So after our drama of arriving we got up the next day ready to take on the city. Diosa, our Spanish teacher from London's aunt, is lovely. She lives in Villa Magdela, which is a suburb about 40 minutes north of the city centre. She has a great 3 bedroom flat in a security building. She has been so welcoming and really made us feel like this is our home away from home.
On our first day sight-seeing Diosa walked us to the bus station so we knew where it was, and asked for our bus tickets for us and tried to tell us which bus to catch. Her English is pretty good, better than our Spanish, we manage to converse ok with the help of Table Top a great translation app we can form broken sentences and use this for when neither of us know a word for something.
Our host in Bogota, Diosa

Bless her, Diosa is lovely but she thinks Bogota is 'muy peligroso' (very dangerous) and got a bit worried when we got home at 7.30 at night when we said we expected to be back at 7.
We got on the bus, a note here, the bus system in Bogota is great but confusing, there are many buses going down the same dedicated bus lanes but only stop at certain stops and there is not a great way of knowing which stop the bus will stop at, 5 buses later, when we think we have worked it out something goes wrong.

La Candelaria
Bogota is beautiful, once you get out of the south west of the city - which is where got off the bus. It was full of dodgy looking people (including one who followed us), litter, loads of traffic so a lot of pollution, but walk 15 minutes east and you hit the pretty historic centre - La Candelaria. It is filled with galleries, painted colonial buildings, cobbled streets and on Wednesday it was filled with school students visiting the galleries. We went into the Museo Botero, which houses 123 pieces of Botero's work as well as some from Picasso, Chagall, Dali, Monet and Klimt among others. It was a nice haven from the bustle of the town, in a beautiful old colonial building. One of the school kids had sat beside Angel on a bench and was intrigued by the english/spanish dictionary he was using to translate something he had read.
Kids at the Museo Botero

We had a very tasty meal at a pasta and salad place in the old town called Andante Ma Non Troppo, delicious! It is quite cheap here to eat out (with GBP as the currency of our budget), we are under budget each day, which has evened out the overspends in Brazil and Argentina.

As the day was relatively clear - note that due to the mountains and the elevation (we are at 2600 metres here) the weather is generally cloudy and occasional rain - we took the funicular up to Cerro de Monserrate which is at 3200 metres, to be honest we have noticed the altitude when we have been walking up the streets in the historic town (which are very steep), and have had to stop occasionally to catch our breaths and way up here was no different - the views are literally breathtaking. There is a church built on top of the mountain - we could not imagine how they got the materials up there.
View from Cerro de Monserrate
Day 2 was spent other Museo del Oro, the gold museum. The largest collection of had made gold artificacts in the world. Three hours of looking at gold, don't get us wrong it was amazing, there was just a lot of it! We then went emerald shopping, Columbia is famous for its emeralds, there must be 100 shops selling them, we didn't count them but they are in one area of about 2 streets plus the Emerald Trade Centre, and despite all these emeralds, Ellen didn't find anything she liked, she's too fussy, she wanted platinum - which is surprisingly not common here, despite Columbia having a large supply of it. We'll have to look in Cartagena.

We did see one of the most distressing and moving things we have seen on our travels, a man on the street, he didn't look more than 20, filthy - not just dirty, filthy. No shoes, thread-bare clothes and he was reaching out to a woman walking along eating something, he looked like he could hardly walk. We have seen questionable homeless people begging all over the place but this guy - both of us were fighting back tears with the sight of him, we walked into the nearest shop which was a Subway and got him a sub with a coke and added a banana we had in our bag and walked back and have it to him, he looked genuinely shocked that we were giving it to him. There is so much poverty here in South America, it's quite shocking. 

Salt Cathedral
Zipaquira Plaza de Independencia
Day 3 we went to Zipaquira and to the Salt Cathedral, this is still a working mine though these days it is not mined with picks and shovels, it is water and pressure. The mines themselves are impressive, each tunnel could take a jumbo jet. Along the tunnels to the Cathedral there are the stages of the cross, which are really just salt carved crucifixes with really tacky coloured lighting. The actual Cathedral is 75m long and 18m high and can fit 8500 people, today it was just us, about 4 school groups and some German tourists. To get there we took the confusing Transmilenio and the one of the local buses, which was an adventure all on it's own - there are no stops (apart from the first at the Portal de Norte) you literally see the bus coming so you wave it down and quite often it veers across 3 lanes of motorway traffic, amidst much horn blowing, to pick you up.
Local bus, Columbian style
Zipaquira itself is a quiet, pretty town, though we could imagine in high season it is pretty rammed as there are many restaurants. There is a very old looking church which was closed and two main town squares. We ate at a place on the Plaza de Indepencia, we have discovered the brilliant value of the plates of the day - a generous soup starter, followed by meat, rice, and a salad, a juice and a small sweet all for about £8 for the both of us. We had eaten another in the old town Bogota on day 2 which cost us only £7. Amazing value.

Anniversary dinner
Day 4 we decided to have a chill out day, it is our anniversary after all. So did our laundry as there was the novelty of a washing machine and drier, and then headed to Andres Carne de Res, a Bogotan institution. It's part restaurant part night club, as our flight is early the next day we decided on lunch. It was brilliant, our best meal so far. During the day the place is buzzing but nothing like the dancing on the tables which apparently happens at night. The place is huge and has an eclectic decor of bits and bobs, most of which look like they were made specifically for the restaurant. We both had the charcoal tenderloin which was out of this world, it came rare but as it is served on a boiling hotplate we just sliced it up and it cooked as we ate it, it was so tender and delicious. We also had an avocado and parmesan salad and margaritas, Ellen had a coffee and Angel (naturally) had a dessert - Chocolate cake and ice cream. All up it was 1/3 of the price we would have paid for the same meal in London, and this was better than anything we have had there (including Hawksmoor!).

Next stop; Cartagena, our flight is at 8 and we have to leave at 5am. ouch.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

When arriving to Columbia, have an address for your accommodation

We left Buenos Aires in the wee hours of the morning, arrived at the airport to have the taxi driver tell us the  fare was A$220, not A$95 as quoted by the hostel, after a bit of arguing in Spanish (Angel surprised himself!) we gave him the benefit of the doubt, as it was only £10 then emailed the hostel to check and the apologised, the driver was right, the person at the hostel had quoted us wrong. Drama one dealt with.
We queued at the flight check in for about an hour for 'bag drop' as we had checked in online and printed boarding cards, and I think due to the long delay at check in they delayed the flight. (Nothing in South America happens when it is supposed to we have discovered).
The flight was ok, a bit rocky on landing, probably due to the mountains surrounding Bogota. 
We disembarked the flight, walked the long walk to passport control, stood in line, our turn;

Immigration official: Buenos dias, are you here on holiday?
Us: Yes we are.
How long are you here?
12 days.
What is the address of your hotel in Bogota?
We don't have one, we are staying with our spanish teacher's aunt (yes, this sounded very dodgy to us too).
What is her address?
We don't have it, she is meeting us here at the airport.
What is her phone number?
Sorry, we don't have that either, she is meeting us.
Where else are you going?
Cartagena, on Sunday
What is your address there?
We haven't booked it yet.
So you have no hotel here in Columbia?

So we got taken into one of the interview offices in the back of immigration, we were pretty nervous by this point - will they let us in? The interviewer asked us the same questions, Angel showed him all the onward flights we have, he asked if we have cash we said yes and he wanted to see it (luckily we have $US500 emergency cash on us as we had no Columbian money yet - we use ATM's). He seemed be be ok with this and was very interested in the colourful plastic Australian money we had on us. He told us he would take us back out and said to us 'your hotel in Cartegena is called Sol de Caribbean, remember that' which we guessed was how he was going to get us in, he left us with the immigration clerk and said 'Welcome to Columbia'. Phew, we were in.
Shaken, we went downstairs, picked up our bags which were now off the belt on the floor and went outside, where the lovely Diosa was waiting for us with a sign with our names. Needless to say we went to bed early that night. 

In hindsight this was stupid of us to have not insisted on having an address for Diosa, we were told by our teacher ' Don't worry, it will be fine, she will be waiting for you', but I suppose as a Columbian national you are not asked this stuff so you would not know. It's the only place we had not booked accommodation for our arrival.

No doubt, more adventures in Columbia to come....

Monday, 23 September 2013

What's New Buenos Aires? - Part 2

Buenos dias indeed. On Fridays the hostel runs a free historical tour of the city which left at 10.30, it was given by a very informative guide who started the tour by showing us a short film of the major historical incidents in the past 70 years in Argentina. The dictatorships, military uprisings, bombing of the city by the navy, the disappearance of thousands of people and of course, the Perons.
The walk was great, they took us by places we had been to the days before, but we did not really know the real historical significance - there is only so much a guide book will tell you, and only so much Spanish we can translate so far  (but we are getting better). We learned that Casa Rosada was originally 2 buildings, including a fortress, and it was on the banks of the river. We learned about the rise of Juan Peron and Evita, and had a very interesting chat from a man who had moved to Buenos Aires when he was 20 because he was so inspired by Evita he moved from the countryside and ended up with a very large collection of memorabilia which is now on exhibit in the room where Evita's body was kept (and later stolen from to be returned some 16 years later, damaged) and he tells tourists the stories of how he, and others were inspired by her. A thing to note here about this collection of his is that it was illegal in the time after Juan Peron was exiled to Spain to keep photos, books or memorabilia of the Perons - and he had two rooms full. He really loved Evita, you could hear it in his voice and in his eyes when he spoke about her, though he never met her in person.
Evita fan (right)
That was the second most memorable thing of the tour, the most learning that there are still 30,000 people missing, they disappeared during the Dirty War (1976-1983) - and the plight of the Madres (mothers) who are still to this day marching on the Plaza de Mayo every Thursday seeking answers, they want the bodies of their children and the names of the babies who were stolen from the pregnant women who 'disappeared' when they gave birth, after killing the mothers. They began marching in 1977, some of them 'disappeared' too.
Symbol of the Madres
After taking us to see an old house which shows the style of house the rich lived in until the 1870's and then how it became where the immigrants (about 10 per room) lived - and the Tango was born, the tour finished up with a beer in a bar which had a couple doing a few tango dances.
In the evening the hostel had a BBQ - which it does every Friday night - which is all you can eat for A$90 (about £10) pretty much everyone staying at the hostel came, it was great fun. Being in a country of salad dodgers, it was a time to fill up on salad!

The next day (Saturday) we had a cycling tour of the north of the city booked but unfortunately it was raining and we had to postpone to Monday. So we had a wonder around town, went to the Galleria Pacifico which is a pretty shopping centre in the centre of town, we saw the Oblisco, and a lot of black market 'cambio' dealers, Angel got pretty good at mimicking them 'cambio, cambio, cambio'....

Tango, old folk style
Sunday, after being woken by the sounds of a street fight at 8.30 in the morning, we looked out the window to see a bunch of men throwing punches and then rocks at each other (BA footpaths are in dire need of repair, but handily for streetfighters there is plenty of ammunition with the broken pavements) we decided we needed to do some walking. so we did. 8 hours of it! We walked from San Telmo to Palmero Hollywood - and back. Starting just down the road from the hostel at the San Telmo markets, which are on every Sunday starting on Plaza Dorrego then running all the way to Casa Rosada along Calle Defensa, there was an old couple doing a tango for the people.
San Telmo Markets
The markets are great as they are not just touristy but also loads of locals there as the market is mostly an antique market - filled with pocket watches, signs, cutlery, maps amongst many other things.
We wandered down Roque Saenza Pena (which was designed to look like it was in Paris) and along Avenue 9 de Julio past the magnificent Teatro Colon After this initial 5 hours of walking we were starving so we looked for a place in Palermo Soho which we had marked on our map- a burger place called Burger Joint, Angel's friend Fleur had recommended a food blog called pick up the fork which reviews Buenos Aires eateries and this place had a great write-up, to be brutally honest we were so hungry we would have thought anything tasted good, but this was genuinely delicious, freshly made to order juicy burgers, chips and a drink - and all for cheaper than McDonalds is over here!
Burger Joint
After we had re-charged we walked to the Botanical Gardens, which had loads of feral cats roaming about and then on to the Evita Museum which was great, and had a lot of the stuff translated into english which was great for our tired heads, it was in a stunning old building which had originally been one of the offices of the Evita foundation.
It was then a long slog back to the hostel. phew.

For our last day in Buenos Aires we had our postponed bike tour from Saturday, luckily the sun had come out for us though it was chilly.
Ellen ready for some cycling
Starting just 5 blocks from our hostel we rode along the Avenue 9 de Julio to Recoleta and stopped at Plaza St Martin to learn about St Martin and then on to the big flower near the University of Buenos Aires.
Palmero Flower
Then on to beautiful Chico Palermo where all the rich people lived, now it is just embassies and tourists walking around. We then cycled on to Palermo where we stopped at the Rose Garden, but unfortunately on Mondays it is closed, and then our final stop before the long straight cycle back was the Cementerio de la Recoleta where many of the famous (and infamous) of Argentina are entombed - Roca, Sarmiento. and Evita, who is in the family Duante crypt.
Evita's Tomb

The ride back was interesting - there were 2 separate police road blocks, which amusingly our guide rode us straight through.
Now, quite knackered from 2 full on days we are going to blow our budget and have another steak dinner as tomorrow we are up very early (5am) for our flight to Bogota in Columbia.


Sorry it's late but here's our itinerary.
It's just an outline really as we just spent 6 nights in Buenos Aires instead of 4, never went to Parana etc..
Off to Columbia tomorrow!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

What's new Buenos Aires? (day 1)

Yes Alex, Angel jumped off the bus in Buenos Aires singing the song from Evita.
After a 5 hour bus journey yesterday from Rosario to Buenos Aires, we arrived in the late afternoon and promptly jumped into a taxi to the airport. Now, that was an experience - the driver made his own lanes (just short of driving on the pavement), after about 20 mins and less than £5 later we were at our hostel. We had read brilliant reviews on Trip Advisor about this place and it is all true, America del Sur is a brilliant hostel, all the good bits of a hostel (kitchen, socialbility, cheap) with the good bits of a hotel (clean, own room, efficient staff). Perfect. We have our own room which really is the best we have stayed in so far.
We had a stroll last night around the area we are staying (San Telmo) and bought some stuff to cook in the hostel to save some money - another expensive travel day, but we are managing to stay on budget.

San Telmo
After a brilliant night sleep we headed off to explore the city. We walked down through San Telmo to the old docklands which has been converted into expensive hotels and apartments (think London's Southbank) and walked over the Puente de la Mujer and had a play with the outdoor exercise equipment they have all over the towns in South America, just a play mind.
Plaza Mayor
We also walked towards Centro and past the Rose Palace (where Evita gave her famous speech), and walked across the the Plaza Mayor and had a general wander around in the glorious sunshine.
We then walked to the Plaza Dorrego and sat in a cafe and had coffee (still not found a great coffee) and a tostada to share.

La Boca
Then back to the hostel as there was a FREE walking tour of San Telmo and La Boca which the hostel runs, we walked past places we had been in the morning but this was great as we found out what the places were, and La Boca was somewhere quite a walk from town and the whole group got onto a local bus (all 30 odd of us!) and went to La Boca, which is a very poor area of Buenos Aires, and is an old port, the buildings are very colourful and it is now a but of a tourist trap - just souvenirs and 'tango' dancers trying to get you to have a photo taken with them (which you naturally pay for), but there was a Maradonna look alike - which we were told was quite a good likeness.
Our tour on a local bus
Now we are back at the hostel and ready to go out for a steak dinner.
Also we have fresh laundry!!! (dropped it of this morning and it was done for us, for just £5.64)

Looking forward to possibly a cycle tour of Palmero tomorrow.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Welcome to Argentina (Iguassu & Rosario)

If you thought the pictures from the Brazillian side of the falls looked great - the Argentinian side was just breathtaking. You could actually walk on top of the falls (ok,on a platform built over the falls, not actually walking ON the falls). Ellen asked how they maintained the pathway, Angel really didn't want to know.
We spent a day doing an organised tour taking us from our hostel over the border to Argentina and then a guide of the falls, it was hot but the spray from the falls soon cooled us down. We saw loads of turtles, catfish, guinea pigs and even a caiman.
Just amazing:
Iguassu Falls - Argentinian side
Our next stop was Rosario.
The bus journey was meant to be 16 hours, but here in South America things take longer than expected, or quoted. Angel is learning to deal with this, ever the project manager and time-stickler.
So this bus journey from Port Iguassu in Argentina to Rosario took 21 hours. (Mental note: add at least an hour for every 5 you are quoted). The journey itself was great, the buses are fantastic - think business class space on a flight. Reclining seats, foot rests and even food.
We arrived in Rosario, Argentina after 2 weeks in Brazil. First observation; it's a hell of a lot cheaper here, second observation; there is less money here.
We caught a 20 min cab from the bus station to our hostel (£5) which is right downtown, not too far from anything - river, shopping, bars, bakery. It's called Che Pampas. Very basic but cheap and cheerful (awful breakfast though, tomorrow we'll be going to the bakery!)
Che Guevara monument, Rosario

There is not a lot to do here in Rosario, the most famous person to ever come from here is Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and we were very disappointed to learn there is no museum to him here, just a sign outside the apartment block he was born in, a very basic mural in a city park and a statue in another park.
We did loads of walking - well after 21 hours of sitting it is all you want to do - and over our 2 days here practically covered the majority of the city by foot.
We did go to the post office and sent some postcards, probably the last time we will as it cost £10 to send 5 -  so if you are able to read this blog, you will not get a postcard from Argentina!
Today we found a cafe after 7 hours of walking we sat, for 4 hours, drank 2 lattes. 2 carafe's of wine (red, of course) a massive plate of toastadas (toasted sandwiches) and a large bowl of chips - all for £15!
Welcome to Argentina!

Friday, 13 September 2013

The amazing Foz do Iguassu

Iguassu Falls
After a long 12 hour bus journey (which was late) from Curitiba, we arrived at our brilliant hostel in Foz do Iguassu, called Green House Hostel. It's a converted house in the suburbs of the town, about 20 minutes by bus to the falls. It's clean, comfortable and the people are lovely.
We got up early this morning and walked to the bus stop to get the bus to the national park. It was pretty simple, once we knew which direction we had to go in.
It's fairly expensive on the Brazilian side (we are off to the Argentinian side tomorrow) but very well organised; regular buses once in the nation park and loads of things to do, which of course are additional costs, we did the speed boat which literally took us under a waterfall, we were drenched but it was brilliant fun.
The falls a huge, massive, they make Niagara falls look like a drain pipe burst. Kilometres of waterfall, just breathtaking. We took about 200 photos. Won't bore you with them all...yet.

Anyone for Guinness?
After the boat ride, once we were really drenched, we sat in the sun and dried out. Then walked to the bird sanctuary which was very impressive and well worth the visit, loads of Toucans! Also loads of other breath-taking birds, including 2 massive Harpy Eagles. Massive! There were several aviary's you could walk through, including Toucans and Macaws - the latter was funny because it was late in the day and the birds were getting quite active and swooping - one scared Ellen as it swooped right past her face, they really are big birds.
Back at the hostel we cooked pasta for dinner, waaaay over budget today!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Curitiba, sorry we couldn't stay long

View of Curitiba at 6.30am
This first part of our adventure has been a but rushed, well, more like we have very large area to cover in less time. This means long bus journeys and a few afternoons in cities, rather than spending full days looking around. Curitiba is a victim of this. It looks lovely, pretty cobbled streets, beautiful old buildings and quite easy to navigate around. This is really just a pit stop on our way to Iguassu Falls, which we are off to today on a 11 hour coach trip. The coaches here are brilliant, you can be almost horizontal on standard coaches. Very comfortable. 
Our hotel here is great, only £30 but very comfortable and quiet.  The best night sleep so far.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

São Paulo. Nightmare hostel and amazing city.

We made the first mistake of the trip; Trusting reviews.
We are staying in a shit-hole. Sorry, but it is. It's pretty much some blokes house and he is renting out every square inch to gullible backpackers. We are in a glass room, like a fishbowl. Yes you read that right. But it's less than £30 a night, and it's our own glass room, and it is frosted glass you should know.
Anyway, after a night in a very noisy hostel in Paraty with slamming doors through the night, and breakfast with local monkeys - who knew what time breakfast was - we caught a 6 hour bus to São Paulo. The trip was great, very comfortable seats, semi-cama. The bus stopped a couple of times for breaks. No drama.
Got into São Paulo and immediately booked our tickets to Curitiba for Wednesday. Another 6 hour coach ride, but for now we are going to enjoy São Paulo.

After checking into the before mentioned 'hostel' we went to the supermarket and bought stuff to cook and stay in to plan our day and book a hotel in Curitiba, oh and do some washing, it's the first place we have found with a washing machine. It's one of the 2 good qualities of the place. The other is the very informative manager.

We got up early ate our breakfast and headed out to the big city. São Paulo has 16.5 million people, that's double London! We walked down to Batman alley to see the great graffiti, then walked up and over several hills to the Metro and caught a train to Luz. Here we saw the Luz gardens, walked and walked the streets of the Centro and made it to the Municipal Market just in time for lunch, how convenient. Naturally we had to partake of the traditional sandwiches, which put the New York delis to shame. One word, HUGE. Quite salty, but the food here is either very sweet or very salty, for example they add sugar to their fresh fruit juices! 
Batman Alley
Municipal Market
After about 4 hours of walking we got back on the metro to Vila Madalena, the area of our 'hostel' (sorry, really have to use quote marks when I write hostel, and it is not really hostel, not really.) we walked around again for a couple of hours until we found this little bar, called Piraja, we've had several small beers. Our feet don't hurt as much now...just waiting for Braz to open, it's one of the best pizza restaurants in SP, according to Lonely planet.
...and it was brilliant. Here is Angel about to tuck in.

Braz was amazing. Probably the best pizza we have ever had.

Also at Piraja we learnt that in Brazil if you want them to stop serving you beer, put a coaster over your glass, otherwise they keep bringing them. We got a little tipsy, and it cost us about half our daily budget to pay for the many beers.

After 2 nights at the hostel we left Sao Paulo. To be fair the bloke who ran the hostel was amazing, top bloke who told us loads of stuff about all the places we were headed. 

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Island Paradise - Ilha Grande

Hotel in Ilha Grande
After the hectic bustle of Rio we booked a transfer to the island of Ilha Grande, 150km south of Rio. It was a 2 hour bus transfer then just a little over an hour on a boat to the island. There are no cars, no banks, just sandy streets winding their way around the small village of Abraao.
We had booked our hotel online ( the day before and got off the boat at dusk and walked the streets (to be fair, there are only about 5 streets) looking for the place - Riacho dos Camsouras. It was right at the back of the village, down a sandy path, as the village meets the jungle. Wooden rooms, just 8 of them, with hammocks just outside each of them. Very tranquil.
We woke to the sound of a bird tweeting, which was nice..for a while, lucky we booked the ear-plugs. C'mon, it was 6am! The breakfast was amazing, Angel commented that Ewan should have been there to help him eat all the cake, yes cake, for breakfast! Amazing.

Lopes Mendes

We had decided that we would do the 2.5 hour each way hike to Lopes Mendes, a beach only accessible by foot. It was a pretty strenuous hike - well, we thought so, though people were doing it in flip flops (thongs to the Aussies), we had our hiking shoes on and to be honest it was pretty hard going, through jungle and in the heat. This is Angel - dripping with sweat. Ellen muttered under her breath several times 'this beach had better be amazing!).
Hot hot hot!

It was a pretty awesome walk, 4 mountains (hills?) and past 3 beaches before we hit Lopes Mendes. Which when we got there at 11am was quite deserted, and by the time we left at 2, sunburnt, there were quite a lot of people. We decided to walk the 2.5 hours back again. Felt longer than on the way, but we did it.
We then ate a huge pizza. We deserved it. Plus the island had a black out and we had to find a restaurant with a generator, which the pizza place had. Power finally came on at 10.30.

Today we caught a boat back to the mainland then a bus to Paraty. Where we are tonight. In a hostel. With young folk literally running down the corridors. We feel old. Sao Paulo tomorrow, bus tickets booked for 8.30am.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

A little sunshine in Rio

Just chillin' with Jesus

So it finally stopped raining.
We had already bought our tickets to Christ the Redeemerfor 10.30 today in hope. 
We tried to catch the bus there, but firstly could not find the bus stop, then when we did find one the bus would not stop, so we hailed a taxi. 
Bonuses of the weather - there wasn't 2 hour (as expected) wait to get on the train to the statue. Just about 15 of us. Brilliant. So it wasn't crowded at the top and we took some photos, would have even better with sunshine.
We then decided we'd take the bus to the main bus station to buy tickets to Ilha Grande tomorrow. Got stuck on the bus for over an hour in Rio's finest traffic, the driver and money taker (2 bus people on busses here) were great, had translation problems but we managed just fine, people are ally friendly here. We finally got to the bus depot, which by the way is right a beside a favela, is a building site and one of the most confusing places we have ever been. After spending 30 mins here and not finding a bus to where we need to go tomorrow, we jumped on a bus back to Ipanema only to again get stuck in traffic for 2 hours. And during this time the sun came out. (A note here; travel during the World Cup and olympics is going to be horrible if you are coming! They said London was not ready!!!!)
Finally getting back to the hotel we booked a transfer to Ilha Grande with reception, R90 each (50% more than the bus would have cost...if we found it, but this takes us to and onto the ferry and saves us cab fare back to the station. So justified..)
Ipanema Beach
We then dumped our day stuff and just took money and our camera to Ipanema beach to watch the sunset, but clouds came over again. It was still lovely, we sat watching the kids play football and volleyball on the beach, surfers doing their thing and just general people watching. On the way to the beach we stopped at Mil Fruitas, our guidebook told us it was the best ice cream in all of Brazil. It was tasty but at R18 (£5) for 2 scoops it had want to be! 
Walked the 2 blocks back to the hotel after eating some local food for dinner - fried cheese thing (pastal) and bought some snacks for the bus tomorrow. 
Tomorrow looks to be very sunny and hot. 

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Raining in Rio

Escardia de Selaron
We arrived into Rio under dark, rainy skies.  According to Angel, the flight was scary and he was quite panicked (a note here: Angel hates flying, he says it's a necessary evil). Immigration was quite slow, but we made it into the country just fine.
We'd asked the hostel to book us a taxi so there was a bloke waiting for us with a sign, probably the best thing we have done so far.
The city is huge, the driver told us there are 6 million people in Rio, he pointed out Christ the Redeemer  to us as we drove towards Copacabana and through the tunnel under the statues mountain. His English was not great, but as our Portuguese is pretty much non-existent we spoke in broken sentences, nice bloke. 
This is pretty much the most expensive place we will stay in on our journey, it's £72 a night and very basic, but has air conditioning and private bathroom. It's called Bonita Ipanema, and we're just 2 blocks from Ipanema beach.
Our first day we woke up to grey rainy skies again, a bit disappointed but we did not let that stop us.  We walked from our hotel to the beach then walked along the beach and around to Copacabana beach and along it to the metro. (Unfortunately the metro station 2 mins from our hotel is closed, so it is about an hours walk to the next one). 
We then caught a bus to Santa Teresa and wandered in the rain along the cobbled streets to find the top of the Escardia de Selaron, and walked down the beautifully tiled steps (the pic here is us on them) unfortunately it was pissing it with rain and they were slippery, Ellen fell down them, twice. To be fair it would not be a holiday without Ellen hurting herself on the first day! 
Pizza and toasted sandwiches for lunch at Ernesto's near Lapa, and headed back to Copacabana beach to walk back to Ipanema. Loads of walking today. 
Booked tickets to go up the 'cog train' to Cristo Redentor at 10.20 tomorrow.
Now, to plan which city we head to next....

Sunday, 1 September 2013

2 more days!

We've just said goodbye to Ellen's family and friends in Scotland we had a great night out organised by ellens's pals.
Can't believe there are just 2 more sleeps until we leave.