Brazil

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It's a huge country. From top to bottom is further than London to Moscow. The city of Sao Paulo is possibly the 2nd biggest in the world (17million) after Tokyo (30million). Apparently crime is quite bad - Due to car jacking they changed the law so you can proceed through red traffic lights with caution. Which would be fine except they forget the 'caution' bit...

Natal, in a nice moment between storms...

Days 160-164: Natal

After 40 hours of sitting on 4 planes and calling at 8 airports, we made it from the Galapagos Islands to the top corner of Brazil. The journey wouldn't have been too bad, but every Brazilian who sat next to me seemed to have mucus-related distress and no tissues...

Notice the 4x4 stuck in the sea in background!

We got a cheap hotel (£9 a night) but it was above the world's loudest bar and it flooded when it rained. Luckily my rucksack was on the floor to soak up the flooding... The humidity was practically 100% so nothing dried, which wasn't good as my clothes started to rot and I got trenchfoot from my continuously wet sandals (well, it may not have actually been trenchfoot...)

We got the local bus to a dream-beach place called Praia de Pipa where there's usually dolphins and sun. Instead we saw only beach beetles and it rained.

One night we forgot to lock the door and was woken at 4am by somebody in the room. They had a large axe which they swung at us in the bed, but luckily they missed. Only kidding! They left after standing there for what seemed like ages, saying something random in Portuguese. Not very pleasant.

We came to Natal because its the self-proclaimed beach buggy capital of the world and they do day long trips to the sand dunes... or so we thought! It turned out to be a tour of his mates bars and other things we weren't interested in, with maybe 60 mins of fun in the dunes spread throughout the day. It was made OK by the river crossing aboard a balsa wood raft in a storm (right pic), and coming across a 4x4 which had got stuck in the sea... (above pic)

balsa wood raft carrying the car across the river

3.5m long anaconda

Days 165-168: The Pantanal
Below the Amazon area, there's the largest inland wetland on earth - a giant swamp area that covers half the size of france. It's densely packed with animals (because there's not many humans there!) When trying to decide whether to go there or go deeper into the jungle, I asked a few tour companys what the chances were of seeing an anaconda - the worlds biggest snake. One replied "100%",

brave Michelle holding a 3.5m anaconda!

the other said "ooo, they're very rare". I foolishly believed the 100% guy and booked with them. The pressure was now on them, so what the company did was offer a £15 reward to all the locals for anyone who could catch one for us! The day we arrived, one of the local fishermen found a 15ft (3.5m) one. (The guide later confessed he hadnt seen one in months and we were really lucky to see one!)

When you held it, it felt really muscular and warm, with loose skin. Like a warm bar of soap inside a plastic bag... Absolutely fabulous.

They crush things to death and eat anything in the vicinity

A heron. Or is it a stork? About to catch a fish...

It's a good they came up trumps with the anaconda, as there were some dissapointing bits. The dinners were always grim grissly unidentifyable meat, with rice and beans. And the next days lunch was leftovers. And there was a reason they were leftovers... Caracara hawk

On the plus side, we had plenty of wildlife close by. In the shack we slept in actually! Our shower was home to 3 frogs and a cane toad, and one night a large bat found it's way in through the roof and spent 5 mins flying round while we cowered in the bed in the dark (no electricity after 10pm) wondering what to do about it. What do you do with a bat in your room? The cub scouts never did teach me that...
Luckily it found it's own way out the moment I dared get up to discuss the options with it.

A tiger heron

Jabiru stork with 2.5m wingspan. The 3rd biggest flying bird in the world. (after condor and albatross) Toucan. The coolest bird around.

tiny red crested cardinal

The bird life was amazing. Everywhere you looked were birds that you only see in zoos and books.

tiny dragon bird

blue macaws. huge 2m wingspan.

the safari jeep  which we rode on the roof

After the anaconda, the next best thing to spot is a jaguar. Unfortunately the best we got were some 3 hr old footprints (right). We did however see an ocelot (smaller version) but it scampered off before I got a photo.

Hover for actual jaguar pic
(from santiago zoo!) ->

the elusive jaguar footprint


howler monkey

Monkeys were rare so we were very lucky to see some howler monkeys up close - we got under the tree they were in, only to find their favourite defence is to piss and shit on you! So we left sharpish...

Capybara were common (ginormous rat things)

capybara (worlds largest rodent)

caiman

Caiman are alligator type things which are scared of people. Perhaps as well as they are everywhere. fortunately they dont attack people

Michelle and our cowboy guide

Finally I understand horse riding! We spent 2 hrs charging wildly across the plains pretending to be cowboys. I had blisters on my hand from holding on. My horse was the fastest thing on earth. Or so I thought... I'd be just about to go through the sound barrier when Michelle would come past me waving nonchalently... The camera makes it look like I'm going slow...

Little bar-stard mosquitos!

There were so many mosquitos that they had to form queues to bite you. It seemed unfair that we werent allowed to feed the animals except with our own blood... sunset on the river filled with pirahnas and caiman

the poor little pirahna, blinded and then put back...

The river was full of pirahnas which you can catch very easily. However after pulling in two fish, both with the hook through their eye, I remembered why I hate fishing. It's because it's cruel and pointless. And anyone who goes fishing is cruel and pointless too, and I'd like to put a hook through fishermens faces and drag them through a lake...

To eat, they are a bit boney and don't have much meat on them, but they do have really cool (and razor sharp!) serrated teeth. (pirahnas, not fishermen!)

somebody elses pirahna that got eaten...

vulture eating dead caiman

Dead animals make food for vultures. We came across a dead calf, a dead caiman and a dead horse, all of which smelt the same...

vultures waiting to eat dead calf.

Big spider of unknown excitement

black collar hawk

 

Days 169-170: Bonito
One of only two towns in the Pantanal region, Bonito has some beautiful natural sights. There are natural warm

It's a postcard, but the reality was even better

water springs that make rivers of crystal clear water that are teaming with fish. You jump in the lake at the top then float downstream for 2 hours saying 'wow' to yourself through your snorkel. amazingly clear water, full of fish

Blue lake 100m underground

The other gem is the Blue Lake Cave, about 100m underground. Spectacularly blue for some reason I never found out as I haven't cracked Portuguese yet. Blue food colouring I reckon... note the people for size perspective

 

Day 171-172: Iguacu falls
Forget Niagara & Victoria falls, this is the undisputed world's biggest and best waterfall.

Iguacu. The best waterfall in the world.

 

View from the helicopter

They have built walkways into the middle of it so you can walk right out over the edges. the walkways go right to the lip

On the monster speedboat. Engine power of 8 Turbo Fiestas...

We took a boat ride in a monster speedboat with two 200hp engines. We got absolutely soaked as it went right up to the bottom of one set of falls where the spray is immense. dwarfed and drenched by the falls

no hover comments needed on the next 3 pics!

There is a whole series of falls (275 in total). Some of them are a straight drop (90m), some cascade down over steps.

It's surprising I'd never heard of them as they are (allegedly!) superior to Niagra which is so famous. Even the Queen of Canada (or someone similar...) remarked "that they make our Niagara look kind of crap" or words to that effect...

 

Tucan wondering whether it could carry Michelle off for its dinner

Day 173 -
Helicopter flight & Bird park

Helicopter flights over the falls are great, except :
1) they only last for 10mins,
2) they don't let you have a go at flying it,
3) they make you fear your Visa bill,
4) they make you realise how revolting a fat smelly American can be.

butterfly sucking Michelles brain out of her forehead

Then we went to a really cool bird-zoo where the birds live in giant aviarys which you could walk in. They also had over-friendly butterflys...

 

The beautiful beach island of Ilha Grande

Day 174-177: Ilha Grande

An island paradise off the coast of Rio.

We went SCUBA diving (bargain - £25 for a days trip including 2 dives) and went to the wrecks of a ship and a helicopter. Saw one of those really cool clams that swims by clapping and shooting a jet of water backwards.

Medes Lopez beach, only accesible by 2hr walk or boat ride.

Only our 2nd SCUBA of the whole trip


We hired surfboards for just £2.50 for the day and spent the day ripping down some narly tubes until I was really stoked.*
If you ever get the chance, just take the photo and put the board back. It's futile going in the water...

*For those that aren't fellow surfing professionals that translates to "spent an hour drinking seawater, and getting a really sore chest while realising it's actually impossible to surf. Those that appear to be doing it are using smoke and mirrors..."

 

However the pain of my chest was nothing compared to our mate Kevin, who managed to get a jellyfish or similar down his shorts...!

Kevin washing jellyfish out of his bits!

 

Running off a cliff makes a nice change from jumping...

Day 178: Rio
Hang gliding

This would have been more fun had we not had the extra weight of the pilot. Superfluous. And he wouldn't even do a loop...

As usual, too busy taking pics and video to be concentrating on the flight! (but it was quite dull!)

The view over Rio

 

The take off was the most exciting part, where you run down a wooden ramp that pokes over the cliff edge. Tripping at the end of the ramp would not have been good.

 

 

coming in to land on the beach
click for video

One of the many beaches in Rio

There was no wind blowing on the mountain (so no lift) and we just floated down. We landed on the beach after no more than 10 mins. At £50 a go, I assumed you could keep the glider... It wouldn't fit in our backpacks...

Michelle shortly after take off

  coming in to land

 

Sugar Loaf mountain

Sugar loaf mountain

It's a big blob of rock with a cable car going up it. There's a great view of Rio and after 6 months and 17,000 pictures I finally read the camera instructions

Copacobana bay at dusk

a tripod and the manual setting on the camera work a treat for night shots

so I can now use the manual setting to take OK night time shots.

The big statue on the hill opposite (see later)

 

Not somewhere to go wandering at night

Day 179: Favela (shanty town) tour

20% of Rios 7 million people live in these rambling unofficial communities. They have no offical addresses and they steal water and electricity by tapping into the mains wires/pipes that run along a nearby proper road.

Within each favela there is one drug baron who controls the drugs supply and security of the area. People who cause trouble for him get shot by one of his mob. Supposedly, because of this harsh 'policing' there's no 'minor' crime within the community. However we did see someone being chased from a shop with a baseball bat...

nice kids, but they wouldn't lend me a fiver

It's rare for barons to be over 30 years old as they eventually get arrested or shot by police or rivals (more likely!). When they walk around, the mob takes an arsenal of guns and grenades out with them.

The day before we went there had been a shoot-out between the mob and the police. However, only innocent bystanders got shot! One dead and three wounded.

home-made street wiring
It's not all bad news. There's some help for the kids and we visited a school that was mostly funded from tours like ours.  

 

Corcadova hill overlooking Rio (picture of a postcard)

Day 180 - Big statue thing

Built in the 1930's, it's a giant statue on a hill. Impressive in size, but nothing more exciting than that.

And now on to Canada, via stopover in Miami. Total journey time 24 hours.

The statue is only 5 metres tall. Michelle has shrunk under the weight of her backpack...

 

Next country - Canada