South America Tour – Rio de Janeiro, Brasil – Days 42 & 43

Day 42 & 43 – Rio grand finale

By Thursday, March 22 we were back in Rio for a final visit with family. In the morning we did some last minute shopping as it was raining heavily so no beach visit. Back at Luisa’s we had a superb send off lunch. Luisa made shrimp shoo shoo, Denise (cook) made aipim, breaded fried cauliflower, salad, rice and pork loin roast. Liana made banana meringue and a walnut cake (made dry then soaked in sugar syrup) for dessert. All amazingly good.

There were 12 of us; Mike & I, Derek & Marketa, Christina & Miguel, Luisa, Liana, Sylvie, Solange, and we finally met up with Angelina & Rogerio. Derek & Michael spoke with Rogerio about days past, especially motorcycles! But language was a bit of an issue. Angelina speaks no English, but there were enough bilinguals to help translate. We went through old photos, and photos of their daughter and granddaughter – both beautiful.

That evening we finally went for ice cream and I had my two fav new flavours; coco (coconut) and dolce de leche. After packing, we sat up late with Liana chatting.

On Friday we had our last amazing fruit breakfast where I loaded up on manga, mamao and bananas. We managed to escape with only a few tears for each good-bye. They were mostly mine, but Liana also – she is apparently known as ‘melted butter’ as she cries at everything including mass!. A taxi driver friend of Liana & family drove us to the airport with lots of time to spare. The ‘last call’ for our flight did catch us off guard however when it came 40 minutes before take off! No worries though as it was a pretty empty flight to Panama.

And so our South American tour wrapped up with lots of amazing photos, and many wonderful memories. Not to mention the successful escape of 6 weeks of Canadian winter!

South America Tour – Ihla Grande, Brasil – Days 39-41

Days 39 to 41 – Ihla Grande – a very grand island!

We had booked our stay on Ihla Grande, but not our transport. Luckily on Sunday night we managed to arrange for Simone’s daughter, who is an uber driver, to take us to the ferry at Jacarai. Once at Jacarai you are greeted by many tour operators fighting for your business. We managed to find a similar ferry service to our internet research, but with a better launch time. We were able to catch the 9am ferry as it was just about to leave and it only took about 20 minutes to get there. We were fully checked in to our pousada by 10am and left our bags to go exploring.

The main town was much larger than I expected. There are lots of pousadas, no surprise I suppose as the whole island is tourism based. There are no vehicles of any kind here (although we did see a couple of construction vehicles later). Everything is moved by boat and manpower – and it is mountainous; so lots of fit workers pushing huge carts loaded with supplies down (and up!) the streets.

We spotted lots of hummingbirds around our accommodations, but still no monkeys. Here the black and turkey vultures replace our raccoons at the garbage bins.

On Monday as we enjoyed a nice lunch on the beach, Derek took ill and had to leave. After a couple of rounds of the special antibiotics we had brought he was back with us by Tuesday morning fully functional. In the meantime, Mike & I opted for a hike. At about 3 pm we took what we thought was to be a 1 hr hike with about 200 m. elevation change to another beach. But google failed us – turns out it is a 3 hr hike one way! But we figured out early enough that we should turn back – when we had only gone 1/3 of the way and reached 2/3 of the elevation change. So we turned back for fear of darkness (& exhaustion!). In the evening Marketa, Mike & I checked out the town and had a nice, but expensive drink right on the beach. We were quite surprised to have the fee for the music which started 1/2 way in to our stay, added to our bill! For dinner we found a tapioca crepe house – good but not great.

Tuesday morning Derek was on the mend and after our pousada breakfast headed off to rent our snorkeling gear and head out on our ‘fast boat’ with 14 of us to check out the island. We visited Lagoa Azul first followed by Lagoa Verde. Both had decent snorkeling with verde having the advantage. Hopefully the go-pro videos turn out! The coral here was dull for the most part, and there were no anemone and few starfish. There were large patches of vibrant green coral though – hence the name.

The geography of island is interesting. The mountains are steep with large rocky outcrops. There are many inlets and bays all around with small sandy beaches. Most have people on them, on the mainland side at least. We didn’t have time to get around to the far-side which is more secluded and has finer sand. The sand here is quite coarse, almost like fine gravel at times. A huge cruise ship was in the bay today, and there were many transport ships moored in the bays also. We suspect they are avoiding docking fees in Rio while awaiting shipment / deliveries.

Our next stop was for lunch where we ordered beer and some patata frits to eat along with our store bought snacks. Then after passing through a very narrow channel with impressive driving by our “captain” we stopped at our last stop, Praya. As our tour was wrapping up the sky was starting to cloud and the water was murkier. I still managed to spot a sea turtle although there we less fish and coral here.

Once back on land, Derek & Marketa returned to eat the leftovers from the previous lunch which Derek had skipped, so Mike and I headed to eat alone. We found a nice place with a great deal. He had pan fried fish and fries, I had chicken both came with rice and beans and fadafa and we shared 4 caipirinhas – all for less than just our drinks the night before! And we had another coconut popsicle …. sooo good! Derek & Marketa caught up with us shopping in town, and then off for more drinks on the beach. More crabs on the beach again, but smaller ones this time. And we were treated to a lightning show over the ocean – very ominous looking!

We awoke to more thunderstorms and lots of rain. Very hot and humid – and we filled the time in the pool before one last meal in town which was excellent – fish with shrimp sauce on rice and salad. After a challenge getting wifi and arranging transport, we managed to figure it out. We learned that Maryana was not going to pick us up for the return trip as hoped. Luckily we made a deal with the ferry co. and after some stiff negotiating managed to come to an agreement on cost. It was comical how official he made it. He took the money from Derek and placed it in a sealed envelope. He then hand delivered us to the ferry with the envelope and a display made of the process. At the other end we were met and walked to the taxi by another guy; again all very formal; before being handed over to our driver.

Our driver was great. He made many stops for photo ops and pointed out highlights of the waterfalls and had stories of the Costa Verde. He was from Rio originally and worked at a TV station years ago. He showed us a photo of him on the arm of the Christo. He was doing a promo for tourism in the 90’s and wen up via fireman ladder inside and climbed up to exit at the arm. He also claimed to have met Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, and Lionel Ritchie. And in his youth, he lived 3 doors down from Ziko, the famous Brazilian team captain in the 80’s. His nickname was roughly translated to ‘hot chicken’.

And so we returned to Rio at the end of our last excursion.

South America Tour – Farm Stay, Brasil – Days 36-38

Days 36 to 38– Country Life Carioca Style

On Friday morning we rose and finished packing and were on the road by 9am. Miguel & Christina took Michael & I, and Derek & Marketa went with Carolina, Sylvia & Liana. The final road in was an adventure with many potholes but the deep ruts from the rain were the worst part. We bottomed out several times but both cars and Liana survived the drive.

The estate is amazing – quite the resort. There are 8 bedrooms with ensuite, with 1 supersized for the ‘teens’ with their own 2 bathrooms. There is also a large dining room, living room, upstairs a giant games room with TV / theatre section, billiards and card tables. Outside down the hill is the pool and pool house with full kitchen including BBQ and pizza oven, steam sauna, showers and more games room space for table tennis, as well as indoor and outside dining areas and seating sections. Further down the hill is the soccer pitch with the orchards and gardens all around. Several acres are carefully landscaped and groomed with plants brought in from around the world. The flowers are spectacular as the photos capture!

Saturday we took advantage of the farm and spent the day swimming, gaming, eating, drinking cerveza, eating, drinking caipirinhas, swimming, eating, and ATVing. I was given a lesson in brigadero making – 3@395g cans of sweetened condensed milk, 3 large heaping tablespoons of 50%cocoa powder (I bought some to bring home!), 1 tablespoon butter. Mix together then cook until it boils, turn down and stir constantly until it is thickened – 15 min at least – and forms “little mountains” and comes away from the edge of the pot. Xfer to a bowl and serve when cool. You can roll and coat with nuts or coconut. If you add cookies, use sweet arrowroot biscuits and add while it is still warm.

In the evening after a great BBQ dinner of beef and brigadero for dessert, we played “Big Slap” where Michael was surprisingly slow to react and loss quite convincingly!

On Sunday we took the ATV out again for a longer ride taking in views of the entire farm estate. Between Sat & Sun rides we traveled both the low and high roads, the bamboo groves, through the orchards, past the pond and stables and through the fields. It was cacqui harvest time and the workers were busy picking. The avocados, limon, mangos and other fruits were not in season unfortunately! Afterwards included more pool side fun and today Miguel managed to hook up some music and we sang and danced and exercised in rhythm. We were treated to some spectacular boodie dancing by Christina & Sylvia, and even Derek (aka Teodora in Czech) gave us a show.

Sunday evening after another marvelous meal of Gorgonzola spaghetti, pork tenderloin & salad we headed back to Rio. On the way we passed by the fa-vela where Mariana (the woman executed earlier in the week) came from.

Down to a few days remaining – but filling every minute with amazing times and great memories 🙂

South America Tour – Rio de Janeiro, Brasil – Day 35

Day 35 – Rio de Janeiro – A Whirlwind City Tour!

We ventured off to the city without any Cariocan’s on Thursday (with trepidation from them). After another early morning beach visit (swim for D&M, walk for Monty), we took the subway to the city while Luisa, Liana and Sylvie went to their pilates class. We exited near the cathedral and found it with little challenge. In true Brazilian style, it is exotic and unique; almost like a pyramid. The partner bell tower is equally unique. The cathedral is surprisingly large at the base so it seats many people – 5,000 with standing capacity of 20,000.

After the cathedral we walked around and noticed there were many people gathering at the city centre. Police were everywhere, as well as news reporters and TV cameras. Helicopters were circling overhead monitoring the crowds. We found out later that it was a mass demonstration because of the murder by police of a very popular black, favela born, bisexual, intelligent political woman. She had been speaking at an event and was chased for 4 km thru Rio for 15 min by police before being shot 5 times in the head, and her driver was killed also. The news was full of the event for the rest of our stay in Brazil – tragic story.

Downtown Rio is a mix of new and old architecture with many interesting buildings. There are views of the favelas all around. Nearby was the bibliotheque, but unfortunately it was closed for renovations. We found a local popular self serve lunch spot. I took a risk and had salad (no after effects!) Then off to the Museum of Modern Art – another modern building which was worthy of holding modern art!

There were several interesting pieces, including:
– photo exhibit of the building of Brasilia in the 1950’s
– early photos of Rio including the building of the Copacabana tunnel
– an exhibit by an artist who painted around nude model bodies in the 60’s
– a video ‘art’ of a tractor turning in a circle and creating a ring / circle with the scoop – 2 of them at different speeds (quite bizarre)
– and a whole section we could not figure out how to get to!

Back home by taxi by which time it was stinking hot – 46 we think we heard??? Another stop off for some more cachaca, and Derek & Marketa headed for an evening swim at Ipanema in the dark (had folks a bit nervous!).

I had promised to make waffles with fresh strawberries – so that was our late dinner before packing up for the farm stay starting on Friday. We also made reservations (finally) for our Ihla Grande stay for Mon & Tues nights (still need to firm up the trip there and back…but that’s for another day)

South America Tour – Rio de Janeiro, Brasil – Day 34

Day 34 – Rio de Janeiro – Still so much to do!

After another early morning beach visit, we joined Liana and Silvie for a visit to the Wednesday Copacabana market. It included a tour past the spot where the Ribiero home used to be – now a high-rise apartment against the tunnel. Visiting local markets is always an adventure, and this one did not disappoint! The tropical fruits seemed endless in variety – so many we have never seen in Canada. There were the identifiable jack fruit, lychee, passion fruit, pineapple, incredible tasting mangos, many varieties of bananas as well my recently learned of aipi, guarana and cashew fruit – but also many unknowns. Same in the veggie world – we bought some aipim and we were offered many taste samples including pimientos and spices. Then there were the fishes and meats – again many different fishes and cuts of beef and pork. The food booths were sooo tempting – we had tapioca pancakes with queso (I bought some flour to make them back home). Mike also managed to find his pastel – he had a carne but you can get many flavours of filling – sweet or savoury.

We returned to a massive lunch feast which Denese (the cook) had helped to prepare. Solange joined us for our lunch which included her favourite – gnocchi with tomato sauce, but we also had okra, milanese (both carne and frango), rice, a very yummy fedafa (I don’t say that often!), and a salad of grated carrots, diced beets with palm hearts and sweet corn. All were superb. Then another Brazilian favourite for dessert – quindim, probably the best I’ve had (sorry Marucia – but the ingredients here seem to make a difference!)

After our feast, the 4 of us tourists headed off by taxi to the botanical gardens. We timed to be there for sunset, and the gardens did not disappoint. Derek & Marketa and we decided to each take our own route in gardens as we had different interests and the gardens were huge. There were several highlights we found.

– The cactus display where we learned of genetic confluence. Seems there are several non-cacti that have evolved in parallel to cacti. The display included several ‘sister’ plants which looked very similar – they evolved independently under similar conditions in entirely different places. Natural selection led them to genetic confluence.
– The orchid house had samples from micro-orchids to giant ones.
– The beehives with tiny bees through ‘normal’ size bees.
– And the avenue of palm trees were not what you normally see in the Caribbean islands. Here they don’t get the cyclones/hurricanes/tornadoes which allows the trees to keep growing.
– Finally the bamboo circles with individual bamboo stalks of 8 inch diameter and incredibly high. Lots of mosquitos though…

Once again the Corcovado appeared through the clouds (not as photogenic this time, but just as impressive in person!)

Then the taxi home where we also stopped in for some grocery shopping to pick up some 50% cocoa 50%sugar power to try to make brigadiero back home..wish me luck on that!