Rio is excited to be the home of the 2016 summer Olympic games, the first games to be held in South America. Yet, some locals are skeptical of corruption in the planning and building process.
While planning our trip around the world more than a year ago, Brazil did not make the cut, but when our budget and schedule allowed us to return to South America for a final seven weeks, we took the advice of several friends to go to Brazil first. We've only been here for two weeks, but already know it would have been a huge mistake to skip this beautiful country.
Praia Palmas, Ilha Grande.
The coastline and countryside are amazing, but more importantly the people are incredibly friendly and welcoming. Perhaps it is the sunshine, but everyone seems to be happy here. We've started a collection of phone numbers from people we met on buses, on boats, on the street and in cafes. With the number comes a sincere, "If you need absoutely anything, just call me. Don't hesitate!"
Due to a holiday the ferry boat we planned to take to Ilha Grande was not running. This family took us under their wing and brought us on a much smaller schooner to go from Angra dos Reis to Ilha Grande. They didn't speak a word of English, so found us amusing, but they seemed like a trustworthy bunch to follow.
Brazilians seem to have a real zest for life. They like to party. They love their music, futbol and beer! They also love women with curves, and from beachwear to work cloths there is no shortage of hiding those curves.
Brazil is the largest country in South America bordering every other South American country except Chile and Equador. Politically the country has had its ups and downs and currently battles with high poverty levels and violence, much related to drugs. The poor often live in favelas, which are similar to the townships we visited in South Africa. However, it seems the government is making an effort to create jobs which is boosting wealth. We have not felt unsafe traveling around.
We've noticed that on some levels people are environmentally minded with many filling their cars up with locally made alcohol from sugar cane. On the other hand, like most of South America, trash lines many streets.
Our attempts at Portuguese, the official language, are bleak. It looks like Spanish, but sounds drastically different. Fortunately Dave's Spanish and my charades seem to get us by.
RIO DE JANEIRO
Famous Copacabana Beach was empty on the cloudy few days we were in Rio. We hear it is quite a scene on a sunny day, with chairs lining the beach, thongs galore, games of futbol and parties. We were surprised that given all the glitz we hear about Rio, the buildings seemed a bit old and drab, and there was not a posh restaurant, bar and cafe scene.
During our walk on this cloudy day we couldn't even find a girl from Ipanema on the Ipanema beach.
Christ the Redeemer overlooks Rio. He (an immense statue) appeared briefly through the clouds.
Buzios is a peninsula north of Rio. It is known for attracting wealth, but we found the area quite grounded compared to a place like St. Tropez, France. The quaint downtown is lined with typical tourist shops, hotels, restaurants and bars.
Fish is always fresh.
Buzios has dozens of beaches. Motorized buggies are the most popular way to get around. We opted to walk to a few, especially enjoying Praia Ferradura and its coastline.
There is always a game of beach futbol going on in Brazil.
ANGRA DOS REIS
Angra dos Reis is built up with homes on the hills and resorts by the ocean. It is the port for boats heading to Ilha Grande.
View of Ilha Grande from the boat.
Entering Ilha Grande.
Fishermen passing time.
There are no cars on Ilha Grande. Stores, pousadas (small hotels), restaurants and churches line the dirt roads around the ferry pier.
At night men set up mobile carts with a selection of cakes and sweets. I think the local church goers make the sweets and profits help the community.
Ilha Grande has dozens of beaches. Most people take shuttle boats. We opted to do a two and a half hour hike over the hills to get to Praia Lopez Mendes.
On the way we passed Praia Palmas.
Praia Lopez Mendes.
Colorful old town of Paraty. The colonial town on cobbled stone streets is made up of homes, restaurants, hotels and craft shops.
I particularly liked this toilet paper holder in one of the art stores.
With a beautiful and peaceful bay of islands and beaches, boating is a way of life in Paraty. Taxi boats line up to take you to a destination.
View of Paraty's old town from the water.
We did a day kayaking trip around Paraty's islands. After seven hours on the water with Maluca Kayaks our arms were dead.
Most people take a schooner around the islands.
Most of Paraty's islands remain peaceful and vacant, although some do have hotels, restaurants and homes on them.
The trip also took us through some mangroves.
Dave enjoying some munchies at Praia do Meio in Trinidade, just south of Paraty. Brazilian beaches are lined with plastic chairs and tables. Just buy a drink and the table is yours for the day! It is rare to see people sitting in their own chairs or on beach towels.
At the end of one of the beaches in Trinidade there is a natural swimming pool of calm, warm water.
There are lots of colorful fish in La Piscina.
Although we've hit some rain clouds, Brazil has been hot, hot, hot. The sun is intense, so for those traveling here, bring super high uvb/uva sun protection.
We are now exploring the Bahai region in the northeast of Brazil. Salvador is the cultural capital. We will also explore the many beaches and rain forest along this coastline.