Wow, Brasil (Brazil) is an incredible place, full of people with open hearts and a zest for life like no other. The natural environment is a must see, from Foz de Iguazu (Iguazu Falls) to the Amazon Rainforest, it is a very special place.
Our 4 month trip (not long enough) started by entering the country from Bolivia, by crossing the Pantanal and ended by cruising into Colombia/Peru after a luscious ride up the Amazon river. Do not underestimate the awesomeness of Brazil’s national parks.
In Bolivia you can catch a train from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, costs 100 Bolivianos ($9) and it arrives to Puerto Quijarro, then you can walk or take a taxi (best just pay the 20 Bolivianos for the taxi) to the frontera. This photo was taken with a beautiful Brazilian girl, Renata, who was our first Brazilian experience. We met her on the train, and she, like most Brazilians took us under her wing and we eventually stayed with her at her friends house for a few days while we worked out the Portuguese language.
We then got a carona (hitchhike/lift) to the Brasilian town of Corumbá, where we got on a bus to Campo Grande. I hopped out to gather mangoes from under a tree when we stopped at a small town, then offered them to others on the bus, all were very pleased 🙂
Then we arrived at Campo Grande which was a culture shock seeing skyscrapers, expensive cars and huge supermarkets after being in Bolivia so long. We stayed with Renata and her friends while trying to grapple with the Portuguese language. These strong Brazilian women made us delicious and healthy food!
After a few days of hanging with these beautiful people, we caught a day long bus to the town of Foz de Iguaçu (Iguazu Falls). We Couchsurfed in the love filled family home of Saul. We then took a bus to see the falls, only on the Brazilian side (although we heard the Argentinian side was nice to) and wow, so powerful. Let me be honest, no photos, or even videos can do justice to the power of these waterfalls, but we will share a few anyway.
Wow, and we were lucky enough to stay behind after the park closed, and everyone left, so it was just us, the falls, and all the animals came out! We eventually got a lift from someone leaving the falls, amazing.
We stayed a few more days at Foz, and spent Christmas Couchsurfing at the Green House hostel Saul worked at, great place by the way!
We then hitch hiked out of Foz, all the way to Curitiba, where we spent a sleepless night outside a power station. We then had one of the worst hitchhiking days, no one would pick us up, even though there were many many cars heading to the coast. I guess people are less inclined to pick you up when they are going on holiday. That is the thing about hitchhiking, it is the best and the worst of people. And when we did get picked up, wow, it was incredible, a Brazilian girl who had recently been to Australia picked us up and took us to Guaratuba, on the beach. She invited us to stay at her family holiday house for new years eve and we obviously said yes! While we were there they fed us and cared for us like we were her children, very Brazilian.
We then left there eventually and hitch hiked further north until the Ilha do Mel (Honey Island). We camped here in the wild, saw some big snakes and cooked by fire. We then went further north until São Paulo, where we volunteered at a hostel for a few days. This city is crazy, it is like a jungle of sky scrapers as far as you can see! After that we caught a bus to Rio de Janeiro, where we couchsurfed across the road from a favella on the Ilha do Governador with a funny Brazilian guy. The beaches of Rio are pretty dirty, so we drove out of Rio to a beach further south ( I drove a Chileans car because I was the only one who could drive!). We also went out for a night to Lapa, the historical and party place of Rio. It has an energy like no other, very vibrant and alive, streets full of youth drinking, smoking and dancing the night away. We then met up again with our friend Renata and stayed at her place, and then spent a night sleeping in the bus station before heading north again. We arrived at Vitoria where we couchsurfed with a great guy in that tiny little cute village.
After that we passed into the state of Bahia and hitchhiked all the way to Ilheus, which we passed only to get to beautiful Itacare where we stayed at bananas hostel, a great fun place! We then went up the river to volunteer at a community run by Sam and Liz, which was incredible. After two weeks there, eating delicious fresh food and building a variety of things, we were off north again with our new friend from the community, Karol.
First we went to Barra Grande, which is a quiet place on the coast, then we went to Ilha de Boipeba (Boipeba Island), that I believe you get to by catching a boat from Valença. This place is magical and highly recommended over the most turistic and populated Morro de São Paulo. We stayed in wooden houses at a nice place run by a guy named Raimundo.
After leaving this paradise, we arrived at Salvador de Bahia, the first slave port of the Americas where probably around 5 million African slaves arrived. The history shows and in the below photo you can see the city on the left, and on the right a sea of favellas made from cheap ceramic bricks. So many innocent lives lost to European imperialists. This photo is taken from the place we were couchsurfing at. This place has a wild energy about it, very alive. Be street smart, especially in the centre at night, remember the historical context.
If you want to escape the big city, like us, head west a few hours to Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina. This place is a special place, it is like you have stepped on to the set of the land before time, but you realise it is real, it is our earth, growing and breathing. Head to the least touristy and more alternative village of Vale do Capão (Capão valley) and you will not be disappointed! We camped, but there are many other options available. Lots of Volunteering available to. If you are there, you have to check out the Fumaça (smokey) waterfall. It is so called as the water turns to mist before it hits the bottom as it is so tall. You can walk up there on your own as long as you are sensible enough, it is a 2-3 hour round trip walk.
After a week or so here, we headed north again, hitchhiking again. We eventually made it after a few days to the town of São Raimundo Nonato, where we would set off to see the extraordinary Parque Nacional Serra da Capivara. We got very lucky to get a hitchhike with a Brazilian family going to the park. Regardless, you need to pay a guide to accompany you around the park, but at least the family could drive us around in their car and we split the guide fee. If you don’t have a car, you can ride on the back of the guide’s motorbike. This place is full of ancient rock paintings depicting a range of captivating images, including a woman giving birth and different types of animals. A few of our photos below.
A very spectacular place, with evidence of people living there possibly up to 100,000 years ago which challenges the current understanding of how humans came to be in the Americas!
We finally tired of hitchiking as we were on a bit of a schedule to head to the Amazon Jungle. So we took a few buses to eventually arrive at our couchsurfers place at the Amazon river mouth, Belém. A city in the Amazon Jungle has to be tough, where there is torrential rain every afternoon.
So we headed on down to the dock to get our tickets to start our month long journey up the breathtaking Amazon River. Before you get on the boat, buy a hammock and some fresh fruit and vegetables. Make sure you know where the boat is leaving from, clarify with the person you buy the ticket from, it should be about 50-100 Reals (pronounced hee-al-es) a ticket. Once on the right boat, try to be as far away from the toilets and the engine as possible. Also if possible get a ship taking cargo, it will be slower, cost less and have less partying on it. Our first trip was from Belém to Santarem, where we got off and took a bus to a tiny village on the Tapajos river, called Alter do Chão, very relaxed and quiet. As you already have your hammock (rede) you can stay at a place called a redario (hammock hanging place) which is like a camp site, where you can string up your hammock and stay, with a kitchen, and a bathroom, probably about 15 reals a night ($7). There is also a place here called Communindios which does Ayahuasca ceremonies with a special lady named Pao. There is also a national park called Floresta Nacional do Tapajós, which has some huge old trees and interesting communities.
While on the boat, you chill and swing in your hammock, spend time practising your Portuguese chatting with locals, appreciate the life filled jungle, cook, read books, draw, laugh, make macramé bracelets, have showers in Amazonian water and generally contemplate the nature of life in context of all the life around. One favourite activity was seeing the sunrises and sunsets. In the quiet, chilly hours of the morning, you can see the big yellow ball rise out of the water, first streaming thick rays of symmetrical sunshine through the sky as it is so flat around. Getting a cloud free morning of afternoon is rare, you are in a place with lots of water around remember, but when you do, wow, I have never seen a sunrise/sunset quite like it. Occasionally little boats, sometimes driven by kids, will board the moving boat selling açai (Amazonian berry), definitely buy if offered, camarones (prawns) and other treats.
Next it was back on another boat from Santarem to Manaus, where we couchsurfed again. Manaus is a huge city in the middle of the jungle, there is factories and all, quite bizarre. We stayed here for a few days, it is nice to get off an on the boats, as they can get pretty tiring. Our 2nd last leg of the river was Manaus to Tabatinga/Leticia/Santa Rosa (a triple fronteer with Colombia, Peru and Brasil. This was a great one, it was 7 days, lunch and dinner included (mostly carbs, but hey it is included) which cost us 320 Reals for 2 people, about $150 US. Again we couchsurfed in Tabatinga, then in Leticia, in the jungle, which was very wild, mold started eating our bags!
Sorry readers, must go outside, the day is disappearing fast, will continue the ride in a matter of moments xoxox thanks for reading