Foz do Iguacu
After our short but enjoyable time in Paraguay, the time had finally arrived to head to the land of football, samba and pretty ladies. We made the plan to arise early in Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) and then walk across the border to visit Iguacu Falls and in the evening get a bus to Rio. One thing we didn’t account for was the lashing rain, which has done an excellent job following us to hard to reach places. So mid-afternoon once it had died down we walked across the Friendship bridge and straight to Brazilian immigration to test out our Portuguese which consisted of Spanish with a husky accent. At immigration we got the passports stamped by two Brazilian lads who seemed a little too interested in us. A quick wink later and we were fast tracked through customs and finally on Brazilian soil. We went directly to the bus station to buy our onward journey to Rio for that night, but being unprepared tourists we forgot that there was a one hour time difference between Brazil and Paraguay. So we had zero time to visit the waterfalls. After a quick debate that even Prime Time would be proud of, we elected to stay the night in Foz do Iguacu, get up super early the next morning to see the Falls and then get the 12pm bus to Rio. So that evening we visited the famous 3 borders, where you can see Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay from the one spot, which was quite impressive.
We arrived in Rio 25 hours (yes 25) later broken men. For the most expensive journey of our trip so far there were no movies, nor even some food. We were lucky to get our hands on some word searches and Chris finished in a record time of 2 hours and 13 minutes. We soon realised that we had arrived in Rio the same week as the famous music festival Rock in Rio and accommodation was quite pricey for the weekend. Luckily we found a nice hostel in Lapa, a cool neighbourhood near downtown Rio. That night was another birthday at The Wirld HQ, so we headed out to the nearest bar, which was all samba music. As you can imagine we looked pretty clueless the whole time but gave it shot. Once we could tell the chicken dance was not catching on we legged it down to the local Irish bar for a few before calling it a night.
We decided to go Couchsurfing for a few days as accommodation was hard to come by due to the festival and were lucky to be offered accommodation with a lovely Brazilian girl called Maria who let us stay at her place just 2 blocks from Copacabana…talk about landing on your feet! What was also cool was that Maria had lived in Ireland for almost a year so it was cool to chat about the various places she liked in Dublin. We were straight down the beach to top up our already fading tans and in the evening headed to Lapa again for the infamous Friday night street party which consists of 1000’s of people drinking in the street listening to a variety of different music until 7am. Quite unreal! Bit of bad news for the Boys in Green though as Kevin’s phone was snatched on the beach as we were negotiating with a guy over the price of a can. That will teach us to get our priorities right!
The bus journey to the port lasted about 3 hours with some sneaky Twix stops en route. Twix have become the nearest chocolate we can find to home, so don’t be surprised to see us in Weight Watchers come next May. We then grabbed a boat in the lashing rain across to the island which had some amazing views en route.
We booked a hostel right on the beach front but the first day was bit of a write off due to the rain so we just relaxed and dominated some frango (chicken) in the local restaurant. The next morning after some epic breakfast (Brazilian hostels are kings of free breakfasts) we got a small boat to the most famous beach on the island. Unfortunately, the wind was so strong that our ham sambos were destroyed and we had to retreat to a smaller beach. Our Irish contingent also significantly expanded with the addition of three Irish girls from Cork. When you are travelling whenever you meet any Irish person abroad there is an instant bond and assumption that you are all going to like each other…If only Coppers was the same!
Rio de Janeiro (again)
We arrived in Rio mid afternoon and after much deliberation I felt it was time to sweat some of the badness out and headed for a run along Copacabana which was without doubt one of the most enjoyable jogs of my life. Mainly for the view…of the beach and stuff. That evening we discovered something game changing which has only taken us 4 months to notice…the amount of money that can be saved when you cook all your meals. We went from eating average meals for €6 to eating lovely plates which would feed a small family in Africa for €2. Our eyes are definitely bigger than our bellies however. The Wirld’s favourite plate for the month by a country mile is Spaghetti Bolognese…a tried and trusted classic Irish dish.
The next day we partook in our traditional Irish dancing on Ipanema beach and then got a cable car up the famous Sugar Loaf mountain just off Copacabana. The weather may not have been the best but the views were pretty incredible. That evening, with a heavy heart we hopped on the night bus to Sao Paulo, the largest city in South America.
We arrived in Sao Paulo around 7am and headed straight to the Green Grass Hostel which was a 30 minute metro ride away. Not our greatest of ideas, but getting the metro at rush hour in the most populated city in South America when you have 3 bags each was tough! But eventually the 3 Paddies and Dave made it. Upon arriving we met the hostel owner Gabriel who has recently returned home 3 years living in Ireland and opened the hostel with his savings. Don’t thank us…thank Angela Merkel! You can check out our interview with Gabriel here.
Rather than wasting time we got our tourist caps on and went straight downtown to see the historic centre of the city and then in the afternoon headed up the top of the largest building in Sao Paulo for some amazing views of the city. There were literally buildings as far buildings as far as the eyes could see.
At the hostel we met some really cool people from the local area who were more than helpful in recommending us the best places in the city to visit. As we were in a 3 day period of self-inflicted rehab, that list was shortened somewhat but we still managed to visit some cool places such as the football museum and a trendy area called Avenida Paulista. We also had the chance to fill them in on the Brazilian population of Gort and just how lucky the Irishmen have it down there. Some of the Brazilian girls from Sao Paulo who will be visiting Ireland next Christmas made a note of it and said they would visit. You’re welcome lads.
After three excellent days in Sao Paulo, we decided we missed the beach too much so grabbed a night bus to Florianapolis, a famous island in the state of Santa Catarina in the South of Brazil.
We touched down in Florianapolis around 9am the following day, but unfortunately the hostel was a trek and a half from the bus station. So after 2 buses, we made it to the Barra Beach Club just before noon. The hostel is definitely one of the best hostels we have stayed in so far. Located right on the beach, with huge breakfasts and free surfboards for usage, it has it all. Just not a whole lot of people during off season however!
Once we arrived we bumped into some Irish friends we had made early on our journey so the Irish pod expanded once more. We also went through all the amount of random friends in common we all had. Sometimes we like to think Ireland is a huge country but it really isn’t! After some surfing on the beach, we headed to the local samba club that evening with was quite disastrous but quite fun to watch people who knew what they were doing. Some Dutch courage helped the situation and we were soon popping moves.
After 4 days in Florianapolis and over 3 weeks in Brazil, our bank balances told us it was time to pack up shop and leave town. So we grabbed an early bus to Porto Alegre, even further in the South, and then booked a night bus from there to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, thus bringing to an end the Brazilian adventure.
Without doubt Brazil has been one of the most fun, diverse and crazy places we have visited so far. As we have said with many countries in Latin America, we were struck by the friendliness of the locals. But here it was especially true. People went out of their way to make sure we had a good time…well apart from the guy on the beach! It’s a country that has everything and is going to be an excellent host for next year’s World Cup. Only question is: does anyone have a loan so we can come back?