Sunday, September 25, 2011

Paraty, Isla Grande and Rio de Janiero

Manaus: Back to civilization

The opera house

Manaus was a key city in the early 1900's as it was the gateway into the Amazon and an important supplier of rubber. The opera house above symbolized this wealthy era.

We spent a relaxing evening in Manaus. It was a pleasant city and we got to observe a lot of students and more of local Brazilian life.

En transit again.

We awaited for the public bus to take us to the airport for 3 Reias (~$2). We were on the edge of our seats ready to "look alive" and flag down our bus according to Lonely Planet suggestions. And we waited for 2 hours. Absurd. Alas at 10 pm, we saw a mad rush of people onto the street to catch the last round of public busses. We hopped into a $25 cab ride begrudgingly and still made it early for out 12:30 am flight to Rio. From those two hours, we learned that Brazilian jeans have a lot of bedazzle on the booty.

To Paraty: a colonial town (day 5)

After a red eye flight to Rio, bus ride to the bus station and 4.5 hour bus ride, we arrived in Paraty 16 hours later. With no Pousada (guesthouse) reservations, we walked all around town with all our luggage to choose an accomodation.

The view from our hotel. Definitely a good choice.

Paraty is a nice colonial town with no cars and cobblestone roads.

Boats at the harbor - not taking us to the beaches

Paraty is surrounded by natural beauty. It's suppose to be a great launching point for secluded beaches and rewarding hikes, but unfortunately the weather was not cooperating with us. But we explored anyways.

That darn camera timer and slippery rocks.

A night out on the town.
It was really quiet and peaceful.
Dois caipirinhas

This national drink of Brazil is made with cachaça (sugar cane rum), sugar and lime. These in Paraty were by far the best ones we had in all of Brazil. I probably drank more in this one trip than I did the entire year, which of course was probably still less than 5 drinks.

And the next day we are off again ... (Day 6)

Keeping it real with the local bus: Is this the one to Angra?

After asking around and our last bus fiasco, we ended up seeing not one, but TWO busses to our destination, Angra. Eh? We felt better when we realized that the locals were also confused.

FYI, Spanish does NOT get you very far in Brazil, much to our dismay and misconception. Seeing that we did not have time to pick up Portuguese, we managed to direct our way around this country.

Ilha Grande
(days 6 -8)

We decided to hit up Ilha Grande since it sounded like a lovely, secluded, nature-filled island with only one small village, Vila do Abraao.

Ferry from Angra to Ilha Grande, our destination.

It was very cold, very rough and very wet. We were ever so thankful that we packed our rain jackets. Oh what lifesavers. This is one of the downfalls of traveling off-season.

We arrived as the sun was setting. Ilha Grande is a beautiful enticing island.

Pousada D'Pillel in Vila do Abraao

Walking around the car-less island, we searched for a reasonably priced guesthouse. Alas, we found the perfect place, Hostel D'Pillel for 80 Reais ($50) per night. Sure I had to negotiate a little over a phone to an unknown Brazilian, but it worked out wonderfully. In this process, I thought I was asked if I was Japanese by this Brazilian, but ended up getting a special, secret free boat ride to unknown destinations. Gotta love the language miscommunications.

Eating at the local restaurant, Point Break.

We got to know a few of the locals who recommended this restaurant. We had amazing fish banana, and returned our second night for more fish. We also hung out at the local bar (Che-gato? Che-cat?) with our new found friends. There were post-college guys kickin' it on the island - surfing and working, and definitely into their smart phones! They decided to nickname us Mary Jane and Angelina Jolie because that's logical. And for fun, we communicated in espanol.

Day 7: touring the beaches of Isla Grande

We took our free boat ride to 3 places around the island. We seemed to be the only non-Brazilians, which made our experience all the more enjoyable. At one point on our boat ride, everyone seemed to be taking off their pants to reveal their swimsuit bottoms?! Eh? When getting important instructions, we decided the guide must be saying "Don't make any stupid movements." We learned by watching and fortunately had some nice Brazilian guys translate the essentials for us (ie. don't walk off the cliff).

Beach and hike to the waterfall.

The sun was out on our full day at Ilha Grande. Jane and I plus one other crazy guy ventured into the ocean to snorkel. It was cold, gray and there were no fish so we quickly returned to the boat.

Day 8: One more beach on Ilha Grande

Taking another small boat to another amazing beach - Praia Lopes Mendes

Hanging out on Praia Lopes Mendes
It was actually windy and cold, and relatively secluded.

After boating back to the main port, we rushed back to our Pousada, showered, changed, re-packed and were back on to the port to catch our ferry to the mainland, all within 30 minutes! Even we were surprised with our efficiency.

While we were done with rocky, wet boat rides, we did not want to leave Isla Grande. If this were a long, open trip, Isla Grande is the place where we would get unexpectedly caught at about a week longer than anticipated. We still wonder why don't more people know about this Island or visit it? It's amazing! We already extended our stay a day longer, but alas we had to depart to Rio.

Rio de Janiero

We got a direct transfer called "speed connection!" from Isla Grande to our Pousada in Rio via ferry and bus. It was by far the best spent 65 Reias per person! Practically door-to-door service with minimal confusion and 4.5 hours.

Samba in Lapa!

We arrived at night, rested, then cabbed to Lapa to check out the Saturday night Samba scene. Sorry, no pictures as we did not take a camera, or even our purses or wallets. We hid 100 Reais to last us the night.

It was ever so lively. People spanned all age ranges. Arriving on the early side at 11:30 pm, we were surprised to see a long line at 40 degrees, the recommended club by our Isla Grande friends. We decided to pass and ducked into a smaller club with a live samba band, and more mature crowd. We sat down with a drink and enjoyed the music.

Day 9: Roaming around Rio

After a discussion with our host, Fatima, we were told to avoid Central Rio on Sunday since it was empty and dangerous. We wanted to take a tram to the neighborhood, Santa Theresa. The tram, which usually only has a few occasional deaths, just had a major accident killing 5 people and injuring 27 so it was out of commission.

So, we decided to stroll down the famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches.

Strolling along the Ipanema beach front.

Eating an unknown item at the local fair.

Amazing unknown meal at the fair. Potatoes and spice!
Jane and I are good at acquiring food even if we don't speak the language.

Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf Mountain)

Two major tourist attractions for splendid views of Rio are Cristo and Sugar Loaf Mountain. Originally we had planned to do both, but when we found out the cost, we decided we could only afford one. Besides, how different could the two views be? We chose Sugar Loaf because it seemed easier to get to.

View of Copacabana from Sugar Loaf Mountain

Jane and me on the smaller of the two loaves.

Cautions! We only bought a limited amount of cash with us each day and no cards for fear of being robbed. We even tried to keep our camera memory card separate from our camera. Call us paranoid, but all travelers we encountered always got robbed in Rio.

It was even more expensive than we thought to go up the loaf (53 Reais = $33!). We didn't budget appropriately, and barely had enough money to grab a cheap dinner and take the bus home!
There's the Cristo! Always our landmark. Taken from Urca.

From Sugar Loaf we walked over to Urca, one of the two safe neighborhoods to be in at night (the other is Leblon, where our Pousada was located). With our limited funds, we ate as many pastels (small appetizers) as we could afford along the water front with the locals and fishermen. Then using the last of our reais, we hopped on the public bus back to our pousada.

Day 10: Our second and final day in Rio and Brazil

We decided to stroll around Central Rio and check out some of the culture and architecture.

Inside the National Library.
We couldn't take a tour because in our cautiousness, we realized we were not carrying any IDs on us.
Acai smoothie with banana

We loved the juices! My fave was acai, which had to be taken with another fruit. We only found these smoothies in Rio and Paraty.

We mostly bussed around everywhere because we could not afford taxis! We only took taxis when our safety would be in clear danger.
Obese person sign on the public bus

A picture of an obese person was next to the handicapped, walking with cane and pregnant signs. Now we know what Brazilians think of being overweight!

Rio in all it's glory.

Rio is a gorgeous city unlike any other. It's interspersed with breath-taking mountains, green foliage and fine beaches. We really enjoyed it and wish we had more time to get to know the city, but alas, we had to catch our (3rd) red-eye flight to go back to our jobs.

Me and Jane chillin' in Rio
(That was our profession in Brazil afterall.)

Cristo at sunset

Jane and I had an amazing time in Brazil. It lived up to our expectations. Our trip was way too short. Both of us are used to much longer travels, but we will take what we can get for now. We crammed as much as we could into our 10-days, but also managed to be professional chillers. We slept in 3 different airplanes, 4 different Pousadas and 3 different places in the Amazon.

We deemed it a successful trip. We experienced nature, colonial town, chill island and big city. We had lots of delicious food, especially fish. We did not get mugged. It was definitely one of the more expensive countries we visited, but it was well-worth it. Our visa is good for 10 years, so who knows .... maybe we will return!

But until then, there is work and many more places to explore. We are already pondering Winter break 2012 ... maybe India or the Middle East?! Stay tuned.


sharock said...

wow the trip looked and sounded amazing. a mix of smaller towns and big city.

Jan said...

Glad you enjoyed your Brazilian adventure! You guys are definitely expert travelers!