Rio de Janeiro

We arrived in Rio on a Friday evening and got a cab to our Airbnb in Urca. Urca is a small, safe and residential neighbourhood around the Pão de Açúcar (the Sugarloaf). Our accommodation was tiny, like a converted garage, but perfect for a few days.

We hosted three Brazilian ladies in London last year and we met up with one of them and her boyfriend in Botafogo for a drink and then they decided to take us out in Lapa. Flávio was driving, so we were lucky enough to be chauffeured around! We first went to the Escadaria Selarón (famous steps in Lapa that I’d never even heard of) and had some caipirinha there.

We then went to a cachaça bar and shared an entire bottle of ginger-cinnamon cachaça between Nathália, Oscar and me (since Flávio was driving).

It must have already been fairly late at that point, but the streets were busy and we were merry and so when they suggested to go to a street party, we happily said yes. So here we are, at 5am…

We got taken home around 6am and has a very unproductive day after waking up in the afternoon! Our only action of the day was to get some pizza in the neighbourhood later on.

Sunday we decided to do some sightseeing and walked across town for a while before heading to the Sugarloaf in the early evening. We timed it well to see the sunset over Rio, which was breathtaking! It really is a beautiful city with the mountains and beaches and bays around it.

On Monday, we had tickets to take the train up the Corcovado to see Christ the Redeemer. Again we had the most amazing view over the city.

In the evening, we met our Argentinian friends from Paraty and Ilha Grande, Ángel and Elisa, for a beer on the wall of Urca – a stretch of low wall around the bay with a beautiful view of the city.

We got invited to stay at theirs in Buenos Aires and this will certainly teach us to book refundable and cancelable hotels from now on! 🙂

Tuesday was our day to travel to Salvador, but since our flight was only in the evening, we checked out of our Airbnb and left our luggage and the bus terminal before meeting Elisa and Angel at the Museum of Tomorrow.

And that was our first trip to Rio! We got the big sights out of the way, but Lene gave us a list of things to do as well and I’m looking forward to checking out some of those when we get back there on the 20th of February.

Paraty and Ilha Grande

From Floripa, we caught a bus to Paraty further north (on the way to Rio). It’s got a historical centre in colonial style, complete with old cobbled streets. We had booked two nights, and on reflection that really should have been three to five is two full days rather than just one. We spent our day on a boat trip to a few beaches and bays around the area, swimming and snorkeling.

There were two other couples on our boat but we didn’t really chat to each other.
The next day we were due to get a bus to Angra dos Reis and catch a ferry to Ilha Grande from there. Oscar had started feeling ill the evening before, so we got a taxi to the bus terminal (and got well and truly overcharged). Funnily enough, one of the couples from the boat trip was ahead of us in the queue for the bus, so we joined forces in making our way to Ilha Grande. There are a few places along the coast that travellers visit and this is one of the common routes.
Ilha Grande is car-free and mainly full of trees (yay!), with good hiking trails and nice beaches.

Unfortunately, we had only booked two nights here as well (all booked together on that one day…), so again we only had one full day and Oscar wasn’t feeling great. At least we had the hostel dorm to ourselves.
Internet wasn’t great, so I couldn’t coordinate with the Argentinian couple and instead walked around a bit by myself before carrying Oscar to the beach for the afternoon (I carry him all the time. I’m very strong).


Short visit over, we caught the morning ferry back to Angra and a bus to Rio de Janeiro.

Florianopólis

Our friend Lene used to live in Floripa and she sent us a long list of things to do there – it’s a cool city half on the mainland and half on the island of Santa Catarina.
We wanted a few days to just chill at the beach and do nothing, because we felt a bit tired at that point… So we got ourselves an Airbnb in the centre for two nights (excellent choice of location this time!) and spent the day watching football and going to a Couchsurfing event called “Dinner with Strangers” in the evening. It was pretty cool – everyone paid a certain amount and brought their own drinks while two chefs made some really nice Lebanese food. The people there were a mix of Florianopólis natives, people working in the government there, tourists from other areas of Brazil… and us. Oscar has been saying that he wants to try and organise something like that when we’re back… Could be fun if it works out 🙂


The next day we spent just chilling and watching Netflix, with an excursion for some food in the evening.
For the rest of the week, we decided to move a bit closer to the beaches (of which there are many) and booked a hostel in Lagoa da Conceição, which is a big lagoon with a little town centre near it, full of shops and restaurants. At that point we’d also worked out the public bus system (there are not a lot of signs so it often involves asking the bus driver where they are going…).
Anyway, we were very lucky with the hostel – staff and guests were all really cool and we spent the evenings chatting and playing cards. So Oscar finally got a nice hostel experience :). One day we hiked to a remote beach called Lagoinha do Leste with our dorm neighbour from Germany (we’re everywhere). It took two hours to get there and another to get back to an area where we could catch a bus, but was totally worth it. The beach was nearly empty when we got there.

On the way home, we stopped in a restaurant by the beach from Lene’s list – it’s full of little notes from people all over the world.

I’m super sunburnt here from the day before, but I’m glad to say it got better quickly…

 

Oscar’s clear highlight was the BBQ prepared by one of the hostel guests (a chef from Norway) and the staff one night. He has since been telling everyone about the slow-cooked ribs they made (ask him, I dare you. Or has he told you already?).

We got a bit caught out with high season in Floripa and had to move to a different hostel for the last two nights, which wasn’t as nice and made us think that we really had to plan ahead a bit more. So we booked the next two weeks ahead and it took quite a long time to get it all sorted… and then we got it a bit wrong too :).

Foz do Iguaçu

For the day after we came back from Ilhabela, we had booked an overnight bus to Foz do Iguaçu to see the waterfalls. Unfortunately, we still hadn’t learned from our São Paulo hotel mistake – this time, the area wasn’t dodgy, but quite a bit outside of the centre! But they did transfers to both the Brazilian and the Argentine side of the waterfalls, so it was annoying but not too bad.
We went to the Brazilian side first, which gives you a more panoramic view of the falls. Really really impressive, discussion at the “Devil’s Throat”, which is the big waterfall at the top.

In the evening, we met up with a local guy via Couchsurfing ,(I’m not being paid to advertise this, honest) and he took us for some local food and then one of the few bars they have in the city. When we got in, the music made us feel like we were back in the early 00’s – total flashback! Except everyone around us was much younger and absolutely going for it without any discernible irony. Very strange! 7 Also, one of the DJs looked like Wayne from Wayne’s World and I really wish I’d managed to take a good picture!

Next day we went to Argentina and walked around their national park as well. Again, the Devil’s Throat (this time seen from above) was incredible. All day, we were wondering why so many Argentines were carrying big thermos flasks around the park (Fernando solved the mystery for us – apparently it’s full of cold mate (sometimes mixed with other juice). I’m planning to get myself one the moment we cross the border into Argentina again in March. Everyone will think I’m local!

On our last day in Foz do Iguaçu, we went to Itaipu dam, which is one of the wonders of the modern world and really bloody impressive too. And then we were off to Florianópolis!

Ilhabela

São Paulo is HUGE. It just doesn’t end. You drive and whenever you think you’re out of it, there are more highrisers…
On Saturday morning, Luiz drove Alliny and us 4 hours to the coast and a little island called Ilhabela. It’s a beautiful place, very much a holiday area. We got there in the afternoon and stayed in a hostel just across the street from the beach. On Sunday, we went to a place called Cachoeira da Toca, which is a bit like a natural aquatic park – there are different areas ( a waterfall, a big cave, natural rock slides) where you can spend all day and try some cachaça made there afterwards. The only downside were a whole lot of flying bitey things that made our legs (mainly mine – wish I wasn’t so white) look like a teenager’s face. I think even Steffi with her much preferred blood (by anything that bites) wouldn’t have been able to distract them. But anyway, it was beautiful and fun and we bought ourselves some ginger cachaça which we reckoned would be excellent for sore throats (no other reason) before we left.

 

São Paulo

We were meant to leave Doha early in the morning and get to São Paulo around 6pm. Unfortunately, we had about 6 hours delay and didn’t really get told anything… So we spent a lot of time reading about the city and most websites mention crime… By the time we got there around 1am, we were already a bit spooked and the behaviour of our taxi driver (slowing down before red lights so he didn’t have to stop, watching anyone out in the road very carefully, insisting we pay him inside the taxi) didn’t really reassure us! Turns out we had booked a hotel in a slightly dodgy area (at least at night). When we left the hotel the next morning it was absolutely fine. We did a free walking tour that day and then met Luiz, who’s couchsurfed with us in London, for dinner. He suggested taking us to the beach for the weekend and his friend Alliny also found us a hostel in a safer neighbourhood :). We met another previous Couchsurfer (Erika) and a group of her friends the next night and so we got over our not ideal introduction to the city! 😉
I liked Vila Madalena most, which is a bit like São Paulo’s Shoreditch.

Doha

After those relaxing days in Tasmania, we left Melbourne for a quick overnight stop in Doha. Didn’t really have a lot of time but since our main objective was to meet with Antonio, I’d say it was very successful!


We also got “upgraded” to a room with two single beds. Hint?

I challenged Oscar to take photos of pigeons in flight, so now we have more pigeon photos than we’ll ever need.

 

Tasmania

From the 4th to the 9th of January we had nothing planned and one of the other wedding guests was planning to spend some time in Tasmania and convinced us to join her. So we booked ourselves a flight in a tiny plane and flew there on the 5th. None of us had realiaed how big Tasmania is, though! Jamie managed to book us a car from Devonport airport (about 45mins from where we landed) since no car was available in Burnie Wynyard. Unfortunately, the sandwich Oscar and I shared at Melbourne airport before leaving didn’t agree with me and I started throwing up the moment we landed. So while we tried to make our way to Devonport via public buses (with help from friendly bus drivers), I was holding on to a plastic bag…
Once we got the car, we picked up some groceries and asked the Google Oracle for the best way to Corinna Wilderness Experience – the place Jamie had booked. It looked beautiful. They were expecting us that evening, there was an extra set of bedding in the room and we couldn’t wait.
So we set out on our 4 hour drive (told you Tasmania is big), me in the backseat still with a plastic bag. It was starting to get dark as we drove and since our road went mainly through forest, Oscar had some fun doing the wallaby/ possum/ Tasmanian devil slalom to try to avoid all the animals who leisurely strolled into the road.
Now here’s where we should have checked the route before setting off. Because when, after hours of driving though nothing but forest, we finally saw the lights of the place – we were on the other side of the river. There was a barge to take you over… But it had stopped operating at 7pm and it was now 11pm. Faced with a 5 hour drive to go back on ourselves and down the road that didn’t involve having to cross a river, we did the sensible thing and slept in our tiny hire car. Oscar wasn’t very convinced (according to him, we would definitely be attacked by snakes crawling into the engine and then coming into the cabin when we started the car the next morning) but he also managed. And then at 9am the next morning we could finally set over and go into our cabin and sleep some more :).


There was no TV, no internet, no mobile phone network and a whole lot of forest. I LOVED it. We did a bit of hiking the first day, rented canoes the second day, hiked some more the day after, cooked and played cards in the evenings (Oscar won overall, but Jamie did well). We were seriously lucky with the weather (warm and sunny every day – apparently that doesn’t usually happen) and if you’re interested in a lot of pictures of trees, this is for you: https://goo.gl/photos/EL8JU3qjAzws82Wi8.

Great Ocean Road and Phillip Island

​Well. It’s been a while and I still haven’t managed to write any more… This travelling life is tough ;). There are very few days where you just do nothing (we’ve done one so far, about a week ago. It was definitely needed!). So I’ve decided to be more efficient and start writing up stuff when we’re on the bus – we’ve been on a few 14 to 16 hour bus journeys already, but since we go overnight I usually sleep… No more! 🙂
So I’ll start where I left off.

 

Lots of people (and the interwebs) recommended that we do a Great Ocean Road tour while we’re in Melbourne, so we signed up for a day trip on New Year’s Eve. We went all the way to the Twelve Apostles (rock formations in the sea) and then made our way back. The landscape was stunning – very glad we went when we had the chance! Picture upload is really slow but here’s a link to Google Photos if anyone wants to see more!

https://goo.gl/photos/LhuVLoxRMq3ZeCpG6

 


Two days later we went on another tour to Phillip Island to watch the penguin parade – around 9pm each night, groups of little penguins make their way across the beach to their sleeping places in the dunes. Loads of people watch it every night (they’ve built two ranks of seats and you can even get VIP tickets for those with the best view!).

On the way to the penguins we stopped at a sanctuary to see koalas, kanguroos, wallabies, wombats, Tasmanian devils… Again, loads of pictures but slow to upload. See photo dump here 🙂

https://goo.gl/photos/2yeKRtyb1waryPiLA
We also saw another amazing migration of animals a few days later, from the roof terrace of one of Oscar’s friends: thousands of big bats flying from their sleeping park to the Botanical  Garden for dinner.
And in case you haven’t fallen asleep yet (looking at other people’s holiday snaps does that to me sometimes), here are the Melbourne photos: https://goo.gl/photos/qiNcr3F9Qw2ChjWD7

Melbourne

First of all, Happy New Year everyone!

We’re having a bit of a lazy day today, first one since we got here, so I thought I’ll make a start on this…

Melbourne has been really good fun so far. We arrived in the evening of Christmas Day and it was really warm – 36 degrees or so. We met some of the guys for a beer and then just headed to bed – jet lag wasn’t too bad at all after that.

Since we had a few days before the wedding, we spent some time discovering Melbourne – we went to the beach at St Kilda…

…walked through the Botanical Garden…

watched a football match (Melbourne Victory vs Perth Glory)….

…and generally wandered around.

Then of course, there was the wedding – in a beautiful Botanic Park. It was absolutely pouring it down early on, but cleared up in the afternoon. And anyway, who cares about rain? It was great fun.

On the day after the wedding, we all moved into a big villa by the beach booked by the bride and groom – it’s huge, can’t believe people actually live in something like this!

So this is where we saw in 2017. Before that, we went on a tour on the Great Ocean Road, which was amazing – pictures will follow. And tomorrow we’re going to see penguins on Philip Island. And then we still have a few days before heading off to Doha for a day… We’re still deciding what to do!