Rio de Janeiro
I’ve seen a lot of waterfalls in my time but I must admit that the Iguaçu Falls is one of the most impressive. To fully appreciate the falls you have to see them from both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides. You can also opt for a slightly expensive (but worth it) helicopter flight over the falls to see them from the sky. Of course I had to see them from both land and air and I won’t lie, I was like an excited kid at Christmas time when we went up in the air.
On the Brazilian side you can take the Trilha das Cataratas which is a beautiful trail through rainforest with amazing views of the falls. The path leads you to the Devil’s Throat of the falls where you can walk along a metal boardwalk to see the waterfalls up close. Unfortunately for us it started to rain halfway through our walk and we got absolutely drenched! Of course once we had finished sightseeing the rain cleared up and the sun came out – typical. Still a spectacular site despite the rain though.
On the Argentinian side there are multiple walks you can take through the park that will get you up close to the falls. On this side you can opt to take a boat trip that will take you really up close and personal to the falls aswell! Of course this was an option that stood out to me but prepared to get absolutely drenched!
My first stop on my 6 month adventure was Rio de Janeiro and I was nervous. This was my first big solo trip and I had no idea what to expect or what I had gotten myself into.
I got in late to Rio and somehow navigated myself to my hotel via taxi. I looked a hot mess and was wearing long pants and jacket with hiking boots in 40° heat. Of course I got some funny looks from the staff at my hotel and I’m pretty sure I even saw some hide back laughter. However, after travelling for over 24hrs you kind of don’t care anymore.
The next day I looked a tad better and had a walking tour with a local guide. We started with catching a local bus to the top of Santa Teresa. Santa Teresa is set on a hill and has beautiful views overlooking Rio. We got off at the top and wondered the cobblestone streets down. I love Santa Teresa as it has beautiful old mansions and colourful walls with graffiti art. It’s home to many artists and bohemians and has some awesome restaurants and bars to check out too (definitely my kind of place anyway).
As we made our way down we learnt about the history of the tram that was used to get up Santa Teresa, however there was a deadly derailment back in 2011 where a few people died. The driver was deemed a hero as he stayed on the tram to try and stop it but died trying. The community has been in support of getting the tram back which seems to be a slow process. If you wonder around you will most likely see stickers of the tram on cars or buildings in support.
We kept heading down until we got to the top of the Escadaria Selarón. If you get a chance you have to see this famous staircase as it is quite beautiful. The Chilean artist Selarón started tiling this staircase (over 200 steps) and people from around the world would send him tiles from their countries to use so make sure you try and spot some from your own country!
Afterwards we made our way to Santa Marta favela. Favelas are like shanty towns or slums and are not for everyone to visit. The government has been working with favelas to try and clean them up and make them safer. The Santa Marta favela is now drug free and they have been buying paint for the community to paint the outside of their homes to make them more appealing. It was definitely interesting though and they have some amazing views from the top. Just make sure you go with a guide where the funds go back into the community. This favela was also part of the setting for the film clip “They Don’t Care About Us” by Michael Jackson and you will find a statue dedicated to him here as well.
During our walking tour I had hit it off with another solo female traveller and after the tour we ended the day at Copocanaba beach, drinking Caprihanas and eating some local food. As we sat there talking, drinking and watching the sunset all my worries about Rio disappeared and I think that’s when my love affair with the city started.
The next day I had a lazy start to the morning and eventually dragged myself out of the hotel and into 41° heat to make my way down to the Uruguaiana markets to find some cheap carnaval costumes! These markets are crazy and I’m not sure if it was because of Carnaval or if they were usually like this. There are stalls galore and it’s like a little maze. These markets were packed with people, music playing in every direction and you could smell different types of food cooking everywhere. These markets are also very local, I only saw a handful of tourists here and everything was so cheap so check them out! Eventually I found some cheap tattoos, fairy wings and some false eye lashes to wear for the week.
Rio Carnaval is essentially made up of various different bloco’s (street parties) and then of course you have the Sambadrome where the various different samba schools perform and show off their costumes and elaborate floats. Bloco’s are where the most fun is at though and they are free. Just search for the schedule to see which ones appeal to you the most and then rock up. They are held at different locations and times and each has a certain theme. During Carnaval though you will see a lot of people in costumes for a few days so make sure you dress up and join in the festivities!!
As you can imagine I went to a lot of different bloco’s and even just walked out of a restaurant once and found myself in one that just started. Make sure you are sensible though and don’t take any big bags. There are a lot of pickpocketers and I only took a small bag that I kept at my front but when I could I just tucked money in my bra and didn’t take anything else. I never felt unsafe at any of the bloco’s I went to apart from when I was in Lapa where there were a few dodgy alleyways and seedy looking places. Plus I had read pickpocketers were like magicians in Lapa!
Ladies (and gents) I feel like this would not be a true post if I didn’t mention the fact that the men here during Carnaval are hawt! Expect to see lots of shirtless men with muscles (possibly in tutus or dresses but still)! They are a tad too friendly and will often stop you for a cheeky kiss or just to chat but don’t take offence as they are respectful if you say no.
Of course my trip to Rio wouldn’t be complete without a tourist trip up to Sugar Loaf mountain and Christ the Redeemer statue.
Overall though my time in Rio was absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to go back!!! Sadly it’s time to move on for the next part of my adventure.
I have been dreaming of going to Carnaval in Rio since I was a teenager and finally this year that dream had come true! It has been so surreal to think that after seeing pictures of Carnaval for so long that I was finally physically in the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro waiting for the parade to start. Of course we didn’t exactly have the smoothest of starts to the parade.
We took the metro from where we were staying to near the Sambadrome and walked the rest of the way. On the way there the wind started to pick up and then of course torrential rain started so we sought out shelter under some buildings until the rain eased a little bit. Eventually we made our way to the Sambadrome and to our section and waited undercover until the parades started all the while hoping that the rain would stop soon…. of course it didn’t and then the thunder and lightening started and we knew we were in for a really good night!
The first samba school parade still went on regardless of the rain and even the rain couldn’t dampen the spirit of the crowd. The crowds were decked out in ponchos and umbrellas all the while dancing and singing in the rain which was contagious. Even though you were soaking wet and looked miserable your hips couldn’t help but move to the music and before you knew it you were dancing and signing a song you don’t know the words to.
Words or pictures can’t describe the atmosphere in the Sambadrome and the parades and floats were just amazing! If you are in sector 13 you can easily pick up some of the costumes as well as the dancers just leave costumes lying around everywhere in this area after they finish.
Somehow I managed to stay until the last parade which started about 5.30am so I had been awake for over 24hrs by the time I got home but it was well and truly worth it! Walking back to the metro the streets were filled with discarded costumes, music and dancers were out getting food and celebrating. Even though the sun was rising, it seemed like the party kept going outside of the Sambadrome.