This took a little while to write so its a bit late, but it is my last travel post due to changes in my original plans (which are discussed briefly below) so savor it 🙂
We flew out of Montevideo seamlessly and got to Sao Paolo where my mom’s students family was there to greet us. They were SOO friendly and warm and took us back to their house and fed us and let us stay there for the night. The little daughter was adorable and took to calling me Tia (aunt) and joe tio (uncle) while making us play with her. Unfortunately they didn’t speak any english, but that just meant our conversation was a little limited, which didn’t matter since we were exhausted and fell asleep almost immediately after watching the US lose their final world cup match. We woke up early the next morning and his family drove us to the metro station and then his mom took the metro with us to the bus station, however once we got to the bus station it turned out that we were at the wrong bus station and had to take 2 other metros to get to the right one. By the time we finally got to the right station we had missed our bus by 15 minutes so we had to sit and wait 6 hours until the next one. My mom’s student’s mom was such a sweetheart though and gave us some snacks before leaving. We finally boarded our bus at 3 PM and got into our hotel in Cananeia late that night, which was really cute but unfortunately had mosquitos again.
Thursday morning, my mom’s friend Talita who lives in Cananeia, which is such a cute town (in the photos above), met us at the supermarket and took us to the watershore where we all piled into her boyfriend’s boat and headed out to this island really nearby called Ilha do Cardoso where his family lives and grew up. Its a BEAUTIFUL island with tons of beaches, mangroves, and lush tropical rainforest and we were really lucky because unless you’re doing research on the island or are friends with someone who lives on the island, you can’t stay there for most of the year.
We put our stuff down at a little house that we were renting for those days there which was also really beautiful and modern and beachy at the same time. Then we went on a walk with Talita and her boyfriend through the mangrove areas where we learned about the different kinds of mangroves and saw three types of crabs, big red crabs, big turquoise crabs, and big yellow crabs.
Then we walked through their little museum which was charming. Afterwards we went to a little lookout point where we could see all the fisherman’s nets and then ẃent back to the beach that we had arrived at. While we were walking, we passed a little burrowing owl family which made me very happy. Then we walked way down the beach chatting for a long time. Along the way I collected numerous sand dollars, which were everywhere.
After that we headed back to our little cabin, and then out to the beach to watch the sunset.
After that we went back to the cabin and then later at night we went back to the beach to swim because Talita told us there was bioluminescence. Sure enough, there was and it was beautiful and sparkly.
Friday we met up with Talita and hiked way down these trails through multiple different forests to this place called Praca das Antas, which is a place in the stream where these big natural pools form. The forest and the pools were beautiful. One of the forests we passed through was so magical, the entire understory was bromeliads and all the of the trees were covered in bromeliads too.
We saw a lot of birds in the forest which was really exciting, and both Talita and her boyfriend were amazing naturalists and were able to identify everything we saw.
After the hike we went for a bit of a swim because it was hot out and then went to Talita’s boyfriend’s family’s house to watch the Brazil world cup match with them. It was great because Brazil won, so we left happy and I got in bed and happily finished The Da Vinci Code, which turned out to be such an awesome book.
Saturday we met up with Talita and her boyfriend again and took their bikes down the beach. I never knew you could bike down a beach, but you can and it was super fun. We went for 7 km and then hiked over rocks for a long ways, passing a mark that is representative of the peace treaty long ago between Portugal and Spain.
As we were climbing over the rocks we passed little inlets filled with the most amazing shells, which I loved because of my obsession with beach combing. Once we reached the beach we sat and ate a really tasty lunch and then hiked back through the hills instead of the rocks to the original beach we had left the bikes at and biked back to our little hut.
After that I went on a walk around the town to take pictures of the very pretty and colorful little buildings.
The next day I hung out with Talita all day and she took me to lunch and we went on a long drive to a different conservation site that was quite pretty but had tons of mosquitos. It was a lovely day and at the end of the day she gave me a memory stick with lots of pretty photos that she took and samba music to entertain me on the rest of my travels.
Tuesday I woke up early and took the first bus out of Cananeia. I arrived in Sao Paolo in the afternoon and then bought tickets for a bus at midnight, because I was told that the Rio terminal was unsafe at night and since the bus ride was only 6 hours, if we left in the afternoon we’d arrive at night and it was better to arrive in the morning. So we got our tickets, found the VIP waiting room for our bus company which was quite a nice room, and then spent almost 12 hours sitting there. I managed to completely finish one and a half Dan Brown books on PDF and we watched part of the terrible game that Brazil lost to Germany.
I slept for most of the bus ride, parted ways with my travel companion, then slept for a couple more hours in the Rio bus terminal. Then I found a bus to the botanic garden where the person I was staying with in Rio worked. I got off the bus too early, had to walk a long ways hauling tons of stuff, and then went to the wrong entrance of the botanic garden which was on the opposite side of the HUGE gardens as where my host in Rio’s office was. I found some really nice people who worked on that side of the gardens and they called up my host and helped me haul all my stuff to her office. Raquel, my host there, was incredibly sweet and eager to be friendly and helpful which was lovely. I chatted with her for a few minutes and then spent the whole day wandering around the gardens. I found a little mini secluded garden where I sat and read another PDF book on my phone and took a tiny nap. I saw tons of plants, toucans, and even tamarins (little monkey-like animals) in my garden-wandering time.
In the evening we took possibly one of the most miserable bus rides ever. The place where she lived, where I was staying, is called Barra de Tijuca and is a 1.5 hour bus ride south of Rio. That evening it was even longer, a little more than 2 hours because the traffic was so bad and the bus was completely packed to the brim with people and I had my huge backpacking backpack, my little backpack, and 3 handheld bags with no place to put them down or sit down. It was horrible. Finally we got there and went to her apartment which is at the top of a super tall circular apartment building that is literally right on the beach. It was an amazing view but dark so I couldn’t really see the water.
Thursday I woke up to the most incredible view. Since the apartment building is round all of the windows are curved which means you have a 180 degree view of the beach. It is an incredibly beautiful beach too, even moreso than Copacabana or Ipanema.
Barra de Tijuca is also a super nice area, and is modeled after Miami with super tall luxury apartment buildings right over the beach and very american style bars and restaurants interspersed between the buildings. I played around with their adorable fluffy cat and ate super tasty food that Raquel’s mom made me and then set out for the day. Unfortunately the first day was raining so I went to the Museum of Modern Art first. The bus ride into the city was beautiful because it went right along the beach through all the touristy neighborhoods the whole way so it was like a $1.50 tour of the city. The museum was quite nice and filled with lots of interesting art. Then I wandered around through the centro area, grabbed lunch at an extremely cheap per-kilo restaurant (huge buffet where you pile on the food and then pay for it by weight), and went to the museum of fine arts which was even more amazing than the modern art museum. It was huge and filled with art, and was free that day which was even more special. In the evening I went to a little cafe in a bookshop which was cute but maybe a little overpriced.
Friday, I lazed around my room all morning and then midday the internet didn’t seem to be working so I headed into Copacabana and found a little cafe that I had read had good wifi since it was still rainy and overcast, and there’s not terribly much to do in Rio in the rain. Unfortunately I found out their wifi wasn’t working after I had already ordered so I ate quickly and headed to an internet cafe. Then I wandered along the beach for a while and wandered all over Copacabana and Ipanema looking for good food and then got on a bus to head back to the apartment. However, about an hour and a half into the bus ride I looked at the maps app on my phone which shows where you are even when you don’t have data and we were not following the correct route for the bus I needed back to the apartment and had already gone pretty far past it but on a street about a kilometer inland from the beach instead of along the beach. I tried to get the bus drivers attention but he was in his own world and I didn’t speak any portuguese so I just got off the bus. I found a couple bus stops and tried to figure out if any of the buses that it said went to them would also go back to where I needed to get but none of them would so I began walking back the way my iphone directed me, hoping to hail a cab along the way. I tried so hard to hail a cab but none of them would stop, which I figured was due to the fact that it was a huge road and was pretty much the brazil equivalent to a freeway so no one was going to stop for me. So I looked at my iphone and zipped myself up and ran all the way back to the apartment since it was late at night so I didn’t want anyone to try and talk to me, and it was a little drizzly. Once I was finally back I looked at google maps and it turned out I had run 5 kilometers.. it was crazy and definitely the most exercise I had done in a long time. After I assured my hosts that I was ok, I went to sleep.
Saturday I met up with Joe early and we headed to the place where you buy train tickets to go up to Christ the Redeemer, but the train was broken so the entire place was packed with people trying to take the mini-buses up. We decided to wait until the following day since we still had a little while in Rio. Instead we went to the Botanic Gardens again, since I hadn’t seen all of the garden the previous time I had been there since it was so big.
We wandered through it for a while and ate some food there and then took a bus to copacabana. We bought caipirinas and a couple beers and wandered over to the beach to watch the Brazil vs Netherlands 3rd place game at FIFA fan fest on Copacabana, which is where they have a huge television screen where everyone can sit/stand on the sand and watch for free.
A little after halftime, Brazil was down 3-0 to the Netherlands and enough people were blocking our view of the screen (because we wanted to sit not stand) that we decided we’d had enough and went over to a little cafe. While we were eating we talked to some Argentines next to us who were looking for tickets for the final game in Rio the following day. I happened to ask them how much they thought the tickets would be if they found them and they said at least $3000 USD. I was shocked that someone would be willing to pay that much. After that I found the correct bus and went back to apartment without getting lost.
Sunday I woke up even earlier, met up with Joe, and we headed to see Christ the Redeemer again. This time the train was working but there were SO many people that the next train with available tickets wasn’t until 1:40. Since the final game was at 4, and we didn’t want to be rushed seeing the huge Jesus status, we decided to take a mini bus up instead. It was fast getting up there, but then we had to stand in line to get tickets to enter the park, then we had to stand in line to get on another mini bus up to the very tip top, and then we had to push our way through huge crowds of people to get to the view and mr. jesus. It was a really beautiful 360 degree view of all of Rio and the surrounding areas and there wasn’t a cloud in sight which was lovely. Christ was also quite impressive, although I’m not entirely sure I understand why it was recently designated one of the new seven world wonders. It was really cool, but what it boils down to is that it was really just a big statue of jesus.
The crowds were overwhelming and at some points it even felt hard to breathe, so we didn’t spend too much time up there looking at the view and christ. Then we headed back down into town and got on a bus to Copacabana to watch the world cup finals there. When we got to Copacabana there were people EVERYWHERE. We mushed our way into the huge crowd at FIFA Fan Fest to watch the game on the huge screen there. It was almost entirely Argentines and I would’ve been scared to have been a Germany fan.
The game was tense and people all around us were screaming and chanting the entire time. Really, in a way, it was more fun watching the crazed fans than the game. When Germany won in the end, everyone in the crowd was pissed and a lot of people were drunk so there was some drunken aggression towards the Germany fans which was a bit terrifying. It was also a bit scary because everyone was trying to leave at the same time and there were thousands of people so it was a bit of a stampede. There were also a few scary violent outbursts that left people running in all directions. Basically the streets were crazy and so filled with people. We finally made our way to McDonalds to get french fries, and Joe proceeded to eat 5 large orders of fries. Then I found my bus back and made it safely to the apartment. When I got back Raquel wanted to wander over to the hotel next door because that was where the entire Argentinian soccer team was staying and she wanted to see if we could watch them arrive. But unfortunately we got there only seconds after they had already arrived. Instead we went to a brewery in front of her apartment building and got really tasty home-brewed beer and chit chatted for awhile.
Monday I met up with Joe again because it was lonely and boring seeing the sights alone and we went to Ipanema beach. We stayed there for a while and watched lots of surfers.
Even though it was completely sunny, next to the water it was a little too breezy to swim comfortably so we stayed on dry land. Then we headed over to a little chinese cafe at the edge of Copacabana and got Yakisoba noodles. Then we walked a little more along the beach, wandered back towards Ipanema, climbed over big boulders to this rocky point to watch the surfers and boogie-boarders from there and got a nice view of the whole Ipanema beach. After that we walked around the shopping area surrounding Ipanema and then took a bus into the heart of Copacabana where there was supposed to be another brewery that we wanted to try. Unfortunately they didn’t have the beer we wanted so instead we bought beer at a grocery store and went to a funky looking movie theatre. I asked in terrible Portuguese if any of their movies were in English and she said all of the movies are english with portuguese subtitles. We chose a movie completely at random and settled into our seats. The movie ended up being really excellent. It was called The Grand Budapest Hotel. It was very much an art film, shot entirely in square footage. It was really really beautiful filming though. It didn’t exactly have a plot but it was kindof a mystery-comedy-art-indie flick and it was wonderfully done. I highly recommend it to movie buffs. When I got back to the apartment, my hosts had made really excellent Pao de Queijo which are these cheesy bread puffs made with tapioca flour, super tasty. We talked for a while and I said goodbye because they had to go to work early in the morning before I was leaving.
Tuesday I spent the morning packing up my stuff and then midday I left the apartment that I had stayed at and headed into the city where I was staying at a hostel at the border of Lapa, the samba neighborhood and Santa Teresa, a pretty little bohemian neighborhood on a hill. It was miserable because I had to climb up a huge hill with all of my stuff but I finally found my hostel, which was really nice. After I put my stuff down I headed back out and went down these gorgeous stairs. The stairs went on forever and were tiled the whole way with all sorts of colors and designs.
Then I got on a bus to the base of the Pao de Azucar, the huge famous rock/cliff/mountain in the middle of Rio. It was half price with my student ID which was awesome. You take a cable car up to one mound, wander around the first mound, and then take a second cable car up to the very tall second mountain/rock thing.
It was a very fast trip up to the top of the first mound. From there you had a pretty good view of most of Rio, particularly the harbor area which was right to the right of that little mountain.
Then I got back in the cable car up to the tippy top of the second mountain which was much higher than the first. It was a truly incredible view, even better than from the Cristo Redentor. I walked around the edge of the entire place to see the view from all sides and then found a little place amongst the crowds to watch the sun set. It was beautiful to see the sun setting over the city.
I wanted to wait around to see the nighttime skyline but then I saw that there was a huge line to get back down to the first rock mound. By the time I got back to the first rock mound, it was totally dark and you could see all of the lights of city sparkling around.
Once I got down to the bottom, I got some dinner and headed back to the hostel.
I slept in at the hostel the next morning, thinking that it was my last day in Rio so it would be nice to just have a relaxed day. After lunch at a tasty per-kilo restaurant I wandered around Santa Teresa, the neighborhood right above my hostel. It was such a cute neighborhood and since it was on a hill it had a fantastic view of the city from closer up.
There was a beautiful little garden in Santa Teresa, a cute little art museum in an old estate, and a ton of cute handicraft shops lining the winding streets. All the food was pretty expensive so I went to dinner in Lapa instead. After that we stopped by a couple of the recommended bars of the area, some of which had samba music, which Lapa is known for, so that was nice. After a little while in Lapa, I headed back to the hostel because I thought my flight was early in the morning so I would have to head to the airport super early. However, upon checking my reservation online, it turned out my flight was at 8 PM not 8 AM, so I had a full day the next day.
I spent the next day packing and then hung out at the hostel all day, only leaving to get lunch, because it was really hot and there wasn’t much more to do close by and I didn’t want to go far away in fear of getting stuck in traffic and missing my flight. Finally it was time to leave, so I got in a cab and headed to the airport. Thankfully I left early because there was so much traffic that it took double the amount of time to get there. Then I got easily through the airport, and easily onto my flight to Houston. My flight was unfortunately very horrible because it was the most cramped airplane I have ever been on. There was literally zero leg room, I couldn’t even store my mini backpack (which is really quite tiny) under it, so there was zero possibility of stretching my legs out. The seats also barely went back, and to top it all off I had a middle seat. This all added up to me only getting 1 hour of sleep…quite unpleasant. In Houston I got easily through customs and immigration and through to my next flight which was also very unpleasant. We ended up taxing on the tarmac for an extra 45 minutes which meant that when we finally got into LAX we were very late and I already had a super close layover. There were a few other passengers needing the same connecting flight so we all ran over to the gate for our Santa Barbara flight which was at the end of terminal 8 and we came in at the end of terminal 62. Thankfully we made it and it was a quicky and easy flight into Santa Barbara where my dad was waiting for me with lots of hugs.
I’ve been back for a little while now and its actually been quite nice. At first I think I experienced a little post-travel depression, but I’ve been having such a great time in Santa Barbara. I’ve been keeping busy catching up with all my old friends who I haven’t seen in forever, since I hadn’t been back in over a year. Plus, the food has been amazing.. I’ve already gotten thai food a couple times, boba tea a couple times, and indian food as well.
The last bunch of months have been really really amazing. South America blew away my expectations and everyone I met along the way was just so beautiful and wonderful and I feel like I became a lot more adventurous and comfortable in my own skin. Sticking around one place for the coming year will be great but I definitely can’t wait for my next adventure! Thank you to everyone who read my blog along the way! Keeping a blog helped me really savor my experiences and now I will be able to relive them over and over whenever I want, but it was definitely a challenge to keep up with it. It was definitely the positive feedback I received from my wonderful friends and family that kept me writing here even when it seemed so arduous and time consuming.
As you can see, I’ve updated the look of the blog which goes with the fact that now that my travels are done, I’m going to start this up as a music/food blog again, so if you want to hear about that sorta thing keep following me, but no more travels for a little while!
muchos besos, muitos beijos, many kisses!