Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Greatest Show on Earth

I loved Rio de Janeiro, for about the first five minutes... overall it was really a mixed experience; fun and frustration, spectacle and suffering, dilapidation and beauty, but mostly it was just wet, smelly and drunk...

I stayed in a great place Casa Aurea, located in the hills of Santa Teresa; a very funky and historic area full of impressive street art, a labyrinth of winding streets and steps and a mixture of beautiful and decaying architecture.
Carnaval was an amazing experience. Bloco's are a stream of constant street parties and parades which start at sunrise and continue all day and night in different areas over the city. Locals and tourists alike are adorned in costumes, ranging from a simple mask to an elaborate creation and they certainly know how to party...

The highlight for me was the Samba Parade at the Sambodromo, where twelve Samba schools parade for the ultimate Samba crown. It was truly one the most spectacular things I have ever seen; the effort and dedication of each of the Samba schools is incredible, they not only rehearse and practise for months before they also compose, choreograph, create and design their entire parade, not to mention singing and dancing for their parade which last up to 120 minutes!

I spent 10 days in Rio de Janeiro and honestly I dont have much to report, it rained almost every day and other than partying at Bloco's the weather put a stop to lazing on the beaches of Ipanema or Copacabana, or hiking and exploring the area. I did make it to a football (soccor) game, Botofogo vs River Plate which was fun, the passion of the supporters is a sight in itself. I have decided however the I am really not a soccor fan... boring, give me AFL anyday!

My last day in Rio de Janeiro redeemed itself, the rain finally stopped and I headed to Corcovado with Sarah, Madeline and Charlie (also staying at Casa Aurea, also jaded by Rio!). Christ the Redeemer made an appearance from the clouds and we drank beers and took in the fabulous view of the city below us. Later that evening, as we were heading out to dinner we were told about one last Bloco happening just down the street (Carnaval was officially over but as I said the Brasilians love to party!) so off we went to join the fun. A broken Havaiana and a few beers later it started to POUR with rain and by the time we arrived at a nearby restaurant we were completely soaked. The food, great company, several more beers and the temperate evening afforded me comfort despite my soggy state and I ended my stint in Rio de Janeiro on a high note.

I liked Rio de Janeiro but it is certainly not my favourite place, being there alone was difficult and not speaking Portugese was much more of an obstacal than I anticipated as very few people speak English. Carnival is most definitely an event best visited with a group of friends and Rio de Janeiro, in my opinion, a city best visited outside of Carnaval. The city completely closes down for the four days so seeing any of the other highlights on offer is almost impossible.

After the 10 days I was more than ready to leave, next stop Iguazu Falls at the border of Brasil and Argentina. As the taxi drove me to the airport the sun was finally shining on Rio de the time I boarded the plane it was dark, cloudy and raining...again!

I have spent the last couple days visiting both the Brasilian and Argentinian sides of Iguazu Falls with a great couple, Trudy and Alex, who I met on arrival at a very crap hostel we both stayed at in Foz do IguaƧu. Iguazu Falls are amazing, a series of 275 waterfalls stretching 2.7 kilometers along the Iguazu River. We visited both sides, in my opinion the Argentinian side is much more spectacular and diverse. The Devil's Throat, a U-shaped, 82 m high, 150m wide and 700m long fall, is the most impressive of all, marking the border between Argentina and Brazil.

It was great to spend a few days with fun and interesting people, Brits which I am very pleased to report are immigrating to Australia in a month or so, to my beloved Melbourne in fact. The Australian dream could have been all over yesterday though when Trudy and I had a close call and faced a Code Red situation with a dozen rabied Raccoons while finishing our lunch, luckily my plastic spoon was the only fatality. Alex escaped the frenzy and was absolutely no help as he was on his 45th visit to the mens room! ;)

BIG NEWS, whilst I am killing time in Puerto Iguazu for the next 24 hours, come Tuesday at 6pm I set sail for Antarctica! There was a place on the last 12 day tour offered for the season and couldn't pass up the opportunity to experience the Arctic Circle and Antarctic Peninsula. I will spend my birthday aboard the MV Plancius watching a multitude of sea life; birds, seals, penguins and whales, not to mention icebergs and glaciers. I have already sent a memo to the Captain its my birthday so I hope they are planning a big celebration in my honor!! ;)

Over and out... off the air until March 26th.

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