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!

Ola from Buzios

25dc24cb-05b8-4fd1-b881-0ab972095876This post is originally from February 20, 2019

Hey Everyone!

Here we are in Brazil! It really blows my mind that you can step on a little tin can and in hours you are on the other side of the world! Flying into Rio was pretty spectacular. It is so green and mountainous. Definitely a stark contrast from Edmonton!

We were originally planning to take a bus to Búzios.  As we were leaving the airport however, we must have had that ‘dumb and dumber’ look because we were quickly approached by a dude who wanted to set us up with a taxi. Honestly after over 24 hours of traveling it didn’t take much to twist our arms. A taxi meant we’d get to our hotel faster and be able to rip off our clothes just that much sooner. (It was smoking hot and I was wearing compression socks that went up to my knees!) (Don’t laugh because I wear compression socks!)

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Driving out of Rio was pretty cool. I was able to see Sugar Loaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer in the distance.  As well, you could see several massive patches of  Favelas (the slums most famously known in the movie City of God). By the time we reached the city’s edge I was nodding off and at that point my life was truly at the mercy of this strange taxi driver.  Obviously all was well because clearly we are both still here.

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We eventually made our way to Búzios and found our hotel…ready for the name? Pousadas Unicornio – that’s right the Unicorn Hotel! When we walked into the lobby everyone was wearing those headbands with unicorn horns! Ok ok that’s a lie but man, that would have added to the story! Strangely enough however, all the cashiers were wearing them at a grocery store in town!

d8e5d352-3704-4874-bd96-367acfa43bdcf26a3d1f-e080-41ce-9d10-b7c01671684aThe hotel is a really beautiful; situated on the side of a hill with amazing views of the ocean. Unfortunately I think they gave us the dud room as we’ve had our share of ‘issues’. The best one being that we were told to dial 9 if we needed anything, however there was not even a phone in the room. There also wasn’t a second bed, a safe, hot water or a working television but who’s counting? We figure our room hasn’t been used in a while as the guy who brought the safe in literally had to bring a drill to attach it into the wall.

Complaining aside it is a beautiful place and the people are amazing and kind. One thing that surprises me is the lack of English spoken here. We are so bloody lucky that in most places in the world English speakers can pretty much get by and rely on everyone else to conform to our language. I’ve thought of this many times before, how presumptuous it is that I go to a different country and I speak English. Of course I try to learn the greetings and niceties but having most people speak a little English it’s quite easy to get by. Here in Brazil it’s quite different. It is Portuguese through and through. It makes for a more challenging and interesting adventure, right down to ordering a meal. Thank you Google Translate! We have found we are the rare visitor here in Búzios too. Most tourists here are from Argentina or Rio. We definitely stand out (especially the way we dress!… or maybe I should rephrase that… we definitely DON’T stand out!)

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Here is a shot of Kris being creative and using a cue-tip because there were no utensils in our room. Dumb & Dumber do Nutella! 

Dumb and Dumber Do Brazil

Dumb and DumberThis post was originally written on February 14, 2019

Hey Everyone,

It is just about that time when I can peel off my parka and slap on some sunscreen. It couldn’t come at a more perfect time with this -30 polar vortex we are experiencing here in Edmonton. I am so tired of scraping my car FROM THE INSIDE, while I drive because my breath is just too much for my decrepit clunker! Anyway, I apologize to all those who live here in Edmonton and have to brave it out a bit longer.
So what is on the agenda this time you ask?
My tried and true travel partner Kris and I will traveling through Brazil (and a brief second in Argentina) for the next 3 weeks. This will be my first time in South America so I couldn’t be more excited to see this part of the world. The first week, Kris and I will be solo as we make our way to a town called Buzios. Next we will find our way back to Rio de Janeiro to join up with our G Adventures tour. Some of the highlights of the tour will be the island of Ilha Grande, the Portuguese colonial beach town of Paraty, the stunning Iguacu Falls from both the Brazil and Argentinian side, the caves and natural swimming pools of Bonito and finally a two day excursion in the Pantanal. Once we bid farewell to our tour group Kris and I will catch the tail end of Rio’s Carnival. We have tickets to the Parade of Champions and I can’t even imagine what it will be like.
Kris and I have named ourselves Dumb and Dumber as both of us question our ability to get through life rather successfully. The last trip we took together was a couple of years ago when we went to India and Sri Lanka. That was when we experienced the Visa debacle of 2017, where it took Kris 3 or 4 times to get her Visa for India. At one point I tried to do it for her and bought her a Visa through a fake website by mistake. We literally didn’t know if she was going to be able to come until the day before our flight! This was also the trip where a month prior to our departure Kris fell on the ice and broke both her elbows. And don’t forget while in Sri Lanka I got really sick and had to make a trip to the ‘hospital’ where I had to get blood drawn by people not wearing any shoes and the tourniquet was a seat belt! So far this one seems a little more seamless. I  won’t hold my breath however, for the longest time we were calling Carnival, Mardi Gras! In honor of our stupidity I got Tshirts made which I am sure we will wear with pride!
Anyway, I look forward to sharing my next adventure with you so stay tuned as Dumb and Dumber Do Brazil!
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This photo was taken pre-Carnival. Notice the cool modelesque poses and of course the high class backdrop of the toilet! THIS IS DUMB & DUMBER AT IT’S FINEST!

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