Sorry it's been a while, been out in the wilderness with minimal access to net and too many tempting looking pubs when we did reach proper towns. Actually, I've spent a large portion of the last 2 weeks under water, some clean, some not so. I've spotted a huge amont of wildlife and I'm not just talking about the residents of Copacabana beach in Rio, or the irritating hoards straining to get the perfect shot at Corcovado.
Straight out of Bolivia, we headed into Brazil's wetlands. The Pantanal region, about half the size of France, is home to a wide variety of plants, animals, birds and fit Brazillian men. The latter our guide really enjoyed much to our amusement. A significant amount of a foul tasting spirit called cachaca pura involved on both evenings. Drinking games arround the campfire probably didn't help the poor woman. Anyway, back to the original point. We started by killing off a bit of the wildlife we were there to see. Piranhas, not particularly beautiful and would have eaten us if we stuck a toe in the water, so we pulled them out. 2 hours piranha fishing on the banks of the river. Anything not a piranha, small or pregnant got thrown back in, the rest were our dinner. I caught 3, just above average which is a bit pathetic given 8 of us we were there for 2 hours and used up more steak as bait than we managed to catch in fish. Good fun though, and they did taste good. One scary little git did keep fighting back despite having a fish hook through it's eyeball. Along with a spot of midless slaughter, we were able to observe some stunning wildlife on the banks of the river. Caymen were everywhere. Mini crocodiles who thankfully fear us more than we fear them. Good job as they had easy access to our bedroom and would lie in the way on the only path out of the ranch. Lots of cool birds on show aswell, vultures, maccaws, parrots, other birds of prey whose name escapes me but the sort that any british twitcher would travel miles for the small chance of catching a glimpse. Several of them lined up on the fence greeting us as we walked to dinner.
After a short bouncy truck ride into the middle of nowhere, we went on safari. Walked out into the wetlands in search of an elusive Jaguar. Saw a pig, few cute little rodenty things and the occasional monkey tail, plus a highly poisonous snake. 5 of us walked over the snake, the latter in bare feet, before someone spotted it. Could very easily have stepped on it. That's nothing compared to what we were probably stepping on in the water. Walked through large area of water, highest point got up to my waist. Dirty water full of reeds and plants and stuff, no idea what we were walking on. I had trainers on but many opted for bare feet. One of the Pantanal's most famous inhabitants is the Anaconda. Average length 6m. Mainly stays under water to keep cool. Probably won't attack you, but the provocation of 10 people stamping on your head should have done enough. Thankfully we must have missed it, though would have been cool to see one emerging from the murky depths, preferably when I was back on the truck.
Enjoyed a couple of hours lazing in the sun, book, bottle of water and hammock all thats needed. I got myself a tattoo, pretty incan symbol made up by the adorable guide, Paula. She tried to do a toucan but the beak stretched all around my arm and it looked really silly. Saved it to amuse the rest of the group but wouldn't let her put anything else on it to save it beyond a hot shower. Went for night walk along the road. Saw a fox (probably) a deer (bolted when it saw us) few horses (they live on the ranch) and lots of fireflies. Not completely pointless walk, exercise always good, but could of stayed in my hammock and seen everything.
Early morning walk the next day yielded a few cute monkeys, high in the trees and fairly well hidden. The flying poo was unmistakeable though. The majority of our best view were from the back of the truck. A family of giant otters enjoying the summer sun, few hundred caymen, few Maccaws and Toucans, (3 hyacinth maccaws did fly off in formation to see us of which was pretty cool) and an Anteater. At our last loo stop outside the local store, while I went in search of the tiny black kitten that had greeted us on the way in, a couple of the others found something very special. Squealed enough so it was granted a large audience. A tiny little aardvark. The size of a small cat, adorable little thing. Could have taken it home to keep as a pet. I managed to get a glimpse of something spectacular on the drive out the Pantanal. As we drove past, a Puma jumped out from behind a bush and fled into the dense scrub land. Sadly didn't have time to shout to anyone else before it vanished but I got to see him and that's all that matters.
Next stop in pursuit of the water was Bonito. Pleasant enough little town with a distinctly touristy feel. Full day just outside Bonito was spent in "the greatest fresh water snorkelling location in the world" I'm inclined to agree. It was incredibly clear and full of some really pretty fish. As we got in the water we were attcked, any flesh on display was a target. Dinky little fish about 2 inches long took it upon themselvses to clean us. Any dead skin, scars, infected skin (i.e. anywhere that had been bitten) etc was a luxury buffet to them. Tiny little fish eating my scars and bites really tickled, particularly when they went for my lips. Strange feeling. These fish have been used to clean wounds as they're get rid of any unwanted skin and dirt from your flesh. If ever got injured, a tnak of these to clean the wound would be helpful, if only to cheer you up from laughing too much.
Bit further south we came accross a nice little town called Foz. My room mate, a sweet American woman who's joined the tour in Bolivia, took the opportunity of an afternoon off to visit the supermaket. We were in there for an hour and a half. Still not quite sure how. Exciting trip out. Following day we went to Paraguay. Just for a day trip to a shopping mall. Kelly was warned that being American, they may feel like charging her a fortune to cross the border so she stayed in the hotel. She got the better deal. To be honest, I was going purely to say I'd been to Paraguay. Only thing I brought was a box of pringles. 1.5 days down, lots of really aimless shopping done, what does this place have to offer I wonder. Food was pretty good. 4 of us opted for the nice restuarant next door to the hotel. Had half a cow between us. Filet Mignon cooked to perfection with a chips arranged into a little basket shape.
The following day was one of the highlights of my holiday. Finishing the Inca trail and seeing the sunrise over Macchu Picchu will take some beating, but then I've always had a thing for waterfalls. Foz du Iguassu, to give it its full name, is the gateway to the most impressive sight I've even seen. 1.5 days touring the falls. First on the Argentinian side. A walk up to top of the devils throat, the absolutely ginormous falls, was followed by a walk around the top of some of the 275 waterfalls. All breathtaking. Any one of the falls would be enough to impress me but the sheer number of falls and she sheer volume of water thundering over them nearly made me weep with delight. The Brazillian side the next morning took us closer to the base of the devils throat and we were able to see the scale of the falls from the opposite side. Stretching out as far as the eye can see. Grinning all day, and for a long time after from the memory. Never seen anything as impressive in my entire life. Nature at it's more powerful, and most serene. Falling in love again just thinking about them.
Was also fun to get under the falls. Not the devils throat as we nearly drowned from the spray standing above them. Took speed boat splashing up the rapids into the heat of the falls, were treated to a gentle soaking by the dude spinning the boat around. A warning shower as we went under one of the smaller falls, and a proper soaking when we went directly under a far larger waterfall, 3 times. Hell of a rush.
That evening, a few of us went to an all you can eat pizza restuarant. You don't even have to get up, they just keep coming to the table with more and more pizzas. After about 10 slices, the dessert pizza arrived. Banana with cinamon, apple, nutella and milk chocolate sprinkles, and white chocolate with cheese. Must try it when I get home, heavenly.
Had a bit of bad news that evening, Kelly, with whom I'd spent most evenings sitting up chatting to till the early hours, had been to the doctor about her gammy ankle. Had been bitten and had swollen up to hideous size. The doctor told her off for walking round the waterfalls all day and told her she couldn't travel with us. 24 hour bus ride followed the falls and this was going to be too much for her. Instructed to rest, she spent the following morning planning how to meet up with us and concluding she may as well go home. But for the fact that we were next to Iguassu falls, I'd have stayed with her to keep her spirits up. Popped to supermarket when got back to keep her in pizza and yoghurt. Had been reduced to offering cereal bars and teddy shaped biscuits the previous night. She got the chills in the night and was quite depressed to have to think about missing a chunk of the holiday. Tasteless odd shaped biccies for tea can't have helped matters.
In the end she opted to ignore the doctor and stick with us. She only got ill once more after that, after again ignoring the doctor and having a few sneaky drinks while on antibiotics. Oh, and I got told off for suggesting the Atlantic was refreshing and once you've been in a while, quite warm. Soft American is from California where the sea is actually warm.
After the falls, we had the 24 hour journey. Split into 4 parts including 14 hour night bus and 6 hour on normal bus. Quality of films much better on day bus. Night buses tend to show horrible violent films with minimal plot. But for them turning the lights off at 8pm so you can't read, no one in their right mind would watch. Had daft rom com and kiddy film during the day. Sat giggling all the way through with Paula. Actually not a bad journey considering my butt went numb in the middle of the night and couldn't get up to wriggle without waking Paula up. Passed through Sau Paulo. Didn't see it's highlights if it has any. Scruffy city. Large shanty towns on the outskirts, and little pockets of slums mixed in with the ugly industry. To be fair, I was seeing the view from the main highway and was cranky from lack of sleep. Not rushing to go back and found out what I missed.
Next stop Paraty. Pretty little town. Didn't see much of it, spent the day on the beach being knocked about by the waves and running in occasionally to save our stuff from the incoming tide. Came back a bit early to watch the Champions League Final. Have priorities sorted. Went out for traditional Brazilian meal. Lots of rice and beans. Followed by heavenly ice cream. Self serve so you could pig out as much as you liked. Passion Friut ice cream was to die for. Got to have a play later when creating Kelly's dessert. She'd objected to the cobbled streets and gone home early. Made little smiley face in smarties and coated the lot in melted chocolate. Kelly was lucky I didn't eat it on the way home. Had feeble meal the following night. Ordered bacon buttie only to discover that they don't understand the concept of bacon and served 2 of uf and roll full of just bacon fat. Yuck. Apparently that's normal, the pink bit of the meat is called ham. Language barrier asside, why would you eat a pile of bacon fat anyway. Why have a name for smething normal people don't want to eat.
2 hour ferry onto Ilhe Grande. Stunning island surrounded by 'refreshing' waters, beautiful beaches and full of beautiful people (plus lots of tourists). We visited Brazil's best beach. Felt the incredibly soft powdery sand run through my toes before heading into the sea to be thrown about in the surf. Saw some monkeys chillin' in the jungle next to the beach. Sweet little things. Keith who'd somehow missed the monkeys every other time, was overjoyed to have finally seen some. The rest of us were giggling like little kids but when you're in paradise, that happens a lot. We also got to see 'the sexiest man in Brazil'. Our guide had a thing for Brazillian men so we were dubious, but he certainly lived up to his name. Yummy. Speaking of yummy, all along the sea front, lots of carts sold some of the best looking (and tasting) dessert you've ever seen. Sold by weight, we tried little bits of several things. Perfect holiday island. Nice hotel (with resident bat) sun, sea, golden sand, surf and puddings by the bucket full. What more could you ask for.
Booze cruise the next morning. Caiprinha boat. A drink made from Cachaca, crushed lime and huge quantites of sugar yo make it drinkable. Fun 6 hour boat trip round the islands, stopping regualarly to snorkel or just play in the sea. I found a few plastic bags lying about 2m down on the sea bed. Had great fun diving down to retrieve them, then kept seeing more and more. Scabby bastards who use the bay made a right mess. Collected big bag of plastic bags from the sea to take back to shore. The image in the head on a turtle choking on a plastic bag was enough to spur me on. Hopefully I've saved a few lives. At least redressed the balance having finishd off a couple of piranhas. Dinner that night was entertaining. Most of us had been drinking all day so wasn't a shock when we started a food fight in a posh restaurant. I was very well behaved. Don't drink that much anyway. Not enough so that when I fell down the stairs on the boat, it hurt.
Last location in South America was Rio de Janiero. Pretty city, particulary once you get above it and can admire the mountains poking out from between the sky scrapers. Copacabana and Ipenema beaches were nice enough. Fairly busy and the water's too dirty to go in so didn't compare to the paradise island of Ilhe Grande. Standard keep getting higher, getting too picky. Interesting night market greeted us on the first night. Huge collection of tacky souvenirs, pretty jewellerey and dodgy looking Brazil football shirts. Not huge amounts of time in Rio so picked the most important things to see. Christ The Redeemer of course, (we chose daft time to go, midday Sunday so naturally heaving) and Botofogo v Vasgo. Brazilian football. Not actually that impressed despite assurances that these were 2 good teams. They have their silky skills learned on the streets, but haven't been taught how to pass to each other. Kept running in to dead ends when the tricks ran out and no one was around them. One of the guys on the trip, and 18 year old called James, is staying in Brazil to teach street kids how to play football. Think he's got his work cut out.
Tried a Churascurea (spelling probably not accurate) for our last supper together. Buffet style for salad and veg then every 30 seconds or so, a waiter lices more meat onto your plate. Great fun. Never quite get time to eat whats on your plate before they bring more out.
Conclusions on South America. I'm in Vancouver and I miss it. I've done Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Chile and Paraguay, some more than others. Will have to come back and see the rest. Brazil was stunning from start to finish. Incredibly diverse country. So much more to explore. Will be back. Need more time to sit and stare at Iguassu falls for a start.
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