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Brazil

sunny 28 °C

Hola guapos y guapas! You can see below the map which shows my route through South America. I'm afraid I haven't suddenly developed better artwork skills over night, I've got Intrepid Travel to thank for it. ;) The last three weeks have gone by so quickly that I can't believe it's the very last day. But I am excited for Europe and what lies ahead.

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My expectations couldn't have been any higher for Rio and it's been a place on my hit list for many years. I thought Sydney was the most beautiful city I've ever seen but Rio has eclipsed it. With its vast ocean views and staggering mountains Rio really is a jaw dropper. I've not been to Cape Town or Miami yet and I've no doubt they're well regarded for a reason but I'd be surprised if anywhere else will have me smiling in admiration as much as Rio has. Landing into its domestic airport we were treated to this view on arrival. It's as if they've gone and built a city on the set of Jurassic Park!

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We arrived a couple of hours before dinner so as a group we headed straight for the famous Copacabana beach for sunset, dinner and some Caipirinhas, the well known Brazilian cocktail.

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The first full day was action packed. First up was the Rio de Janeiro Cathedral. It was built between the 1960s and 1970s and can hold up to 20,000 people. Brazil is very much a Catholic country and I've no doubt they've had many nights where this church was at full capacity. Our group weren't too impressed however with its architecture and I must admit it looks a little dystopian on the eye.

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We next visited the Escadaria Selarón, also known as the 'Selaron Steps' and world famous. Unfortunately with so many people there I couldn't get a great photo of the steps, but here are two snaps to give you an idea. There's some really cute art work featuring everything from countries all across the globe to a homage to the Simpsons.

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We were all eagerly awaiting our next stop, the iconic Christ Redeemer statue. It towers over the city of Rio as if it's protecting everyone who lives here. Constructed between 1922 and 1931, the statue is 30 metres high, excluding its 8-metre pedestal. Despite its obvious religious connections I had that same feeling of awe that I've had when visiting the Taj Mahal, the Sydney Opera House or the Pyramids of Giza.

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This is our tour guide Luciano. We couldn't have been better looked after, not to mention as well fed and watered.

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We then paid a visit to the Santa Theresa district which is well known for its hipster vibes, colorful buildings and funky artwork.

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The day was ended with a trip to the Sugar Loaf Mountain for two cable car rides which brought us to glorious panoramic views of the city. Rio really is a stunner and to get a better idea check out some videos on YouTube as it's hard to capture its beauty in these stills.

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Our trip with Intrepid Travel had officially ended by the following day and with a just a few of us left we spent it by the beach and pool. By Tuesday afternoon I was the last one left so I decided to book an afternoon tour on a jeep safari through some of Rio's forests and its botanical gardens. I passed by waterfalls, monkeys and more spectacular view points of the city on the way.

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The botanical gardens were particularly impressive. It was starting to get dark by the time I had arrived so the photos weren't great but you can see some of its trees below and the Christ Redeemer which is ever present from many parts of the city including its outer suburbs.

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My final day has been spent in the Copacabana area close to the beach where I was able to enjoy one last swim and a stroll along its promenade. We've been told it can rain an awful lot here but June is one of the best time to visit as it's dry, comfortably hot during the day and the ocean is still warm.

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Rio has been awesome and as with Argentina I'll need to return and explore some more. I'd love to check out the Amazon region next time. I couldn't recommend Intrepid Travel highly enough and whether you're travelling alone or just through a tricky part of the world check out what tours they have on offer. Right then, in a few hours I board a flight directly to Lisbon. I'll soon be reunited with Alberto and from there we'll travel east and over the Spanish border to spend time with his family and explore his home province of Extremadura together. I won't be blogging about it as my 'backpacking' days are officially at an end for now :( BUT once I get some time on my hands I'll write up a little retrospective entry.

Posted by mattld 08:54 Archived in Brazil Tagged brazil rio riodejaneiro christredeemer intrepidtravel santatheresa Comments (0)

Argentina

sunny 22 °C

When I look back on Peru in the future the first thing that will come to mind is its history and culture. When I think back to Argentina it's going to have to be the wonderful food and drink, more specifically its delicious meats and Malbec wine! The Argentinians certainly know how to dine and it would have been rude to say no, so in the past week it's fair to say most of our group have overindulged. I can hear the gym calling out my name at this stage and I am looking forward getting back into my routine. Having said that we have been doing our best to take in the sights and sounds of a country which we've only scratched the surface of. First up was its capital Buenos Aires. The city has a very distinct central European and cosmopolitan feel to it. Given its architecture you could easily think you're wandering the streets of Paris or Madrid and I really enjoyed an all too brief couple of days here. It's almost winter time in most of South America but the weather has been very pleasant and I don't think we'll see a drop a rain outside of some initial drizzle back in Lima. With only one full day on our trip in BA we were taken on a guided walking tour. There was an international day for Paraguay taking place and you can see some of the Paraguayans dressed up for celebrations in the second photo.

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As mentioned in my last entry we said goodbye to most of our group from Peru as only five of us remined... myself, Dan & Amy from Melbourne and Neil & Linda from Dunedin in New Zealand. We were joined by three brand new faces and our tour guide Luciano who was responsible for bringing us to some of the best restaurants at the most reasonable prices. You can't beat local knowledge. On Monday we took a flight south east to Posades and from there we drove to a small town known as Ituzaingo. There's little to see here but it served as our base to explore the Ibera Wetlands region. This national park is more than 15,000 square km in size (the same size as Belgium)! We spent the day driving through it in a couple of jeeps passing by swamps, lakes and lagoons spotting all kinds of birds, caimans (small crocs) and caponatas which are like a mix between a wombat and a beaver.

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That afternoon we were treated to an Argentinian BBQ and Luciano our guide gave us a taste of 'Mate Tea' (pronounced as ma-té) which has enough caffeine to keep you buzzing for the entire day. As a non coffee drinker I found it quite strong but it was good to try it.

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On Wednesday we spent most of the day on the road as we travelled north to Puerto Iguazu which is just past the Argentinian border on the Brazilian side. Iguazu Falls is regarded as one of the 'New Natural Wonders of the World' and is the most impressive and striking waterfall I've ever seen. Its sheer power is incredible and the panoramic views were stunning.

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After our morning on the Argentinian side a few of us took a short ten minute helicopter ride over the Falls. It's been more than 10 years since I've been in a helicopter and I forgot how much fun it is.

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On our final day we travelled back across the border from Brazil to visit the Argentinian side. They compliment one another very nicely but the high speed boat ride we were able to take (which resulted in an absolute drenching) gave Argentina the victory! I wore a travel poncho I've been carrying around with me for months but it did absolutely nothing. Oh well.

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On a side note both parks are packed with these little critters. Cute eh? Be careful though they can bite, and may carry rabies! I didn't fancy recreating that infamous scene from the movie Outbreak so I did my best to keep a relatively safe distance.

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After the falls we were taken on a visit to a native tribe, one of the largest in the country. Retaining their identity and way of life is of utmost importance and it was great to be able to see how they hunt and live their lives.

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I enjoyed my time here, perhaps not as much as Peru but I'd like to return and spend more time in the capital and explore other parts of the country. Well it's almost home time folks... next up and last on the list (but by no means least) is Rio De Janeiro. It's day sixty six on the road and I just have five more to go...

Posted by mattld 14:54 Archived in Argentina Tagged argentina iguazufalls beunosaires ituzaingo intrepidtravel Comments (0)

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