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Ilha Grande

The "Pretty" Big Island - Tofino 20 years ago

sunny 32 °C
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Ilha Grande – Island Tour
What a way to spend Christmas Eve – sunny skies, blue waters, speed boat and five great snorkelling and beach adventures. That basically sums up our day. We toured the island on a catamaran with 13 Brazilians and us Canucks. The folks on the boat were so friendly trying to help us interpret our guide, from ordering our lunch, to telling us how long we had at a particular island. However, the most useful tip was at our first stop. We were walking up a path towards this great cliff to jump off the rocks and started going the wrong way. Our guide saw us taking the wrong turn and the fellow passengers started shouting at us. I had started to scramble across the face of one rock and Darwin had to slowly guide me backwards before I ended up face planting on the rocks below. That was a good way to get the adrenaline flowing at the start of the day. We managed back okay and found the right path and enjoyed the beautiful view from above.
Darwin was a trooper snorkelling today. He started to find his groove a few times and then would try swallowing the ocean by turning his head too far in a particular direction and find his snorkel under water whilst trying to breathe....not a good idea. In fact, the manoeuvre was breathtaking (ha ha).
The places we visited are as follows going in clockwise direction around the island, for those of you trying to follow us on google earth:
Started at Abraao (main port on the island)
Caxadaco was our first stop (the rock climbing adventure but a beautiful lagoon if you ever make it this way.)
Dos Rios was our next stop, a beautiful beach that had a small church and a fresh water stream that emptied to the ocean.
Parnaioca was our next stop. This was a beautiful location that had a few beach front bars (two huts with a cooler with beer@ $1.50 USD) and is a popular hike on the island. Mind you it’s much easier to go on a boat cruise like us than walk 8 hours to get to this location. It certainly was pretty but not earth shattering. Darwin was getting pretty comfortable in the water and decided to dive off the boat. Once he surfaced I noticed his sunglasses were missing. After a few minutes I located them and dove down to the bottom to retrieve them for him (ok it was only 8 feet, but sounded better without giving you the depth).
Meros was our next stop known for the good diving of this species of fish. Darwin had a great snorkelling adventure here. Once again beautiful turquoise waters.
We checked out Lagoa Verde (green lagoon) for the sea turtles and then headed to Praia de Longa to feed some fish. This was a hoot. These little guys jump right out of the water to get a piece of cracker. So I jumped in and tried it myself. It was neat. What is cool about this place is the floating bar in the middle of this little bay. Darwin and I wanted to stop and check it out but the boat didn’t stop there. We joked if we came back with Darcy and Bill, this would be a definite stop.
We then ordered lunch from the boat and headed to another beach for lunch but can’t remember the name. It was cool to have Christmas eve lunch on the beach, but the food was not memorable. Then stopped at blue Lagoon for a quick dip and then back to Abraao. We left at 09:30 and returned at 19:00. The guide who arranged our tour was waiting at the dock for us as he was trying to arrange a sail for us on December 26 to Paraty.. He left his family Christmas Eve dinner to inform us this would not work but he did find us a Pousado to stay while visiting Paraty. So we will meet up with him tomorrow morning to make final arrangements. Talk about great service. For anyone travelling to this area, the manager (Rudolfo) of the Sudoeste SW Tourismo office (www.sudoestesw.com.br) is exceptional. He has provided us with restaurant recommendations, tour ideas, fin rentals, accommodations in Paraty and speaks excellent English. This guy knows the service industry.
So now for all you youngsters who might be reading (or the young at heart) please know that here they have Parrot Mountain. This is a disguised name. For in fact this is Mount Crumpet – South. When you see the pictures posted you will note that Max the dog would have a much tougher time holding the Grinch`s sleigh on the leaves of the trees than the hard ice of the real Mount Crumpet. Nevertheless the people of Abraao have found what their solution is to keep the Grinch at Bay is to not sleep on Christmas Eve. Undoubtedly the Grinch will find another community or several to find children who have not been nice at Christmas (you can take the snow and ice away from Darwin during Christmas, but not the Grinch spirit as he has always been afraid of green monsters).
We are now back at our room and we are both feeling the sunburns today. We decided to have dinner at 21:00 but all the restaurants are closing early tonight. So we found a dessert stand and bought two plates of lemon meringue pie and we still have a bag of chips back at our room. What a yummy dinner this will be. Lorraine, we are thinking of your great Christmas Eve dinner tonight and wishing we were there. But hey we can’t complain about a great day.
Merry Christmas Eve everyone. We hope to find internet tomorrow so we can post some of this information and a few photos for you to enjoy.

Posted by winmouse 13:25 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Angra Dois Reis

Happy place at two rivers

semi-overcast 31 °C
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Angra Dos Reis
December 23
When we woke up this morning we knew we had to have our wits about us, as we had no plans other than a transfer to Angra Dos Reis. We started off the morning with a driver who spoke very little English. On top of that, some US networks want to “ lets make a Christmas story news event” about some guy Goldman trying to get his kid back from the grandparents was going on at the JW Marriott hotel we were at. On the way into the hotel last night and this morning we had to navigate the circus. For those not familiar with media set ups, the circus is an immense amount of cameras, satellite trucks, lights, generators, sound gaffers and reporters waiting around and COWS everywhere (portable Cell towers On WheelS), When we arrived at our room last night, CNN was discussing the news bah humbug (guess who is writing now). The waste on these events is colossal- never mind - back to the blog and happy thoughts.
To say Michelle is an extraordinary planner is to say the sky is blue or water is wet, but I have to hand it to her, we have now started part of the adventure that’s a bit foreign to her, it must be like sky diving with a blindfold on. What we are about to do for the next week is figure it out as we go with respect to where we will stay, what we will eat, what we will do.
Loosely the plan is to end up on Ille Grande and see some spectacular beaches Michelle has researched by sailboat; that we may be piloting. We will make our way back to Rio de Janeiro for New Years. (both of us now writing). Darwin is lost without a working cell phone so we tried to find a few cell phone stores before we left for Angra dos Reis but had no luck. (Our driver of course could not find a cell phone store in a city of millions) The three hour drive to Angra dos Reis was spectacular. We drove through suburbs of Rio and then some depressing favelas (slums) before we reached Costa Verde (green coast). We had spectacular views and then arrived at Angra dos Reis. What a pretty little town (97,000). Our driver took us to a port that did not rent boats. We tried to get him to take us to a marina but he did not understand our very poor Portuguese (note to self, learn more). When we saw the tourism office, he dropped us off there and then left quickly. So off we went with wheelies in tow to find us a sailboat/motorboat. The tourism office pointed us in the direction of the Association of boat owners who charter boats. Since it was 1:00 we decided to stop for lunch and a pee break. We found a cute restaurant between the tourism office and the boat association. We split a delicious fish and chips (no idea what kind of fish but it was scrumptious. Also surprised that they serve rice and French fries on the same platter). Through the help of our Portuguese book (boys, for one to look in such a book to understand what to say is much akin as to asking for directions or reading a map – thank god Mouse was there with her book). I of course downloaded the translater on the iphone that only works when you have web service (which by the way we had throughout Copacabana beach so our driver understood us while in Rio)
After lunch we headed to boating office but discovered the doors were locked. With the aid of our translation book, the next door neighbour told us the office closes at 2:00 and we arrived at 2:15. BIG lesson learned. Go the area, when you know it’s open because you never know when they may close their offices. So back to the tourism office. Through translation we found out that we could catch a 4:00 catamaran to Ille Grande (our final destination) at their location or take a taxi to the marina and try and charter a boat. Since it was cloudy and near the end of the afternoon, we chose to wait for the catamaran ferry. However, we did not have a place to say for the evening. The tourist office called a few places and found us a pousado for $140 Reals ($70) including breakfast, so we quickly jumped on the reservation. It was a cool ride to the Ille Grande. We passed several islands and it reminded us of the Gulf islands but alot warmer. The island also reminds us of Tamarindo, Costa Rica (kim and kev it is just as humid) with a bit of the Carribean mixed in. I have never walked through small streets like this before but we both imagine this is what the Carribean would have been like 40 years ago before the large ship ports were built.
Upon arriving, we stood beside the catamaran as they unloaded the luggage. We couldn’t believe the amount of groceries that were on board (later discovered groceries are a premium here so everyone loads up). The workers on the boat hold up each piece of luggage as they unload the boat and the owners quickly whistle or put up their hands to claim the luggage. A simple yet extremely effective method. We quickly found our Pasoudo Armacao dos Anjos. It is very much like a hostel – bunk bed and double bed with a small bathroom, bar fridge and TV. It is in the central area of town, so we were happy. While we were waiting for the catamaran in Angra dos Reis, Darwin went to an internet cafe and found a few rental companies, so off we went to find them. After a few conversations we discovered most boats are rented through Angra dos Reis (which we knew), so we were out of luck to bare charter a boat for five days. This also means we are out of accommodation over Christmas the busiest time of year. Luckily the owner of our pousado agreed to rent us our room for three nights at the same rate. We found a tour company beside our pousado and they are looking into a private sail charter to Paraty for us on December 26th. He booked us on an island tour tomorrow (December 24) where we will see the highlights of the island and lots of snorkelling. He also recommended a few restaurants to us. We checked out the pier again and had a drink beach side, while watching a cruise ship MSC Panama tender back to the cruise ship. Then off to the grocery store to stock up on some supplies (total of $42US for vodka, wine, Smirnoff ice coolers, water, chips, flip flops). We then checked out one of the restaurant recommendations down the street from us. We were the only diners and it was fabulous. We did not understand the orders are for two people (dois personas –really tough to translate this Portuguese – especially when its the local custom and not prominent on the menu) so glad we did not order 2 entrees. The bill for 2 beer, ½ litre of wine and the penne (that could easily feed 3 people) was $77 Real with tip ($38USD).
We are now back in room watching Brazilian TV and listening to our hostel neighbours conduct drinking competitions (we must be getting old as we should be joining them). Excited about snorkelling on Christmas Eve. This is much mellower than Rio de Janeiro and Copacobana Beach.

Posted by winmouse 13:19 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Rio - part I

semi-overcast 32 °C
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Rio de Janeiro
We finally got off the ship after three hours of immigration processing. It was interesting to watch how people react when they are forced to sit in a room together for two hours waiting for immigration officers to arrive and then orderly line up to be processed by Brazilian officers. Darwin and I were both a bit surprised by the behaviour of the cruise staff and passengers. For the entire cruise, the staff have been very organized but for disembarkation, they put a junior officer and a waiter in the room with over 400 passengers who want to leave NOW. We felt sorry for them but they should have had a lot more staff in the area. We arrived four hours later to Buenos Aires than originally planned, so passengers who had tours booked had to cancel them and those with early departures were in serious jeopardy of missing their flights. The captain should have been a bit more prepared and had extra staff in the lounges as we went through immigration.
While on the ship we met a couple from Red Deer and Kim was chatting to them while we were at sea the last two days and they informed her they had no tour for Rio de Janeiro, so we invited them to join us. Since we arrived late, our tour was cut back from 8 hours to 4 hours, so we did a quick visit to Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf Mountain and Copacobana beach. They dropped us off at the JW Marriott on Copacobana and then took off to the airport. It was a quick goodbye and then Darwin and I dropped off our bags and hit the beach to check it out. What a great scene. The beach is wide, beautiful and has fabulous soft sand. There are bars set up along the beach and what was really cool, is the gas stations set up along the Avenue. They look like pit stops on a formula one raceway. We will try and post a few photos of them when we get back to the City. While driving to the Marriott, the driver pointed out our hotel for New Year’s Eve – the Oceania. It is on the beach. So we dropped by to confirm our reservation, since we did it on line and only received confirmation a few days ago. We were relieved to find out, they had us confirmed. So off to find a beach side bar for a cocktail. We stopped at the first place we found and had a waiter Fransisco who spoke a bit of English. He showed us the Revellion 2010 menu and informed us that we could reserve a table, have dinner, drinks included and could leave the restaurant and go to the beach (across the street) and return. The tickets were $300USD/couple. We jumped at this opportunity. With over 2million wandering the beach that night and limited washroom facilities, I wanted to know that I could find a washroom throughout the night. Lori/Jim/Paula, this will be like NYC. We will be close to all the action and have a place to sit until close to midnight when we can pop over to the beach and watch the action. We will be able to see the fireworks from our table which will be fantastic. We were are very excited about our plans for New Year’s Eve.
We wandered around the beach market that night, headed to a local bar for a drink and then back to the room for a great sleep in a king bed.

Posted by winmouse 13:17 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Buenos Aires

rain 31 °C
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The anticipated Tango City – Buenos Aires. Dwayne you were correct we would love this city. Darwin and I cannot wait to spend another four days in this area of Argentina. Even though we only had a few hours to catch the sights, we immediately fell in love with it. Our guide (Mattias) tour took us to Playa del Mayo the main square that allows for protests and the home of the pink palace (presidential offices). We saw the infamous balconies. One where Eva Peron stood and the other balcony where Madonna stood while filming the movie Evita. We toured various neighbourhoods including La Boca to see the beautiful coloured buildings and the home to the Boca Juniors football club. Unfortunately the season is over, so no chance to see a game when we return in January. While touring La Boca Darwin found an outdoor soccer field with kids playing. He found an older adult standing there so went up and chatted to him. He runs a soccer school for homeless kids. Darwin donated some money to the cause and started to chat about our time in Africa with the soccer balls. He was impressed with our social attitude and exchanged emails.
We ended our tour on Florida Avenue which is the hub of tourist shopping. We found the Marriott Hotel we will be staying at when we return and it is on Florida Avenue as well, so we will be in the heart of leather shopping heaven. We don’t have much room in our backpacks so won’t be bringing much back, but it will be fun to shop around this area.
Mattias dropped us off at a local restaurant but you could not smoke inside, so Kim asked if we could find another spot outside. We walked around a few blocks and then found this little cafe on a side street. What a find. It was one of the Argentina bar-b-que style restaurants and was very quaint inside. Then the menu arrived and we could not understand a thing. As we were trying to figure out what beef/chicken meant, food was delivered to the table next to us. The guy had what looked like a rib eye steak, so I asked him to point on the menu what he ordered. Well, he spoke English which was great, so he helped us out with our choice of food and then the waiter realized we were tourists and gave us English menus. The man beside us was from Dallas and now lives in Buenos Aires. Meanwhile, the next table over hears us talking English and they ask where we are from. When we replied Alberta, the one guy informs us that he used to be a park ranger at Waterton Park. So we had a good chat with him (Ray) and Eduardo, a local business man who owns an antique store around the corner.
Our food arrived and it was delicious. Sausage sandwiches and chicken breast grilled to perfection. Our bill for 6 beer, 2 glasses of wine and food was $40USD. When we got up to leave, the waiter brought over shot glasses and served us Limongellico (a great liqueur). It was a very nice gesture. As we got up to leave the second time, we noticed the rain and decided we had to remain inside for awhile. We were in the middle of a major rain storm that lasted 1 ½ hours. The waiters were at the front door ready to brush the water away as it came into the restaurant. Within ½ hour the water filled the gutters and spilled onto the sidewalks another 6-7”. The rain fell so hard the cruise ship had to bring up the gangways and put on the thrusters to avoid pushing the ship onto the dock. Calgary would have been a disaster if we had this kind of rain that quickly. According to the locals, they get this kind of weather 6 days a year and we lucked out to see it (i know we still have our disaster management eyes on).
So we did not get to do any shopping but had a great time in the cafe. We talked further with Ray and Eduardo and discovered that Ray is now an artist specializing in sculptures and lives four months a year in Buenos Aires. He has a one bedroom apartment in a great area of the city for $800/month everything included. He claims it is very cheap to live in the city and really enjoys the people. Eduardo has some of Ray’s works on display at his antique shop, so Darwin and I promised to return in January. Eduardo agreed to have a map ready for us of places to visit, so that should be fun.
We finally made it back to the ship and everyone had stories to share about the rains that afternoon.
We finished the trip with two days at sea. It was nice to relax and get prepared for the next part of our journey. The last day of the cruise was a gorgeous sunny afternoon, so we had a balcony party and drank up the last of the booze we smuggled (cruise ship s confiscate any booze you bring on so they can charge you) on the ship and packed up for the next day. When we went to dinner for our final meal with attended to by Ignacio and Mabel (our favourite waiting staff in the dining room). We talked more about our extended travels and discovered that Ignacio will be returning to Chile on January 17th. That is the same time we will be back in Chile, so we agreed to meet up. It will be great if we can make this happen as he would be alot of fun to meet his family.

Posted by winmouse 14:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (3)


sunny 26 °C
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The last few days at sea have been relaxing. We are enjoying the spa pools and we finally got some WARM sun, so spent time in the main pool hot tub. We finally have the start of a good tan.
Today we were in Montevideo – Uruguay. We must admit that we did not know alot about this country or area prior to planning this trip. I have to thank my girlfriend Monica for a tip years ago, based on a recommendation from a good friend of hers from Uruguay. The best kept secret of South America.
This city did not disappoint. It is a friendly metropolitan, with warm citizens always smiling and willing to assist. We had a private tour of the City and then spent the afternoon touring their main square. We finally found wireless internet at a restaurant, so skyped Darcy and called our mom’s. It was a great day.
We are now cruising around Buenos Aires and will arrive there early tomorrow morning for another full day of activities.

Posted by winmouse 17:37 Archived in Uruguay Comments (1)

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