+ Iguaçu Falls, Argentina

Here's some advice for other travellers hoping to stay on the Argentinian side of the falls, in Puerto Iguazú. The buses from Sao Paulo always drop you off at the Brazilian side, and there's no clear sign for how to get to Argentina from there! I turned out of the bus terminal and was told by a lady to take the next bus into the town centre. When I got to the town centre there was no signs for buses to Argentina still, so it was only after more confused walks around the bus stops that I found the bus stop.

Now I know it's my own fault I don't speak Spanish, I could have put more effort into it, but I still hate it when I am on a bus and have no clue when to get off! What's worse is that the bus to Argentina obviously goes across the border, and had never found out about the exact procedure. My bus driver gave me a little ticket (I later found out this was so I could catch another bus to Puerto Iguazú) and then gestured to me to get off the bus because we were at border control. I'm glad I took my backpack off the bus because after we'd gone through passport control the guy just drove off!

Thankfully there was a place to change my Brazilian currency into Argentine pesos though, so I did that and hoped another bus would turn up to pick me up in the exact spot the other guy had left us! Then, the next bus takes you to the terminal of the Puerto Iguazú and you have to find your way (in my case to Hostel Inn) from there. Yellow buses labelled 'El Practico' are apparently the key, so after being on one for about five minutes the guy then shouts "Hostel Inn!" and you jump off.

The hostel itself was pretty damn nice, with little two-storey houses for the dorms and a swimming pool surrounded by comfy wooden sun-loungers. You might almost forget you were here to see one of the wonders of the world!

Me, early in the morning at the Devil's Throat at Iguazu Falls, ArgentinaOn my first full day, me and some others from the hostel got the 7.20am bus to the National Park, and were the first in line... just before 8am literally dozens of tour buses turn up and a mob of middle-aged people armed with beige hats and lots of sunscreen descend upon the park. Never mind though, we still managed to get the odd opportunity to take photos without the crowds getting into the line of our cameras.

We started off first with the Devil's Throat, 'Garganta del Diablo', and the tumbling down of such a vast volume of water literally hypnotises your eyes. Because it was still early morning there was a real atmosphere to the place, and in a way the fact that the sun was not fully out gave it a more mysterious mood.

After walking along the train track we found more circuits, called something along the lines of superior and inferior, and managed to get a different view of the falls. Below is my favourite photo from the whole day, but go on my flickr website to see the rest.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina

I struck lucky getting a photo of this butterfly. It's markings are so distinctive and for some reason you can even make out '88' on its wings! I wish I could have taken more photos from the place but silly old me forgot to put my memory card in my camera so could only take a few :(

I spent the next day chilling out by the pool after recovering from a heavy night - it was great because I bumped into one of the first people I met when travelling, we were sitting next to each other on the computers and suddenly recognised each other! It's strange but if you see the same person on different stages of your trip you start to accept them as one of your nearest and dearest - it's great to have some familiarity with people when you're so used to making friends for just one or two days at a time.

+ Sao Paulo, Brazil

I stayed here for just one night and one day... there's not an awful lot to write about so instead I'll just sample a few pictures. I stayed at a nice hostel called O de Casa Hostel and although I was only there one night they served a good breakfast (unlike many hostels I can mention who truly think a bread roll and a cup of coffee will fuel a backpacker for a day).

I basically walked around the centro area, stumbling across various things as I did, my favourite being the accessories market where I bought metres and metres of ribbon for barely anything.

The big disappointment for me was Liberdade - I have never been to Japan and thought by visiting the largest Japan-town outside of Japan my taste for it would be satisfied. Instead, all I saw were a few tacky restaurants, some red lamp posts and a few signs with Japanese characters. I was hoping for neon lights, lots of sushi and just general CULTURE! It only redeemed itself by this really cool work of graffiti... in fact I think it was the only picture I took of the whole area.

Sao Paulo, Brazil

After a quick trip up the Santander tower to a cloudy view of the town, I headed back to my hostel and made the arduous metro ride to the bus terminal for my connection to Iguaçu Falls. In retrospect, I'm glad I plucked up the courage to go there, because for a moment I was going to be swayed by all the horror-stories of crime and muggings... I truly believe a city like Buenos Aires is more dangerous for tourists, partly because perhaps a dozen people I've met have been mugged there!

+ Paraty, Brazil

So I woke up early one morning, got on the 9.30am ferry from Ilha Grande back to the mainland and wondered what was in store next! After finding a suspiciously schoolbus like mode of transportation, I was being transported past sweeping bays and gigantic green mountains of the type you come to expect from a place like Brazil. I almost wished I'd decided to work my way even more slowly along the coast and do Paraty later!

Misti Chill Hostel, Paraty, Brazil A pinky/purple sunset in Paraty, Brazil
I booked into a hostel called Misti Chill, which was unlike any of the others I've been to before in that the majority of it hasn't actually got a roof... this is of course fantastic in perfect weather (except for the flies buzzing around your brekkie every morning), but as I will go into detail later it did actually end up raining for two days when I was there.

After spending my first afternoon there sunbathing on the beach and watching the sun set, I met my fellow-English friends Rosie and Jeanette (the ones I met in Ilha Grande) and armed with vodka and bright orange 'fanta' (more likely one of the fake imitations they sell here) we chilled out by the beach. Just as we were getting very much intoxicated, there's a bright explosion a few hundred meters away and the whole town is under the wrath of a blackout!

The next day with a bitter hangover I decided to stroll around Old Town, below are a couple of few photos of the postcard-perfect town:

Paraty Pics 035Corner of whitewashed building with blue detailing

Me and Ruth, an Australian girl I met at the hostel missed the early bus to the waterfalls so we decided to take a look at the port. There was a row of brightly-painted boats offering personal cruises around some of Paraty's dozens of islands, so on a whim we accepted Leo (our fantastically crazy sailor) and got on deck.

Me manning our private pink boat on the oceans of Paraty! We made sure we only paid for one hour's worth of a boat trip, but sailor Leo sat there with his two cans of Skol beer and proceeded to try and make conversation for over an hour while we were sunbathing. It got to the point where we were like, "uhh are we actually going to go back to the mainland?!" Overall though the trip was just amazing, he even had the ship kitted out with pink cushions, a pink sun umbrella and had painted the floorboards, yep you guess it, pink. I remember lying on the top deck and wondering if it would be so bad to just stay in Brazil forever and learn to run my own boat - it may not be much money but you get constant company and every day you're guaranteed to be in paradise!
Waterfalls in Paraty, Brazil
Later that day, it started to rain violently. We were in an all-you-can eat place at the time and once again we had to deal with another blackout, although thankfully this one only lasted for thirty seconds. Because the weather was still crap the next day, we thought it'd be fine to still go to the waterfalls that everyone was raving about. Locals and adventurous backpackers all go here to slide down the rapids. I had to chicken out of doing it because I was worried my valuable monthly contact lenses would slide out.. if only I'd had my eyes lasered before I came away!

Paraty is well worth a visit for its distinctive cobbled streets, painted doorways, although the beach itself wasn't worth writing about... I have been told though that Trinidade is amazing, but because of the weather I didn't get a chance to see :( So after three days filled with vodka, rain, pink boats and more rain, I got on a very comfortable bus to Sao Paulo, more of which will be detailed in the next post.

+ Ilha Grande, Brazil

Tonight I'm staying at a hostel with no other English-speakers and there is not a soul in my room! So there's no better chance than this to catch up on posting about my travels. I don't think Buzios (my first stop after Rio Carnaval) needs its own post because all I did there was relax by the beach, but Ilha Grande deserves its own!

WORD OF WARNING TO FELLOW TRAVELLERS: If you are heading to Ilha Grande from Rio De Janeiro, you will most probably be getting a bus to Angra Dos Reis in order to catch the boat there. In all my research no-one ever told me that the port was at least thirty minutes' walk away from the bus terminal there, and so on one blaaazing hot afternoon me and some fellow travellers turn left out of the terminal, following the advice of its resident tourist info office. We end up walking for what seems like an eternity and there are actually two ports (the cheapest one is an extra 6 minutes walk). You may be thinking we should have just got a taxi, but oddly enough we couldn't flag a single car down during our walk up to the port. When a woman sitting in an air-conditioned office without a backpack on says something is "not so far away" don't believe her. Rant over.

Ilha Grande, Brazil
After a pleasant boat ride on the cheaper boat, I finally rocked up to one of the most picturesque places I've ever been. Finding my hostel (Overnativa Green Hostel) proved less of a problem than my hour-long late night stroll on Buzios.... so all was good!Thankfully I met two lovely fellow English girls in my dorm, and we went out in the evening to have a jug (or three) of gorgeously sweet red wine that tasted like ribena.
Ilha Grande, Brazil During my first full day I meandered from one deserted beach to the other; at one point it was only me and maybe three other people sunbathing in a bay of over 100 metres long. The sea is crystal clear and at the same time there was a lovely gentle breeze which was a welcome addition to my beach time after hot and stuffy Copacabana.

The next day me and a friend decided to visit Lagoa Verde. We were the only English-speakers on the boat and funnily enough also the only people that hadn't brought snorkels... everyone else seemed to know we were headed for an underwater cave with bright blue stones, and that the lagoon didn't offer snorkel hire facilities. It wasn't an absolute disaster because only a handful of people bothered to snorkel in the cave, and the water in the lagoon was so lovely and clear you didn't need snorkels to see the varities of fish.

My only regret about Ilha Grande is that I only spent two nights there.. if serene beaches and chilled out nights are your thing then you can quite easily spend up to a week here.

+ Some pictures from our boat trip to Lagoa Verde

Starfish in Lagoa Verde, Ilha Grande, Brazil Boat trip to Lagoa Verde, Ilha Grande, Brazil

Our boat trip to Lagoa Verde, Ilha Grande, Brazil Yellow stripy fish under our boat in Ilha Grande, Brazil

+ Reflections on Brazil

Now that it's been nearly two weeks since I left Brazil, I can now reflect on my time in such an awesome country.

What I would do differently:

+ Only get to Rio De Janeiro the following week of the carnaval, where you can still catch the Champions parade for a fraction of the cost.

+ Do the favela tour. I never got round to doing this, in part due to the cost of the tours but also because I didn't honestly believe that a tour would give you an authentic portrait of the favelas themselves. Regardless, I wish I had ventured somewhere near to the favelas considering it's such a vital aspect of the city itself.

+ I brought with my a larger than your average digital camera, which meant unlike all the other backpackers I met, I couldn't just stuff it in my bra to take cheeky snaps at raucous street parties and at the sambodrome. You are constantly fearful that you'll be mugged or pickpocketed, and in hindsight a smaller camera would have been a lot less hassle to bring along to somewhere as crazy as the carnaval.

+ Spend less money and time at the Mellow Yellow bar! Although it's nice to spend time socialising with other english-speaking travellers, it sometimes gets to the point where you forget you're actually in a city like Rio De Janeiro. If I came again, I'd make a bigger effort to venture to more Brazilian bars and meet the locals.

Memories of Brazil

+ Acai, acai and more acai.

+Men that don't know no means no, and seem to think they all deserve a kiss and a dance from all gringas!

+ There's too much English-language music for my taste. It got too much when I'd just got off the ferry to the beautiful island of Ilha Grande and I was greeted by Lily Allen's Smile. It's nice to hear familiar music but at the same time I would have killed to listen to more Brazilian music, because would I did hear was really really cool.... the only prolbem is I don't know the artist or song names.

+ Dodgy bus journeys (see below [post)!

+ The blazing sun. After my first day at Copacabana beach led to a very nasty case of burnt feet, the intensity of the sunshine picked up a gear. I remember having to sprint to wherever there was shade during my travels around the city.

+ Vendors, vendors everywhere. On the beach and by the sambodrome you are constantly bombarded with chants of 'agua agua minerale! cerveza! coco'. At first you politely say 'no obrigada' but it gets to the point where you can't even SLEEP on the beach for all the shouts and squeals of said vendors.

+ No-one in Brazil EVER has any change. If you show a 50R note to a shop assistant, they look at you like you're mad.

+ The majority of food in Brazil is cheese, white bread and red meat coated with coarse grains of salt. I don't think I saw one brown bread roll in all my time there! Oh, and don't get my started on the curse of warm milk every morning at the hostels... and that's only if you're lucky enough to be given cereals to start with!

+ Metro journeys were cheap as anything but my time in Sao Paulo was slightly marred by the dumb way they organise their lines. You have to memorise the end stations of each line, and instead of just having 'northbound' or 'southbound' you end up trying to frantically follow signs for some random station that isn's even the one you're going to.

+ The Brazilian fashion consists mainly of yellow hair, stonewashed denim and cork wedges. Don't forget diamente details and lots of logo-tees.

+ I swear half of the world's dog population resides in Brazil. In Paraty it got to the pont where you can't walk down the road without being hounded (like what I did there?!) by stray dogs. At the same time, they don't seem to have homes but most look well-fed and seem to stick to the same alleys and streets.

+ it is cheaper to buy a litre of vodka than a litre of water... OK that might be an exaggeration but overall vodka was the cheapest item, and yet things like ice creams, food and laundry services were ridiculously overpriced.

+ If you spend a day out of your hostel, bring lots of change because to go to a toilet in most places cost money. And the worst thing is there is never any toilet paper, so you are paying an exortionate amount for not very much.