A Travellerspoint blog

Bye Brazil


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A quick post about my last events in Brazil and my favourite things over this whirlwind two weeks.

I had one last day to spend back in Rio. Unfortunately it involved not feeling the greatest as I appear to have caught a cold. It was probably inevitable to get a bit run down after so many busy days! And I didn't let that stop me from heading out to hike to Corcovado to see Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). I went with a few German girls from the hostel. The hike was really beautiful and fun, amazing to be hiking in the forest right beside the city.

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Saw some monkeys on the way as well.

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And then the fun and challenging part up the metal steps and chain link rope. It was actually pretty steep- 704m up over about 3km to the top. I'd rate that one about 50/100 burpees . Let's just say it was a pretty sweaty hour and a half 😁

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At the top, Cristo was shrouded in cloudy fog, and still spectacular to see. Unfortunately that meant we didn't get to enjoy the view of the city, but we were able to get a good look at the huge statue.

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And some street art on the way down.

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After the train down and returning to the hostel, I was running out of energy for anything else in Rio. And the 2:30am wake-up to fly to Lima was looming. So it was an early night!

And some time to reflect on my favourite things about Brazil:

- The coffee- available everywhere and traditionally served strong and very sweet- Grandpa you would love it!
- Street food- deep fried bundles of deliciousness found all over. Also the hot dogs. With an array of toppings from corn and peas to quail egg and deep fried Parmesan. Seriously delicious.
- Justin Bieber- I wouldn't say this is necessarily a 'favourite'.... But this token Canadian has basically followed me everywhere, I don't think I've gone a day without hearing his music!
- Caipirinhas- Brazil's most popular drink. Made from cachaça (sugar cane liquor- literally what other kind of alcohol do I need in my life), lime, soda and sugar. Yeah, I had a few.
- And the people. So friendly and nice, even with a language barrier that is present more often than not.
-The whole country is so bright, colorful, beautiful. And definitely on my list of places I want to return to someday.

After only one country I've remembered so many things that only seem real when you're traveling. It feels like I've been gone for longer than I have, meeting great people is easy, leaving places is always hard, there's no end to the amazing destinations you can see. Traveling opens your mind to a whole new world and wealth of experiences.
"Traveling is like flirting with life, it's like saying, 'I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station'."
- Lisa Saint Aubin de Téran

Posted by elliehirch 11:04 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Perusing the Pantanal


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Put away your cell phones kids.. The Pantanal is like Pokemon Go in really life... Only ten times better because you're in the wetlands collecting sightings of amazing wild animals!

I had a smooth and uneventful flight to Campo Grande via São Paulo and spent the night in easily the nicest hostel I've ever seen. I had a ten bunk dorm on the top floor to myself, complete with huge closet, huge bathroom (jacuzzi tub, marble counter, massive mirrors), and balcony with a great view...

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Then pick-up the next morning for the drive into the heart of the Pantanal. Talk about a beautiful drive. When we left the pavement for the dirt roads I was switched to a seat on top of a big truck. We weren't down the road more than 5 minutes before the driver stopped to point out a baby caiman, a toucan, and then a big track across the road from an anaconda. I'm actually happy to report that was one animal he looked around for but we didn't see!
Our first stop in the afternoon was at the jungle lodge by the river for a boat ride. I was given the choice between a smaller canoe or a ride on a bigger boat. I opted for the bigger boat as it would cover a larger distance and head towards the river otters. Again, we hardly covered much distance before spotting capybaras, howler monkeys and many birds. And then.. The magic happened. As were looking at a big heron on the other side of the bank.. We saw it.. Jaguar. Sitting perfectly at the water's edge as if it was posing. I managed to stop shaking long enough to get my phone to video, and then enjoyed about a minute soaking in the presence of such a beautiful creature before it yawned, turned, and stalked off into the bushes. Guides that I asked estimated around 5-10% of visitors to the Pantanal are lucky enough to see one. I felt very lucky indeed.

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What my post jaguar excitement looked like.

The rest of the ride was also beautiful, just a little more calm! The greenery in the Pantanal is truly spectacular. And the smell. Sweet, floral smells throughout the whole place. I've never experienced anything like it. We saw kingfishers, cormorants, and other birds along the way, including the bird that is the symbol of the Pantanal, Tuiuiu or Jabiru stork. Ironically, no river otters. That's ok, I'll take the jaguar any day.

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Jabiru stork, largest bird in Brazil

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The ride ended with the sunset!

I spent both of my two nights there at São Joao farm. I absolutely loved seeing a Pantanal farm and experiencing the similarities and differences to an Alberta farm!

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If you look carefully you can see the caiman in front of the farm on the left and the capybara on the right.

For the rest of my time in the Pantanal I enjoyed walking tours, both daytime and nighttime, horseback riding, jeep/truck rides and piranha fishing. My luck ran out at the fishing. Using long bamboo poles and red meat bait, we waded out into the lagoon, right next to some baby caimans and I attempted to hook some of these toothy fish. When they start to nibble you need to yank the line out of the water to hook them. I managed only to send one flying through the air rather than hook it. Free ride. The guide I was with caught two which I got to enjoy with my dinner. Not much meat on em but it's pretty tender and tasty!
From my ~ 3 days on the tour, the list of animals is so long that I actually started having to write it down on my phone to remember! More capybaras, toucans, caimans and black howler monkeys. Hearing them howl (which they do usually morning and evening or when the weather changes) sounds really weird, almost like airplane jets from a distance. I also saw blue macaws (like Blu from the cartoon Rio), red macaws, agouti, lizards, feral pigs, giant anteater, armadillos, coati, small ostrich, parakeets, egrets, cranes, herons, loads of other birds.

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Toucan!

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Blue macaws

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I love the armadillos! Got so close to one at night I could see the ridges on its back!

And then there is the Pantanal cows. Much skinnier than those I'm used to. The humidity and heat that they have to survive, as well as the floods probably makes them tougher than the cows I'm used to as well. The hottest days in the Pantanal will be up to 45 degrees. I don't even want to know what it 'feels like' with the humidity. I only had to endure about 35 degrees while I was there. I showered 4 times that day.....

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Lastly... Some of my favourite images of the scenery...

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And the classic walking photo!

Everything about the past 3 days was amazing. Beautiful scenery, amazing animals, good food, nice people (I even had a guide for just myself some of the time). Truly spectacular way to experience more of the wonders that Brazil has to offer!

Posted by elliehirch 19:41 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Last Minute Island Life on Ilha Grande


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After a night out at a bar in Copacabana and a few quick hours of sleep it was up and at em at 6am to grab my things, check out, and catch the transfer shuttle to Ilha Grande. I fell asleep probably the second the shuttle left the hostel. Then enjoyed the ferry ride despite the cloudy skies to arrive on the beautiful Grand Island and walk along the beach to my hostel.

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(It's the white building)

This island feels like a paradise dream, humid, lush, secluded (no cars, just bikes), mountains in the middle with jungle that makes me feel like I am in Tarzan.
The view from the hostel and some pictures of the town...

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I waited to check in at the hostel and caught up on the blog, then walked around town with probably the only two other English speakers in the hostel, Farhad from Canada (wooo) and Jessica from Switzerland. The three of us had supper and spent way too long trying to figure out the next day's weather for a potential sunrise hike. We ended up getting up at 2am to attempt it but were unable to get to far as the rain just continued to increase farther into the jungle and rain clouds and fog would have obscured the summit view. So back down for only a few hours of sleep before a boat tour. Despite not reaching the summit, which is always a favorite moment for me, I wouldn't take back the experience. Never hiked through jungle like that and it's never worth it to regret a unique adventure with fun people.
And then we had a few more hours sleep to enjoy the day out on the boat. It started sunny and then got cloudy which didn't diminish the beauty at all. The tour started at the western edge of the island at Gruta do Acaia. A cave that was quite tight to crawl down to where the water glows blue from the light coming through. So cool. This is the best picture which barely begins to show the glowing water!

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Then we stopped at Lagoa Verde (Green Lagoon) and Lagoa Azul (blue lagoon) for some beautiful snorkeling. The water is clear and amazing and there's some beautiful fish all around.

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And the views in the lagoons aren't too bad either.

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Then one last stop here for a late lunch

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And back to the island.

After a quiet night spent eating pizza, drinking wine and listening to Edmonton radio for the Eskimos game (only to hear a heartbreaking loss to the worst team in the CFL), it was off to bed before a sunny morning (of course) to catch the ferry and transfer shuttle to the airport. I'm off to Campo Grande and the Pantanal to hopefully see the elusive jaguar ✌🏼️.

Posted by elliehirch 12:59 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Rio Rio Rio

Days 2 & 3 in Rio de Janeiro


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Everything in Rio has been so spectacular! On my second morning I joined Laura and Moritz, a couple people from Germany that I met in the hostel the night before, for a hike. Second day, already hiking... No surprise there. And with some awesome new people I met. Doesn't get better than that. We journeyed to the top of Morro Dos Irmaos (Twin Brothers Hill). You access the trail from the Vidigal favela. (If you don't know what a favela is.. Google it and check it out.. Basically they are slums in an urban location.. But they are very unique and despondently beautiful places). The motorbike ride from the drop off point to the start of the trail was so much fun! I was probably hanging on fairrrrrrly tightly while being amazed at the driver's maneuvering and 'risky' driving up the steep hill, around cars and people. Loved it. Then the hiking began. Thankfully it wasn't toooo long because the heat and humidity made it feel longer than it was! For my Temple fitness crew... I would rate it a 2/5 prowler sprints. Hard but short... And worth it for this view!

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And this view....

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This is what the trail looks like:

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(And this is a typical Ellie while hiking photo.. Expect more of these over the next few months ;)

We walked all the way down to get a good look through Vidigal..

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I am totally loving all the street art.

Then we kept walking to Vidigal beach, walked along the sand, watched the waves, and continued to Leblon beach.

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And had a coconut... Look at that beautiful frizzy hair in this Brazilian humidity.

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There's a look back at the mountain we climbed!

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The rest of the evening was spent enjoying the Paralympic opening ceremonies with the girls I met the night before, eating a Brazilian hot dog (so many toppings.. So good) and later a sandwich called the Manitoba!! (Couldn't say no to that!)

The next day I headed to check out Santa Teresa neighbourhood in the morning, walked around by myself (it was totally safe Mom, don't worry!) And beautiful..

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Then continued to Escadaria Selaron (Selaron steps)..

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Next stop... Paralympics!! I joined the girls at Judo. We got to see 4 medal classes (so 12 matches/bouts). They are all visually impaired contenders and it was so interesting to watch how they compete without sight. The atmosphere of a live competition and the Paralympic environment was so amazing.. I loved it.

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After we returned to the hostel I had to decide what I was doing the next day. Those of you that may have commented on my 'over planning' of the trip will be able to throw in an "I told you so". I totally changed destinations at the last minute. Heading for Ilha Grande instead of Paraty based on a number of other backpacker's recommendations.
And then I proceeded to decide to go out to a bar with others from the hostel before a 7am bus ride... Hadn't been out yet ya know, gotta start the trip off right.. Even if it made for a loooong bus ride! But that's for the next post!

Posted by elliehirch 09:24 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Flights and Day 1!!


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Day 1 is finally in the books. After almost 14 months of planning it feels surreal to finally be here. Everything about the flights was just peachy besides the whole flying overnight thing. I connected in Houston and there were a number of paralympians on the second flight.... Perty cool. Despite a late take-off we arrived in Rio on schedule after 10 hours overnight where I compensated for the uncomfortable middle seat with gravol and two glasses of wine. Zzz

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After we landed, I arrived to my hostel too early for check-in so I left my bag and headed out to the highly recommended Botanical Gardens (Jardim Botanico). And they did not disappoint! Talk about lush vegetation and luscious flowers! Huge variety of flora and fauna in a huge space right in the city. Rio is unlike any place I have ever seen before. A huge city next to the ocean on one side and mountainous jungle on the other. Talk about spectacular.
Here's some images of the Jardim Botanico:

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I loved the Orchid House! And felt like my mother taking so many pictures of flowers! ;)

Next stop, part of Freitas Lagoon (Lagoa), this is where the rowing is set up for the Olympics.

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Last sightseeing of the day was Park Lage, another lush and luscious park. You barely have to walk into the park before you can't hear traffic and basically forget you are in the city!

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After checking in to the hostel I went for dinner with 3 other girls staying at the same place, then celebrated my first night of travel with some caipirinhas and flip cup and a few other games at the hostel!

So far I am loving this city and loving the people, travellers and locals, everyone is extremely friendly and any culture shock I initially experienced is fast disappearing. Two more days in Rio might not be enough! I do get to come back for one more before Peru :)

Posted by elliehirch 13:19 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

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