Favela and Farewell

F1BA3BD7-C6A6-4880-B1B9-B64F279B4397This post was originally from March 11, 2019

On my last day in Brazil I was lucky enough to visit Rio’s largest favela called Rocinha. Rocinha is a shanty town that is sandwiched between two wealthy areas of Rio. It’s on a mountain overlooking the city and it became really well known after the 2002 Oscar winning movie City of God. Although it only occupies less than a square mile of land it’s home to about 75000 people! Houses are tightly packed together and some are stacked on top of each other as tall as 11 stories high. Over the years the homes have evolved from wood and tin to more stable materials like concrete. Basic sanitation is now available to about 80% of the population.

The slum has economic opportunities but its most well known for its drug related violence. There are two gangs that run the favela and for this reason it’s really unsafe to go without a guide. I was hesitant to go because I feel like ethically it’s wrong to go see someone’s life as an ‘attraction’. People were doing this in India and it made me so mad. But after learning more about the favelas, tourism has actually acted as a catalyst for positive development. Even knowing this I questioned my decision to go, but seeing the reaction from the people that live there I am so happy that I went. Clearly our guide was well respected as everyone would greet him and hug him. He took the laws of the favela seriously and only when we were allowed, were we able to take photos. During most of the time there we had to put our cameras away. Why? Because the drug lords were everywhere. Mere teenagers sat at corners with machine guns and AK-47’s. At one point I saw a picture perfect opportunity – brightly coloured chickens pecking around debris. I asked if I could take a photo of this and he said with the most stern tone ‘definitely no – you’ll see why in a few steps’. Just right around the next corner were gang members with their guns displayed proudly across their laps. He also showed us all the bullet holes from previous gang brawls.

Amongst the crime and chaos the people of the favela are a tight knit community. We were taken to a place where artists proudly displayed their work and I was able to buy a piece. Street art is also literally at every corner with positive messages of hope and encouragement. Children still go to school and around the time of the 2016 Olympics various athletes (including Michael Phelps) built a sports centre with a school right near the favela. The centre is free as long as the child is in school. And crazily enough 95% of children in Brazil are in school. Sport is important to Brazilians and so many famous soccer stars grew up right here in the favelas.

Overall we spent about 2 hours in Rocinha. We started at the top of the mountain and meandered all the way to the bottom. I got to play with children a little, listen to a local samba band and buy treats at a bakery. Although the walkways around the favela are narrow, steep and somewhat nonexistent there was order in the chaos. Houses are purposely not numbered in order so that police will never find anyone. Everyone looks out for each other and it was so heartwarming to feel the warmth and welcome from the community.E331CBB0-3DCC-4E1F-A02D-37E5E98CB6E25DD2B8A7-40C0-49F9-8FDA-B4AB25DB2181210EDEAF-44D8-4ABF-B7B2-E44CACF4F5ABD9AE647F-DEA6-4708-AE6C-8404A47A0292CD097906-9D58-4C65-8F46-5257B40F1D93AF22279E-1292-4D21-9EDB-CC295E4996C1F428F658-F12B-4F61-9B38-D16D173DF00FAA854418-09A6-4152-94F1-9464C51A9B42CDD9A7FC-B2AD-4514-AA77-27BDFDB862FC610DE7C3-4667-4A26-ACCB-AE42E31EE309

As soon as we left the favela it was time to pack our stuff and head to the airport.  It’s crazy that this adventure has quickly come to an end. Even though I was a hobbling mess for most of the trip it was another great trip. Rio is the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. Brazil is so incredibly beautiful with its bright colours. And the people are warm and kind.

Not surprising I met some lifelong friends. We shared so many laughs and those memories will stay with me forever. It was sad to say goodbye but hopefully our paths will cross again.7AC93B37-3D43-4FE5-950B-F86747AAF175

Before I sign off I made note of some random things …

  • The toilet situation in Brazil is weird. Many toilet seats are soft and foamy. My grandma used to have one just like it! The toilet paper on the contrary are nothing close to soft and foamy. And get this, you are not supposed to flush the toilet paper. It all goes in the bin!
  • There was a big presence of Freemasonry. Symbols and signs were in many places.
  • Meat meat meat. A common restaurant was an all you can eat meat house. The waiter would come along with massive slabs of meat (like dim sum) and just cut you off a slab. Pretty much a vegetarian’s nightmare! (I only gagged a few times)
  • Oh and a funny story…I was talking to a pharmacist one day. He was giving me pain medication and we had to communicate through Google Translate. He printed off a receipt and placed it in a basket. Then he types ‘take this bitch up to the front to pay’. Hmmmm I think Google Translate failed us!
  • And lastly it wasn’t uncommon to see street performers juggling knives, etc at stop lights!

Travel is truly a spectacular gift and I’m so grateful that I have been able to experience another corner of the world. Thank you for following my journey.

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I usually only go away once a year but this year is a little different. I already have my next trip planned for September. I will be going to Greece for a couple weeks to work in a Syrian refugee camp. I’m so excited for that experience and I hope you’ll come along for that ride too.

 

Rio impresses yet again ~ Copacabana & Carnival

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This post was originally from March 9, 2019

Her name was Lola she was a showgirl. With yellow feathers in her hair and her dress cut down to there…

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Today was all about the Copacabana. We are actually staying in Copacabana and are just minutes away from the beach. There are so many beaches here in Rio and they stretch for miles. The sand is pristine and the water is so clear. The problem with Copacabana is that it’s incredibly busy. There are literally probably thousands of people and sun umbrellas that line the beach. Although it might not be the most relaxing beach it makes for amazing people watching that’s for sure.

We were warned to be very careful of our belongings. One of the ladies on our tour was walking the strip near the beach and a guy pulled her necklace right off her neck .  Fortunately 5 of us went to the beach together so when a few were swimming the others could guard our bags. The water was awesome and the waves were super fun. I couldn’t have asked for a better last full day in Brazil. My happy place is definitely near the ocean. Listening to the waves crash in is so peaceful to me.

After sweating our asses off we had to get ourselves to the pick-up point for our Carnival tickets. It just so happened to be in a Synagogue! They have the most backward way to get tickets. You can’t print them off ahead of time and you can only go on certain days to pick them up. We weren’t in the city for the other pick-up days so this was our only chance. The line snaked outside so we were in it for the long haul. About 2 hours later we got our passes and I couldn’t have been more excited to get showered and ready for Carnival.A52781FD-E154-44FC-9AFB-BE39CA221011

Kris and I bought the shortest skirts (they look like tennis skirts), tacky tanks (mine is bedazzled and says Everything is Amazing), as well as miniature top hats to clip into our hair like fascinators. We looked hella cheesy and we were ready to go.

You had to hire a pick up to get to the Sambódromo as normal cars can’t get near the stadium. Traffic was insane but we only missed part of the first parade. The parade of Champions hosts the top 6 winners from Carnival. Each school has about an hour to showcase their parade. It starts off with fireworks and singing by the entire crowd. Everyone seemed to know the samba school’s song and the energy was electrifying. Each parade has a story to tell but not having a clue what they were singing about, Kris and I felt a little lost at times. Even though we had no clue what was going on there was no question that the costumes, dancing and out of this world floats were completely jaw dropping. I can’t even imagine the amount of work that goes into each parade. I have never seen anything as grandiose in my life. The colours were vibrant, the stadium was loud and it just gave me chills to be a part of something so incredible. Our seats were right near the front as well so we felt all VIP!  A couple on our tour were near us but a bit further back. They paid over $600 US per ticket. I am not sure how we got such great seats at about $200US each. Score!50C234D3-CA54-49CF-A93B-307F7C68CA604D1740FC-280B-4A15-8C3A-719DC73FBF2F

The parades went long into the night and into the morning. I think they ended around 5:30am! We watched 4 parades and didn’t leave until well past 2am.

This was another absolutely incredible day! Words can’t describe how phenomenal the parade was. The entire stadium gets so into it and everyone is out of their seats dancing and singing right along with the parade. It’s definitely a night I’ll never forget!

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The Highs of Rio ~ A day in Rio that I will never forget!

16B5DB1A-395A-4122-A1CD-85BE59464FEBThis post is originally from March 8, 2019

Today was a pretty spectacular day ~ one of those days that I will never forget! Drum roll please … a bunch of us signed up to go hang gliding!!!  I was worried that they wouldn’t let me do it because of my ankle so I was bound and determined to walk without a limp and pretend that everything was A-OK. On the car ride to the Hang Gliding Centre we were all shitting ourselves a bit; and I have to admit that the nerves didn’t stop until I was in the air. I’ve hang glided once before back in Australia but that was almost 20 years ago.

When we got to the Hang Gliding Centre at Tijuca National Park we signed our lives away and then an old dude told me to go with him. The other girls got in one car together but lucky me got my own personal ride by an ancient looking man who I then learned would be my hang gliding partner. I thought he looked more like an old pimp than a hang gliding pro, but what do I know?  Once I got to the top I was reunited with my friends and right away we were put through a haphazard training. The key to hang gliding is the take off and the faster you run the better. I haven’t ran since I hurt my ankle (I basically haven’t walked properly either) and I was so nervous that my dibbled run would give me away. My instructor told me that my run was rubbish and that we had to keep practicing. Meanwhile I was wincing in pain trying to sprint like a mofo. Apparently I did a fair enough job and it was time to slap on the gear…

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Nervous laughter maybe?

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Becca and I looking  like a pair of hot tamales!!!

Watching others run off the mountain was so scary but none of them fell to their death so I felt a little bit better. Once all the checks were in place I was the second one to take the plunge from our group. (ps the ramp is about 520m high!) Running off was terrifying but as soon as we hit the air the wings took us up and away. It was absolutely, bloody well amazing. Rio is a picture perfect city. It’s so lush and mountainous but then has the impeccable beaches as well. We were able to see the fancy houses below and right nearby the favelas. We flew over the ocean and mountains and jungle. No word of a lie, I was crying like a baby. It was so spectacular that I was just in tears. All I could say was WOW over and over again!DCIM100GOPROG0014546.DCIM100GOPROG0014551.DCIM100GOPROG0014586.DCIM100GOPROG0014587.

Because it wasn’t that windy my flight only lasted about 10 minutes. What goes up must come down…how the hell was I going to land on my ankle? As soon as we hit the ground I bit it on my knees through the sand. It sounded like Fred Flintstone stopping his car! Another one of my more graceful moments in life!

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the graceful crash landing

All 6 of us made it back alive and all 6 of us couldn’t wipe the grin off our faces! What an amazing experience!

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One of Rio’s amazing beaches…our landing spot.

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Later in the day Kris, our friend Becca and I  headed downtown to the city centre. I heard about this amazing street art that was painted for the Rio Olympics in 2016 and I wanted to see it for myself. Other than having to try to find the street in the blazing 40 degree weather, it was absolutely phenomenal!  The Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra painted this massive wall that has made it into the world records. The mural wall runs 190m long and 15.5m high. It depicts indigenous people from 5 continents which also represented the Olympic Rings. The mural is entitled Etnias or Ethnicities in English. Kobra and his team used approximately 100 gallons of white paint, 1500L of coloured painted and at least 3500 cans of spray paint. At the time of the Olympics this 3km strip called Olympic Boulevard was home to big screens, live music and nightly firework displays. The enormity of the mural is insane. It is definitely the most impressive and beautiful street art that I have ever seen!

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A Mursi woman from Ethiopia

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A Kayin woman from Thailand

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A Tajapo boy from Brazil

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An Inuit man from North America

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An Aboriginal man from Australia

No rest for the weary…there’s more to see in Rio. Next stop – Sugarloaf Mountain. Rio is surrounded by mountains and there are two that stand out that have a gondola that you can ride to the top. It’s one of those iconic tourist attractions and no surprise, it was riddled with tourists! We wanted to go for the sunset so we could see Rio in all its glory…but so did half of Rio. It was still stunning but doesn’t have the same glorious affect when you are looking at the back of someone’s head. Kris and I couldn’t be bothered to fight the crowd when the sun was actually setting so we sat on the ground in an area that was peaceful and deserted.

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Sounds like a day for the books don’t you think?

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check out G Adventure’s Wonders of Brazil

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Brazil’s Picture Perfect Pantanal

F41F38DE-3A3E-4733-8CC5-9B0C8CCDEC7BThis post is originally from March 7, 2019

Hey Everyone!

Yesterday we left Bonito in a minivan and drove for 5 hours to god knows where?? From there we were picked up by a truck and loaded into the back of it just like cattle. This is where we 4×4’d it deep into the bush of the Pantanal.

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The Pantanal is the largest wetland in the entire world and is about half the size of France! It spills from Western Brazil into Bolivia and Paraguay and is the most bio diverse region in all of Brazil. There are hundreds of species that live in the Pantanal and it actually has the world’s highest density of jaguars!

We were supposed to stay two nights at this lodge but calling it a lodge is putting it a tad loosely. It’s this wooden structure built on stilts. Upstairs is a dorm room of about 20 beds where the floor is so uneven that it looked like we all might go crashing down at any moment. There were dead cockroaches on the floor, no sheets on the bed and just a couple of fans that oscillated from the ceiling. And to top it off, IT WAS HOT AS HELL!

*** I have to admit that sleeping in the dorm was not as bad as I had expected. The worst part was when I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Navigating down the rickety, uneven steps was treacherous, especially with a gibbled ankle! As I walked through the grass towards the bathrooms I was pretty convinced that a jaguar was lurking and ready to eat me at any moment. In the bathroom however I was greeted by a gang of frogs instead. Nothing like peeing with an audience!

Anyway, back to day 1 ~ For the first evening our scheduled activity was … drum roll please … HORSEBACK RIDING (again!!). Just call me John Wayne! The problem with this horseback excursion is that we had to wear long sleeves and pants because of the mosquito situation. It was stifling hot remember and there was no shade in sight. My ankle was hurting quite a bit and I questioned sitting this one out, however I worried that if I didn’t go I’d miss out on seeing some amazing animals.

They made us wear these silly plastic helmets that sat propped on the top of our heads. There’s no way that this helmet could save your noggin if you were to fall. I didn’t bring my backpack this time so I slid my two litre water bottle down the front of my pants. Let me tell you that I looked like a top notch classy bitch!

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The first part of the ride was absolutely brutal. The sun was beating down and there was no shade in sight. As well, the horses were going at a snails pace so all the wobbling back and forth was making me very sleepy. I started to close my eyes and ‘narcoleptic Heather’ took over. I actually fell asleep twice where I’d head bob and realize holy shit I’m on a horse! By the end, the horses started to pick up their pace and I was able to finish in fine form. And by fine form I mean the trotting had pulled my helmet off my head and my body was flailing in all directions. Even the goucho was killing himself laughing at me.

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Today we woke up to the sound of the howler monkeys (a deep growling sound) as well as all the birds chirping in various choruses. It’s quite cool actually! Our 7am activity was … get this … piranha fishing! That’s right! We all had bamboo fishing rods with beef fat hooked on the ends. We stood on the bank of the river and threw our bait into the water. All the while giant caiman crocodiles lurked near the edge and some even came up on land! You literally had to strategically place yourself so that you were not in reaching distance from a caiman!

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This guy in front had his tail chewed off by the piranhas! 

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We fished for two hours and unfortunately I went through a lot of bait but no piranhas took my hook. Most of the others caught at least one and let me tell you, those teeth are razor sharp! I wish I could add this skill in my resume but I’ll have to live vicariously through Kris, as she caught a baby one. The adult piranhas were kept to eat at lunch but the babies they fed to the caimans.

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Next on the agenda was a boat ride down the river. It’s really hot here so after a while it was a bit uncomfortable. Thankfully we had spurts of rain for a few minutes which really helped the situation. It’s not like we could jump into the river for a quick dip with the caiman and piranha infested waters. I was afraid to even dip my fingers in the water. We saw all sorts of beautiful birds, a capybara, a giant otter, caimans of every size as well as the most vibrant green iguana I’ve ever seen. It was all really cool until our boat got stuck. The motor got caught on some of the branches and it was touch and go for a few minutes. Thankfully our trusty tin boat started up again and we were able to make it back to the lodge.

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After lunch a bunch of us upgraded to the rooms that were down the road. They are definitely rustic as well, but what can you expect when you are so far from civilization?! The cool thing was that they have bird feeders in the common areas so we were able to see great big beautiful macaws and parrots right up close. What was even more jaw dropping was when flocks of them would swoop right over us. It made me get all teary because the only time you really see these guys are in pet shops and here they were flying as high and far as they want. It was funny because we saw both a macaw and a parrot fly into the lounge area where there was a water cooler and they twisted the tap so they could drink from it! So freaking smart!

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Tonight our group splits as half go to Bolivia for another 10 days and the rest go back to Rio. It’s always so sad leaving a group when you’ve created such amazing memories with them.

Until Rio…

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check out G Adventure’s Wonders of Brazil

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Bonito…or Bust?

86EF931D-BD49-4F82-A7DA-578E1CBDE239This post was originally from March 4, 2019

The next leg of our trip has been to a place called Bonito. This was a 12 hour drive from Iguaçu!! Having supposed to leave at 8am we all waited around until well into the afternoon for our bus to pick us up. Not everything runs like clockwork over here however. Apparently our bus broke down and they had to send another from a different city. After a full day of a lot of miles and random truck stops we arrived in Bonito just after 2 am!

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The next day we were supposed to have an excursion planned where we would go snorkeling in fresh water pools with an abundance of fish. Apparently it’s like being in a giant aquarium and people come from all over just for this activity. Our guide had us sign up the first day of our tour because he knew how popular this activity was and told us he needed to reserve our spaces well in advance. By the time we got to Bonito he never did have confirmation from the excursion company. You could tell he wasn’t confident that the company held our spaces so we all got up early to be the first in line at the tour company. Sadly this activity was all booked up...so was the other option of tubing…as well as abseiling down a cave into a lagoon. So basically we drove 12 hours to find out pretty much all the best activities were not available. Obviously we were all a bit disappointed but you can’t be too unhappy when the sun is still shining and you are on vacation in Brazil! 

Instead, a bunch of us went to this place where you could swim in a river surrounded by several waterfalls. It turned out to be more of a picnic area for locals. Tons of Brazilian families had the bbq’s going and kids were either in the park or playing ball. We had several families come up to us with plates of meat all wanting to share. The people here are so friendly and kind. It was a really nice way to hang with the locals and not feel like a tourist. At one point Kris found an empty hammock. She got all cozy and nestled down for a little nap. When the sun was starting to set and people were packing up she got a tap on her shoulder. It was a man who said he needed to leave and that she was using his hammock. They probably wanted to use their hammock all day, but didn’t tell Kris until they actually had to leave!  It was a relaxing day and quite honestly something I needed in order to rest my hoof sized ankle. My foot is so swollen and bruised that the swelling is all the way down to my toes. It’s a pretty sexy sight.

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a little ziplining

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who are those idiots in that waterfall? 😉

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Today Kris and I chilled out in the town looking for an outfit as tacky as possible for Carnival when we go back to Rio. It’s not that difficult to find tacky here in Brazil but getting something to fit is another story! We both found sensational outfits Here is a sneak peak: option 1 or 2?

Tomorrow we head into the final leg of the tour before heading back to Rio on our own. This part should be pretty cool as we are going to the Pantanal. This is the part where we are roughing it a bit and all 17 of us have to stay in a dorm room together at some ranch. If you don’t hear from me again the likely outcome will be that I had been taken down by an anaconda. I am the slowest one right now with my gimpy leg you know!

 

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check out G Adventure’s Wonders of Brazil

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The Amazingly Spectacular Iguacu Falls

C0CE56C8-C8F7-453C-A58E-8ED66C3DCD85The last few days have been absolutely incredible!!

Yesterday we  started out early (4am), where we had to take a 5 hour bus ride to São Paulo and from there an hour and a half flight to Foz de Iguaçu. Once we got to Iguaçu we went straight to the famous Iguaçu Falls.

These falls have been declared one of the 7 New Wonders of the World and borders on both Brazil and Argentina. Together they make up the largest waterfall system in the world. It’s also part of a massive National Park so there is so much nature surrounding it. (Including jaguars and pumas!)

There are two ways you can experience the falls – the Brazilian side and the Argentinian side. Yesterday we did Brazil! Brazil is known to be the spectator side. There are a series of walkways where you can view the enormity of the falls and at various points you get absolutely soaking wet depending on what way the wind is blowing. The walkways are surrounded by nature so we could see monkeys, birds, iguanas, capybaras and coatis. Coatis are part of the anteater family but look more like a raccoon. We were warned to stay as far away from them as possible as they carry rabies and become quite vicious when you have food. The thing is, they are so damn adorable! I just wanted to put one in my bag and take it home as a pet! At one point during the day I was at a lookout point basking in the crazy beauty of the Falls when a toucan flew by!!!! An ACTUAL TOUCAN! Absolutely incredible!768E697F-A4A0-499E-B38A-98960C3AA671A948D47C-1E3E-4862-880B-BEC67627765C5B9190D8-9826-4F7D-8F9F-B32DEE60DE320390C020-E83D-46AE-8A2F-407AF8D723E543DDCFDF-EEFC-4F4E-8115-A274ADAC8704E7CFB614-0D8E-4F37-A980-E376FD83A22D52F903DA-B9C5-42D3-886B-D2A69DA7F72934EFA2DD-22C3-4530-817B-EC0BB326E15A9AB2243B-9377-4444-B16B-274D4953D484

Today we did the Argentinian side. First we had to cross the border into Argentina and once there it was a whole different experience. Instead of seeing the falls from afar we were instead ‘at one’ with the falls. Again there were a series of walkways but they crossed over the falls and got you so much closer. It went on forever and ever, and there were so many vantage points. Once again, it was absolutely jaw dropping.

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This was on the bridge crossing the border from Brazil into Argentina. The colours of the flag represents which country you are in.

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A bunch of us signed up for the speedboat excursion which would literally take you under the falls. It sounds a bit insane but definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity that I couldn’t wait to experience.

As you are well aware I’m still quite gibbled with my ankle. It has now turned various shades of purple and has swollen up like a balloon. Not only do I have a ginormous cankle, but my foot is so swollen that it is getting strangled by my flip flop. I have a tensor around it to give it stability but all the walking is probably not helping the situation.

Anyway, we had to take 200 steps down to the water level where we would get our life jackets and board the boat. As I was passing by one of the staff members she pulled me aside and asked why I was wearing the tensor. When I showed her my foot she took one look and said I wasn’t allowed to go. I was totally gutted. I explained that I had gone horseback riding, been in a boat and been walking, but between her and another staff member they were adamant I could not go. I even had a bunch of people in my group also pleading my case. It was a hard, stern NO. I started to feel like I was about to cry and in that instant I said HELLZ NO! F this…I am going. So I pushed past her and took the stairs down to the boat. I could hear a big commotion going on behind me but I just kept walking. I quickly took the tensor off. One of the girls gave me her hat and we all tried to ‘incognito me’ (yes, I am using that as a verb) so they wouldn’t know who I was. The next thing you know a dude in scrubs and another woman with a Red Cross on her shirt run past us. The doctor dude comes up and asks if anyone has a problem with their foot. We all said no. I’m such a terrible liar! I was like ‘just don’t make eye contact, don’t make eye contact!’ Eventually we get closer to the boat and were given life jackets. I am just on the platform and ready to board when the doctor pulls me aside. This is where the Academy Award winning performance comes into play. He has me sit down and asks me questions. When did you hurt yourself? Have you seen a doctor? Are you taking any medication? Does it hurt? Where did the injury occur, Argentina or Brazil? Each of my responses were a test. All my answers except for where it happened were a complete lie. ‘No, it feels fine. Just a bit swollen. I am not taking any medication.’ Next the doctor took my ankle and manipulated it in every direction. I can say with every ounce of my body it hurt like a mother f@&er! The pain was unreal but I had to not clench my face and act like everything was fine. Does this hurt, he asked as he moved my ankle over and over? NOPE. The one lady was telling him over and over I couldn’t do it but eventually he caved and gave me the clearance. Phew. Now I had to walk into the boat without a limp!

Ready to barf in pain I took a seat and got ready for a ride like no other. We rode down the river over whirling rapids heading closer to the falls. The sound got louder and it was again so incredibly beautiful. The boat took us to a set of falls where we got really close. In an instant it was like we were in the shower. It was pretty hilarious. Next they took us to the bigger falls and this wasn’t a shower, but a full on dump truck of water. You couldn’t even open your eyes because the impact was so strong. Cold, loud, hard hitting waterfalls! But man, was it fun!

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It’s been two days of full on activity. It’s been so beautiful and I just feel so lucky to be able to see this part of the world. Tomorrow will be a 12 hour bus ride which is probably needed so I can rest my foot.

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check out G Adventure’s Wonders of Brazil

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Stunning Outskirts of Paraty – Horseback Riding through the Rainforest ~ Tally HO!

249EC397-E3E2-451A-AF0F-5918806AB169This post was originally written on February 27, 2019

Now that I have given my ankle a good 24 hours since the ‘accident’ it is definitely starting to show how badly I sprained it. Having a golf ball size protrusion, I have to say walking into town is extremely difficult and painful. I’d say just clench your teeth, but that might pop the fake tooth off! Haha. I’ve honestly never seen cobblestone as uneven and massive as the ones here in Paraty.  With the help of Kris and my guide Juan however, I was able to use them for support.

Today’s activity that I signed up for was horseback riding. How are you going to do this you ask? I have no f$&@ing clue! The thought of putting my foot through a stirrup is pretty excruciating but what am I going to do – stay at the guest house all day?

I questioned my decision to go but I am so happy that I did. It was the most beautiful scenery that I have ever seen by horse. They took us through the town where we crossed a river on our horse. Then we climbed up a few mountains where we went through the jungle. It was cool because we saw the CUTEST monkeys in the world! Brazilian Sagui monkeys. They scurry around like little squirrels but have these massive tufts of hair behind their ears.  We then made it to the top of one of the mountains and had the most incredible view ever. Brazil is green! It’s lush and absolutely stunning.

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I took this photo later in the trip ~ but these are the monkeys!!!!

Our horses were a little hilarious. Kris’ seemed completely out of breath the entire time and wouldn’t stop snorting. We were worried it would just drop dead. At one point it lost its footing in the mud and looked like Bambi, all the while Kris was on its back holding on for dear life! My horse ran my left leg straight into a jagged tree stump but thankfully it was my good leg.

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On the way back we stopped by a waterfall where we could go in and cool off. Kris tested her fate by swinging off a rope and landed on a rock. Nothing major but I’m sure she’ll be bruised tomorrow. Me on the other hand carefully maneuvered myself over rocks but once I saw a foot long centipede that almost touched my foot I was out of there as quick as my gimpy body could take me!

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All in all we did quite well. Nobody fell off their horses, but our asses are quite sore and bruised. I’m sure our 5 hour bus ride and flight to Iguacu will really help our cause. But honestly it was 100% worth it!

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check out G Adventure’s Wonders of Brazil

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Paraty ~ The Cutest Town/I Fell Down

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The post was originally written on February 26, 2019

Hey Everyone!

Yesterday we left amazing Ilha Grande and traveled south to Paraty. Paraty is this amazing little Portuguese Colonial town that is surrounded by rainforest covered mountains. It’s right on the sea and the town itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The streets in the old town are all cobble stone and the buildings are white with brightly coloured doors and windows. It’s absolutely beautiful and each street has so much character. The town dates back to the 16th century so not only does it have character, but it’s also rich in history. It is said that the cobblestone streets were laid out in a deliberate fashion. Designed by the Portuguese to sit below sea level, they allow the tide to come in and out, cleaning the streets on a regular basis. Every time there is a full moon the streets are apparently completely flooded. Homes are therefore strategically built up from the main pathway. As well, the stones were laid by slaves and it is said that is why they are at such haphazard angles. This allowed the slaves to escape easier as the owners would struggle to find their footing when chasing after their them.

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We spent yesterday in town doing a walking tour, eating at the restaurants and later drinking the typical Brazilian drinks of caipirinha and cachacas. Eventually the party spilled into the streets where live bands would play samba and everyone was dancing along. We have a really good group of people on my tour and had many laughs throughout the night.

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Today we had booked another boat tour. It had the same concept as the other day in Ilha Grande of taking us to the remote beautiful beaches that surround Paraty.

I got up as usual and went to the dining room for breakfast. As I was walking around the table I didn’t see a set of 3 stairs on the floor. Basically the stairs were part of an entrance, but with the door pulled down (like a garage door) the room looked like a regular dining room. It was dimly lit and and the tables were pushed quite close to the stairs. So I’m thinking you have an idea of what is coming next…it wouldn’t be a Heather style trip without a mishap! The next thing I knew I had fallen down the stairs, spraining my ankle really badly and topping that off with smashing my head mouth first into a ceramic pot! It was quite the scene let me tell you!

I knocked half of my front tooth out and did a number to my ankle. Then from the searing pain and shock (and probably heat too) I was losing it really quickly and nearly passed out. Classy! I was able to find my tooth so that helped things. I knew my ankle wasn’t broken and pretty sure I don’t have a concussion so I didn’t think it was necessary to go to the hospital. My tooth however might pose a problem as my nerves were definitely exposed. Thankfully the owner of the guest house knew of a good dentist in the area and drove me to him once I wasn’t on the verge of puking or passing out.

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this pic is pre-bruising and swelling of my ankle…

I guess I was going to have to forgo my boat tour and Kris was so kind and caring as she gave her tour up as well so that she could be by my side. True friends!

Luckily the dentist had a cancellation and was able to see me right away. He was very sweet and quite charismatic.  He asked if I wanted anesthetic while he filed my tooth down but I bucked up and just clenched my fists instead.  He attached my fake tooth but told me I’d have to go back to my dentist when I get home as it’s only temporary. He also warned me that depending on the impact I might need a root canal down the road.

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When I got out of the dentist chair looking less like a pirate, my guide (who came with us) told us that there’s still a chance we might be able to catch the boat. It was leaving the port in 10 minutes. Our driver apologized for the crazy driving as he sped over the cobblestone streets like a wild man. Each bump killed the ankle but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do in a situation like this. As the car pulled into the port Juan (my guide) sprinted to the boat to try to catch it before it left. Obviously I was a hobbling mess going about as slow as a turtle so I was carried along like we were doing a three legged race. Our boat had closed the ramp off so we actually entered like true pirates from another boat and then had to climb over the side rails to get into the next boat? Does this make any sense? Basically we had to jump from ship to ship but with a gimpy leg. All I needed was an eye patch and I’d be set!

The boat tour was great. I only got out to swim once but just being in a boat and watching the scenery was good enough for me.

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I’m not exactly sure how I’ll get by the next few days with a pretty swollen and bruised up ankle but a little gimp can’t stop me!

 

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check out G Adventure’s Wonders of Brazil

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The Paradise Island of Ilha Grande

428F93AF-8EB3-4218-B97F-DF2FF86C6C4FThis post was originally from February 24, 2019

Yesterday we set off to the picture perfect island of Ilha Grande. It started off with a bus ride from Rio down the Atlantic coast to Angra dos Reis. From there we took an hour long ferry to this magnificent island.  Ilha Grande used to be a leper colony, which then became the location of a maximum security prison and now it is an oasis for travelers. The island is protected and there are no cars. The roads aren’t paved but there are cute shops, restaurants and guest houses that  favor to travelers.

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Today Kris & I along with another couple from our tour took a speedboat around the entire island. It stopped off at different beaches and we were able to get out, snorkel, swim and relax in utter paradise. The water was so crystal clear, so it was easy to see the fish and again another sea turtle. Being near the ocean is my happy place. At one point while we were on the boat riding along the shore I got all teary. I just feel so lucky that I have the ability to see this amazing beauty. The world is pretty spectacular!

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Unfortunately we are only in Ilha Grande for one full day and two nights. There really is so much more to do. Others from my group did some amazing hikes – one was a hike that started at 1:30am where you would summit the island’s highest point at sunrise. They said it was really difficult but so worth it. If I had another day I would also have gone scuba diving…maybe I’ll just have to come back!

 

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check out G Adventure’s Wonders of Brazil

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Farewell Búzios and Hollllaaaaaa Rio!

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This post was originally from February 23, 2019

The last few days in Búzios have been absolutely fantastic! Búzios is about 150km from Rio. It sits on a peninsula that consists of 23 picturesque beaches.  It used to be a tiny fishing village but after Brigitte Bardot made it famous in the 1960’s, it’s now an upscale vacation destination.

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This is the famous Brigitte Bardot statue that overlooks the bay

On Tuesday we found the perfect seafront bar and settled down for the afternoon watching turtles swim by and drinking Brazil’s national cocktail – the caipirinha (cachaça, sugar, and lime). It was the perfect way to wait out the afternoon rain shower and we were lucky enough that our server spoke English so she gave us the 411 on all the best places to go.

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Wednesday we headed to Geriba Beach. It is a long stretch of sandy beach with cute guest houses and restaurants as far as the eye can see. We found a place where we could set up shop under an umbrella with a set of beach chairs. All we had to do was order lunch from them and we could stay all day. Ordering food is a bit challenging because Kris has Celiac Disease and I don’t eat meat. In the end the only thing I could have was a salad and for Kris it was fish and salad. When the food came, there were literally 4 fishes on one plate and two massive plates of vegetables. We had enough food to feed an army! Again not being able to speak a lick of Portuguese, we never really knew how much the bill was going to come to. Dumb and Dumber obviously got duped again … just bring the two morons a massive amount of food and they’ll have to pay the big bucks. A hundred and fifty dollars later…

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Since we already felt like high rollers we decided to go have supper at a fancy restaurant  with a stunning view of the bay.  It was called Mistico Sunset Restaurant (for obvious reasons) but in fine form we arrived about 10 minutes after the sunset!

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Thursday we hit up Brava Beach, where we were told to go to Rocka Beach Lounge & Restaurant. Here they had day beds where you could lounge on, and again the deal was that if you eat at their restaurant you can enjoy the amenities all day. Even though it rained off and on it truly was the most relaxing and enjoyable time. There’s nothing like swimming in the ocean during a rain shower. Búzios is known for sea turtles so it was cool to have our second turtle sighting since our time here.

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Leaving Buzios was bitter sweet. I know there is so much ahead to look forward to but sad that it goes by so damn quickly!

Our waiter at Brava Beach Lounge was telling us that it’s best for us to see Rio on a tour. He said two women alone are targets. He also told us that men in Brazil have an arrogance about them and they have this sexist, macho attitude. (He was from Argentina). Because of his suggestions we went back to our hotel and with the help of Google Translate and the man who worked at the front desk we were able to book a tour that not only brought us from Búzios to our hotel in Rio, but allowed us to see the two attractions we were interested in – Sugar Loaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer…or so we thought.

We were told to be ready at 7am so we had checked out of the hotel and sat there waiting. The van pulled up over an hour later but instead of coming to the lobby it waited down at the bottom of this steep hill. Kris and I gracefully pulled our luggage down this rocky path only to find the most abrasive, male chauvinist tour guide wearing a big skull ring.  When he heard we spoke English that only put a nail in our coffins and sealed our fate for the day. He lectured us telling us that if he came to America (I guess we are from the States now) he would have to speak English, so we shouldn’t expect HIM to speak English. Fair enough… but dude you are working in tourism!!! When the van door opened we were greeted with a bunch of couples who didn’t even crack a smile. The only seats left were far in the back. The tricky part was that the people in the seat ahead reclined their seats all the way back so there was literally zero leg room. Maybe a small child could fit…maybe! You’d think this would be bad enough but it just got worse! We picked up a family of four who also had to sit in the back with me, and then against all odds two more people! I thought I was back in Tanzania where the mode of public transport is a dalla dalla (a small van with a million bodies inside packed like sardines!). The funny thing was the couples that got there first had ample space near the front while the rest of us maneuvered our bodies like a Tetris puzzle! This was how the ride would be for the next few hours back to Rio. To make it even more uncomfortable let’s add the bumps of being right over the back wheels as well as the fear of getting motion sick! No word of a lie at one point the bouncing put my back out. You know you’re getting old when you put your back out SITTING in a vehicle!

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Just a glimpse of us all crammed in the back. What you are missing is there is an another adult man under those children!

Everyone on our tour was from South America so the tour was in Spanish. This would be fine if perhaps once in awhile the guide would acknowledge our presence. It was like we didn’t even exist. He explained everything in Spanish and the the entire van would roar with laughter. At one point he was asking where everyone was from and he completely skipped over us. It was quite comical until we made our first stop and had no idea where we were or what time we were supposed to be back.

We went to several different places in Rio which all seemed really cool. The problem was the two of us would get out of the van and have to figure out what we were doing and where the hell we were. From our understanding we went to a football stadium where the World Cup was held, a really cool Cathedral that was the shape of a dome and had four massive stained glass windows and then this really cool area with tons of street art and mosaic tiled stairs.

*** In retrospect and with a little help from Google I now know where we went to:

Maracana Stadium – the world’s largest stadium and home to several World Cup’s and the 2016 Olympics.

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The Metropolitan Cathedral of St Sebastian – The cathedral’s four rectilinear stained glass windows soar 210 ft from floor to ceiling.

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Escadaria Selaron – In 1990, Jorge Selarón began renovating dilapidated steps that ran along the front of his house. It was a tribute to the Brazillian people. Originally, tiles for the work were scavenged from various construction sites and piles of urban waste found on the Rio streets. But in later years most of the tiles were donated by visitors from all around the world.

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Finally we did go to one place on our list which was Christ the Redeemer. High upon Corcovado Mountain in Tijuca Forest National Park stands the largest statue of Jesus with his arms spread wide. Constructed between 1922 and 1931, the statue is 98 ft high, and that is not including its 26 ft pedestal. The arms even stretch a whopping 92 ft wide!!! The view from the mountain was absolutely incredible as you could get a 360 degree look at the city. It truly was spectacular!

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Eventually we were dropped off at our hotel and we couldn’t get out of that vehicle from hell fast enough. It was a great day and I’m so glad that Kris and I could look at the situation as humorous! I am pretty sure that our tour went on to Sugar Loaf Mountain after they dropped us off, but when we saw our hotel we were more than happy to say goodbye to that group. Rio has so much to offer and obviously we just scratched the surface!