Monday, 18 June 2012

The Hippy Market

On Sunday morning we got up pretty early as we wanted to visit the local Ipanema hippy market to do some souvenir shopping.

The market was in the main square plaza and was packed full of little stalls selling everything from huge cow hides to fruit basket hats (see the hilarious photos) and Brazil flagged gifts!

We spent a while strolling around and picking up some bits and pieces, including an essential Caipirinha cocktail kit complete with wooden mixer. Perfect for when we have a Brazil themed party at home!!

A funny morning trying to haggle prices in a mix of Portuguese (them not us), Spanish and English!


Saturday Night in Rio

We wanted to keep pretty close to our hostel, to explore what was near to us and also so that if Anna started to feel tired we could easily walk her home.

We headed out for a nice dinner at a place which was recommended to us and was about a 20 second walk from the hostel. Again VV and I ordered seafood, this time in a pasta which was just as delicious! Anna had a bit of a nightmare though as she ordered garlic chicken - sounded lovely on the menu. Well it turned up and was just a HUGE pile of deep fried chicken with chunks of garlic sprinkled on top. Def not the most appetising at all!

After dinner we went for a few local drinks near the main 'Ipanema strip' by the hostel. Obviously more Caipirinhas flowed and strangely we also ended up having some German beer in a little quirky bar.

We all rolled back to the hostel a little tipsy, excited about waking up to our first full day in Rio.


Friday, 11 May 2012

Rio Hostel Nightmare

On Saturday morning we wanted to sort out a plan for getting to Rio later that day. Although we had only been in Ilha Grande a short time, we wanted to try and be in Rio for as much of the weekend as possible.

We hadn't booked anywhere to stay, but didn't see that to be too much of a problem. After calling and emailing a few places, we soon discovered that everything was booked as it was the week approaching Easter, which is a big holiday in Brazil. After another hour or so of looking, it got to the point that we had called every hostel in 2 lonely planets, had looked on and there was nothing but slim pickings. The search had eaten up alot of our morning and we had really annoyingly missed the boat transfer that we wanted to get to the other side of the island.

Having not booked any hostel at all throughout the whole time I have been away, I was sure that once we actually got to Rio, we could sort something in Ipanema, which is where we wanted to be - right by the beach. But it was a risk, especially as it was a Saturday night. Taking all of that into consideration, we decided to leave the island a little earlier than planned on the 1pm hostel transfer which would get us there by around 4pm.

We had about an hour before we left, so we popped next door through the postcard window to the little beach, sat relaxed and had a drink.

To get back to the main land, it was an hour or so boat ride, but this time it was a proper boat (like what we had caught to Lopes Mendes) rather than a ferry. It was a really nice day and the sun was shining, so we took advantage and sat at the front of the boat. Poor Anna still wasn't feeling too well so took the opportunity to have a little nap in the sun!

The boat took us a different route to the ferry though, which was really nice as we got to see even more of the surroundings across the tropical water.

From the boat we took a 2 hour minibus which took us directly to Ipanema to begin our search. Anna and I headed out to the main few roads where the hostels were based and found somewhere right in the centre of things that we could stay for at least a few nights. It was perfect and the lady who ran it was really sweet (although very scatty and highly disorganised)!

Panic over, we settled in and got glammed up for a night out in Rio!


Thursday, 10 May 2012

Seafood On The Beach

After our day at the beach, we headed into the little town in search of something to eat. We decided to splash out and have dinner at one of the restaurants with tables on the beach. It was sooo cute with live music, candlelit tables and fairylights dotted around.

VV and I shared a HUGE seafood broth type thing which was so full of the freshest fish, mussels, prawns, squid, octopus... This list could go on. And just to put it out there, think it was probably some of the best seafood I have ever had!!

Anna not being the biggest seafood fan opted for Beef Stroganoff - which I think must be a bit of a Brazilian favourite/ specialty as we saw it in lots of restaurants.

After dinner and a few Caipirinhas, we were all in the biggest food comas so set off along the lovely walk home.


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Lopes Mendes Beach

As I mentioned the island is free from cars and rickshaws etc meaning that the only real way to travel is either by hiking through the jungle or getting on a boat.

The next morning we arranged for a boat pick up to take us to what is classed as the most beautiful beach on Ilha Grande.

The boat ride in itself was lovely going around the island and going past all the other different little islands scattered nearby. Again it was slightly cloudy on the trip, but we were hopeful it would clear up by the time we got there.

After about 40 minutes on the boat we moored up at a little idyllic beach with crystal clear waters and not much in sight apart from a floating bar just off the shore. This was picturesque enough and we werent even at the famous beach yet!

To get there we had a mini 20 minute hike through a jungle trail, which like the one in Ubatuba, it was a minefield of bugs, mosquitos and things just lurking around waiting to bite us.

Poor Anna still wasn't feeling good and was dosed up on painkillers and antiseptic mouthwash. But getting to Lopes Mendes beach was just what she needed. Not only was it like something from a postcard, but it was also so peaceful. When we arrived after 5 minutes or so of 'wowwwing', we all sat down to take it in and relaxed so much that we fell asleep for a few hours listening to the waves.

Again the beach was free from touristy stuff with just a little guy selling beers and snacks from a cool-box, which suited us just fine.

We had to catch the last boat back to the other side which was at 5pm so around 4.15 we packed up and headed off back through the jungle path. This time it was more downhill walking so seemed much more enjoyable!

When we got to the dock, we rewarded ourselves with a beer on the floating bar.

The boat trip back was just as lovely, although we spent less time looking at the scenery and more time playing cards!

Another day in Brazilian paradise...


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Snaps From Our Hostel

Just a couple of photos to show the views when we stepped outside...


Monday, 7 May 2012

Ilha Grande

After our rainy day, we woke up to sunshine again in Ubatuba. We took advantage with breakfast outside in the sun before packing our bags to head off to catch the bus.

It was only a few hours on the bus, which took us briefly through Paraty. Originally we had thought we might spend a few days here, but Ubatuba sucked us in for more time than expected! We were due to catch a boat over to Ilha Grande at 3.30pm and arrived about an hour before it was leaving.

We just relaxed in a bar near the port, with a Caipirinha (can you see a pattern emerging here?!) before getting on just before it left.

The scenery was really nice with jungle filled islands dotted all over the horizon. It had clouded over slightly by this point and the boat was actually a little cold. I didn't really see too much of the scenery after the first 10 minutes as I fell asleep, but I was told it was nice!

We arrived in Ilha Grande around 5.30pm and began the search for somewhere to stay. An amazing part of the island is that it is free of cars, buses and rickshaws. Something we would appreciate much more when we weren't lugging our backpacks up and down the beach finding a hostel. Actually I say this, but Anna had the smallest backpack in the world and VV's was half full, so I was the only one carrying a completely unnecessary amount of stuff.

We found a little hostel set right on the shore and overlooking the beach bay and mini port. It was a beautiful setting and we could hear the water lapping at the rocky walls while we enjoyed another good few Caipirinhas.

Anna had another early night as she was still not feeling 100% and didn't want to overdo it, especially after drinking a few cocktails already. But VV and I set off along the beach to have a look at the tiny town on the waterfront. I had been told that it was a bit of a party island and seeing as it was Thursday night, we thought there would be something going on.

First of all we stopped in the main square, and what I can only described as a pack of dogs where loitering around. I stupidly sat down to put my shoes on after the beach walk and a bloody dog jumped on me - think it was going for a mount. Naturally I screamed while pushing it off; all the locals looked, laughed and VV found it hilarious!

After the town square incident, we got out of there sharpish and started to have a wander around for an hour or so. We quickly decided this was not the place for a party. Everywhere was either shut or very quiet, but we still found a couple of nice places to sit and have some drinks.

We called it a day around 1am and headed on the beach route home complete with picturesque moonlight!


The Famous Slide & Rope Swing

Waking up a little hungover after our jammin' session, we had the freshly picked breakfast and headed back to the same beach we had been the day before. We just loved it so much, we didn't want to have to compare it to somewhere else. The beach was just as amazing the second time around, but today the weather was even better with it being sunny all day. This actually meant quite a bit of sitting in the shade to avoid our skin frying and any further burning....!

Anna had been feeling a little ill all morning and by the afternoon she had tipped over the edge into full blown sick with swollen tonsils and a high temperature. Exactly what you don't want when your on holiday! We headed back to the hostel and Anna went to bed for an early night. While VV and I stayed up and had another funny night pretty similar to the one before with drinks and cards.

The next day, Anna decided to spend at the hostel sleeping in the hope of making a quicker recovery. We had all agreed that giving up 1 day was better in the long term as she didn't want to to sick for the whole 2 weeks. Also to be honest none of us were quite ready to leave Ubatuba and this gave us an excuse to stay even 1 night longer!

As creatures of habit, VV and I headed back to Praia De Prumirim, but first we thought we would check out the famous rope swing and water slides that Mikey had raved about. We asked him for directions there which lead to another funny Mikey moment (following on from the mimed actions) with him drawing us a map, complete with sketches of us both having fun on the slide and swing!

The slide was fun and we both had a go, although the water at the bottom was pretty cold. It was then time for the rope swing, which I had decided I wasn't brave or strong enough for. You had to climb some rocks with the rope, then jump and hold your body weight as high as possible before finding the exact landing spot where the water was deep enough. VV gave it a go though and survived! I watched and took some photos and one of them is one my favourite holiday snaps with VV in full Tarzan mode... and I managed to perfectly cut his head off!! By the time he was off the ground, I had closed my eyes and was screaming rather than focusing on the photo taking!!

When we arrived at the swing, it was cloudy but by the time we got to our amazing beach spot the sun was shining with no clouds in the sky.

Again our afternoon consisted of beers, seafood, tanning and cards - perfect. Actually by the time we left, I was feeling pretty drunk and managed to loose my new sunglasses at the beach - which naturally I moaned about everyday for the next 2 weeks. Think Anna and VV were secretly pleased though as they thought they made me look like John Lennon!

We caught our now 'regular bus' back to town, and wanted to go and check on Anna to see how she was feeling. And the answer was crap! Although the hostel lady did manage to lure her out of bed for an hour or so as she had cooked her some homemade veggie soup. Literally the nicest place and people...

That night VV and I headed out with Mikey for our Acai trip while Anna had another early night. We did bring her some takeaway Acai, which Mikey ended up eating as she hated it!


Mikey - Mr Ubatuba

So I have briefly mentioned Mikey, who we jammed with, but he was such a highlight of our time in Ubatuba that I felt like he deserved his own post!

First to mention is that in looks and the way he was, he really reminded us of Ben Stiller - hopefully you can see what I mean from the photo.

When we started chatting to him, we didn't know how to take him, was he serious and genuinely didn't realise how funny he was or was he constantly trying to be funny in a dry Ben Stiller type way...?!

We soon realised that his slow talking, enthusiasm for everything and believing in everyone was just the way he was. But he always managed to give his outlook a hilarious spin!

Just a couple of 'Mikey Moments' to jog my memory when looking back:

- During one of our first chats, he showed Chris a photo of a sandwich he had made earlier, which was essentially a plastic giraffe on a piece of bread!

- 'No, no that wasn't today, it was a day very close to today' - talking about what he had been doing yesterday!

- 'The Guac off' with the abundance of avocados, everyone at the hostel was constantly making their own version to be tasted and tested by others (not to boast but ours was pretty good).
On day 3 Mikey having never made guacamole before stormed in and made the best one yet with a new secret recipe ingredient which had just come to him in some kind of vision - and it was delicious!

- He gave us instructions and directions to get to the rope swing and slide at the beach by giving a full mimed demonstration complete with actions and sound fx. My favourite was him swoooshing through the air.

- His love and chat about Acai, one night he even took us out for us to try it. It's a Brazilian speciality, which is a superfood berry that they freeze with sugar and flavourings to make a slushy and serve with fruits. VV and I thought it was delicious, Anna however thought it was possibly the worst thing she had ever tasted!

I think it may be a case of 'you had to be there' to appreciate how funny and genuinely nice he was. He definitely kept us entertained and laughing almost constantly!


Fallen In Love With Ubatuba

The night of the Acai trip, there was a HUGE thunder, lightening and rain storm which was really crazy to watch especially as it came directly overhead of us.

The rain continued solidly the next day and even our best efforts of heading to the beach anyway didn't clear it away. This was mostly to see if I could retrieve my lost sunglasses, but no luck as everything was shut due to the storm. After a wasted trip, we all headed back to town soaking wet. Anna was still feeling pretty rough and I was sad about my sunglasses so poor VV had 2 grumpy ladies on his hands!

Solution: Rum and cards of course! This pulled us all through and we were all happy again by midday.

We took the opportunity that afternoon to brave the rain and head out for a proper walk around Ubatuba town. As I said we hadn't seen much as we spent so much time at the hostel, so it was good to see what was out of our 2 block radius to and from the supermarket and bus stop.

On the rest of my travels I had considered that rain meant it was time to leave, but this time I found myself asking 'Does rain mean we HAVE to leave?'. I think we could have all stayed there for 2 weeks easily, although the pull towards Rio was pretty strong!

We made a decision to have just one more night and leave the next morning, no matter what the weather, in an attempt to see more of Brazil than just 1 town and 1 beach.

We had all officially fallen in love with Ubatuba....


Sunday, 6 May 2012

Jammin' With Mikey (And Some Brazilians)

After our first day at the beach we headed to the supermarket to stock up on some supplies for the next few days as we wanted to spend our evenings at the hostel.

While we were out a group of Brazilian guys had checked in as they had missed their bus back to Sao Paulo. They were complete with guitars, bongo drums and harmonicas and wanted to spend the night jammin' with Mikey. A guy who worked at the hostel (again more to follow on him later!) and was actually a musician.

After dinner we all got chatting over numerous beers and rum! After a few hours we all went to the garage and had a little jammin' session with a mixture of Brazilian and famous English songs! Anna and I mostly sat, watched and laughed along while the others played. VV had brought his harmonica to Brazil and was determined to learn to play better, this being the perfect opportunity.

We drank and laughed ALOT and was one of the funniest nights in ageeees!


Saturday, 5 May 2012

Eco Hostel

The little hostel we were staying in was pretty magical and apart from leaving for the beach each morning and a short trip to the supermarket each evening, we were quite content to just hang out there and cook our own food.

There was a good common area with a swimming pool, an outside kitchen and BBQ area. Once we had set up the iPod speakers, it had everything we needed for a good night in. The hostel itself was actually pretty quiet with only a handful of people staying there, but it was nice to just chill, chat to everyone and have a few drinks. The 3 of us also started an ongoing game of Gin Rummy (it's still ongoing with the winner being the first to 1000 points, a challenge for summer at home), which was fun.

Everyday we would wake up and head for breakfast to find the kitchen filled with new, huge avocados - the most delicious you could ever have. When we asked about them, we found out that they grew their own and freshly picked them from the hostel garden which was just next door. They also grew star fruit, papaya and limes, which were just as tasty.

The delicious breakfast was mostly made up of all the fruits and avocados just picked from the garden (that was the best bit) but everyday we also had fresh juice, bread rolls, cheese, muesli and a tiny square of cake!

The staff were all really friendly and would often come and chill with us all in the kitchen in the evenings.

We LOVED it there from the first night ....! Oh and it had a cat which was the icing on the cake for Anna, who fell in love with her.


Praia De Prumirim

On Sunday morning, we got up pretty early as we were all determined to make the most of the sun and the free breakfast at the hostel.

The beach in Ubatuba itself is actually quite small with the waves breaking almost at the pathway, leaving not much space to sit. But we weren't bothered by this, as we had heard that there were hundreds of beautiful beaches in the surrounding area.

The ladies working at our hostel were so nice and we got talking to them about our day to see what they could recommend. There seemed to be an outstanding winner which was a favourite with the locals - Praia De Prumirim.

We caught a local bus from the centre of town, which was a bit of an adventure in itself as obviously Brazil is Portuguese speaking and I had been used to Spanish for the past few months. Luckily as a back up we had a little hand drawn map from the hostel lady, so we could just show the driver and hope he told us to get off at the right place! It was about a 20 min bus ride, but it was beautiful going along the coastal line and turning corners to see new bays and coves.

When we got off the bus, we had a short walk through the local neighbourhood before getting to the beach. The houses were incredible and we couldn't help peek through the fences at the mansions en route. Then the last part of the walk was through a little jungle path and the darkness of the trees only built up our excitement to see the beach.

It was an AMAZING long bay looking across to an island with soft sand and clear water. There were a couple of small bars scattered along slightly hidden in the trees and some areas of the sand were decorated with old school deckchairs and umbrellas. As it was Sunday the beach was 'busy' with Brazilians, but in total there must have been no more than 40 people on the whole beach.

We quickly relaxed, having a beer (or possibly 5), Caipirinhas and delicious fresh seafood in the sun. It clouded over slightly in the afternoon, but we didn't care and stuck it out until around 5.30pm when we had to catch the bus back into town.

By the end of the day, there was the classic 'first day in the sun' syndrome - VV and Anna got a little burnt. I tried not to be smug with my tan, but that lasted all of 5 minutes before I was gloating about how I wasn't lobster coloured!



Once we had all gossiped and caught up (albeit the tiniest bit), we got down to making a bit of a holiday plan for our 2 weeks.

It was a general concenus that we all wanted to get to the beach ASAP and were not that bothered about seeing Sao Paulo. Anna and VV had just flown in from London and were a little citied out, and I hadn't seen the beach for at least a month - my tan was fading fast!

In the spirit of making the most of time, we looked up the cloest beach to the city which was a place called Ubatuba - if nothing else the name sold it for us! It was about a 4 hour bus ride away and we could be looking at the sea by sunset.

We got all of our stuff together and took the metro to the huge bus station on the other side of town. The bus left an hour or so later, giving us just enough time to have a few more 'celebration and happy holiday' beers. Followed by a few more on the bus itself, and continuing solidly all the way to Ubatuba....

When we arrived in Ubatuba, (with our heads and vision a little blurry), it was just starting to rain and we briefly wondered if we had made the right decision. But after wandering around for about 20 minutes we found an amazing little hostel that made us happy straight away (more to follow on that later).

We headed out for dinner which obviously included more and more beers! At about 11pm we decided to head back to the hostel via the main street in Ubatuba to get a feel for the place. We stumbled across a Brazilian street band performing, which held our attention, watching and dancing...the Stephanie Cook even made an appearance! Still blurry eyed and actually pretty drunk by this point we ourselves stumbled back to the hostel.



As I said, we had an easy morning making the most of the hotel facilities and Anna had suggested that we dress up nicely for breakfast (oh and requested that I washed my hair, ha!). The hotel was pretty nice and brekkie was served in the restaurant and was a huge buffet of fruits, cereals and cooked - we both wanted to make the most of it before heading back into backpacker lifestyle so eventually went down around 9am.

Since Anna arrived, she had been acting a little strange but I guessed it was because she was nervous about flying on her own and hadn't really settled down afterwards. I also noticed that she was texting her 'dad' an awful lot but didn't think too much of it.

Half way through the buffet, I had got up to get another bowl of fruit to counter balance the delicious cheesy balls, of which I had eaten about 30! When I turned back around to walk to the table and I saw a boy sitting with Anna. At first I was thinking it was someone trying to make friends, then as I got a little closer I realised he was dressed nicely and didn't look very Brazilian! Taking a few steps closer and it suddenly hit me that it was VV, just sat there chilling at our table IN BRAZIL! I was so confused and don't think I reacted very well and in a restaurant full of people all I could manage to say was 'what the f*ck is going on here' - I then hugged him and sat in shock for about 20 minutes not saying much at all. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh but so happy to see him!

He and Anna had planned that he would fly out to Brazil a day after Anna to surprise me for a holiday!! They had kept it a massive secret from everyone at home so that word wouldn't slip and the surprise would be ruined! So when Anna was texting her 'dad' she was actually getting updates of where he was and how close to the hotel he was for the surprise!

We were all gonna be in Brazil for 2 weeks and I was now even more excited than before (although still in shock)! Eeeeeeeeeeekkkkkkkkkk....

The shock didn't settle down for probably the next 24 hours, but to try and conquer it we headed for a quick walk in Sao Paulo to find some beers. By this point it was about 10.30am, but had been one of the best mornings on my trip so far!

Best surprise ever


Sunday, 29 April 2012

Like a Kid at Christmas

Anna had booked our first nights accommodation in Sao Paulo and had only gone and booked an actual hotel room - complete with hot water, white fluffy towels and pillows, even a flat screen tv and a pool!

When we checked in and got into our room I did the only thing which seemed logical - jumped up and down on the beds for a while!

Anna had lugged a little parcel with goodies from home for me too. By this point I was literally like a kid at Christmas! Included in parcel was:
- Dairy Milk caramel (about 5 bars and a pack of buttons)
- Thai sweet chilli sensations
- Black eyeliner
All from Anna, but I also had a few little cards and presents from some of the girls at Wax.
- Invite for Jo's wedding
- Vogue from Lucy
- Hair conditioner from Jess
- Probiotics and hot cross buns from Pip

THANK YOU ALL SOOOO MUCH, literally made me so happy! Little things from home when you are travelling really do make all the difference!

We just chilled at the hotel that night and treated ourselves to a couple of cocktails (our first Caipirinha), some Brazilian beer and some dinner before heading to the room to take the longest, hottest shower and crawl into bed. We had both had long days travelling but more so Anna who had been up for over 24 hours.

The next morning, we were even too excited to sleep and started gossiping at 4.30am! Note the time on the clock in the photo, we had already been up 2 hours and decided it was an acceptable time to paint our toe nails!

We slowly got dressed, tried to kill time and make a plan for our 2 weeks until it was a suitable hour for breakfast.


The Arrival of Anna

My flight to Sao Paulo went without hitch and the weather in Bolivia gave me more of a sign than ever that it was time to leave - solid rain from the time I left the guest house to the airport.

But as we flew into Brazil the sky brightened up and again there were some amazing views from the plane window.

I landed at 14.45pm and Anna had been at the airport since 6am. When I was going through customs and passport control, I was getting soooo excited to see her and wanted to rush through as much as I could! But I did make a quick stop in duty free as there was a Mac, it was an avoidable force pulling me in and telling me to buy a new lipstick!

After missing each other about 3 times and wandering around the airport for 20 minutes, Anna and I finally found each other and had a suitable greeting with screaming, hugging and a few tears! I didn't realise how much I wanted to see her familiar face and someone that actually knew me after 6 months. Amazing...

We jumped in a taxi and headed to the hotel, chatting non stop all the way. Well obvsiously we had ALOT to catch up on!


One Night in Santa Cruz

I arrived in Santa Cruz and got settled into my hotel only a few hours after leaving Sucre.

Santa Cruz is at sea level so it was sooo hot compared to the temperature I had been used to in Bolivia, but it acted as good prep for Brazil!

Santa Cruz itself and the people who live there consider themselves more Brazilian than Bolivian as the city is more cosmopolitan, it's close proximity to Brazil and because of it's vibe. This means that there was visibly less poverty here and there was a high percentage of what seemed to be richer, upper to middle classes dressed in western clothes rather than the traditional dress which was worn throughout the rest of Bolivia.

The city had a vintage feel about it with lots of 20s esc architecture mostly centred around the large main plaza. There is a really relaxed attitude here too, with people enjoying the setting and just relaxing in the plaza and watching the world go by. There are even chess boards built into the park tables, and every single one was being used with the majority having a little crowd of locals watching and giving tips and game strategy advice to the players.

As much as I liked Santa Cruz, I was quickly reminded that I was infact in Bolivia when I stumbled across some sort of protest outside a justice office. The angry mob outside where chanting, shouting, banging, beating and using all sorts of force to get down the doors of the office in the hope of getting the policemen at the entrance to let them in. I carried on watching for a while to see the outcome but made a quick exit when they started to let off fireworks at eye level into the mob and at the crowds in the main plaza!

After that, I did a bit of shopping - I wanted some new clothes for Brazil and everything was so cheap it would have been rude not to! I then went for an early dinner before heading back to my guest house to relax before leaving for the airport the next day. My flight from Santa Cruz to Sao Paulo was at 11am and I needed to leave early to beat the morning traffic getting out of the city.