Sao Paulo | Time To Meet Koop | July 6, 2004
We finally made it to Sao Paulo after a 28 hour bus ride. The highlight of the bus ride was having no Brazilian currency when the bus stopped for supper. Kevin and I slumped at a table and eventually people just started buying stuff for us. A sandwich then some cokes etc.. We got to Sao Paulo just in time to rush to the airport and pick up Koop. This is it, the three of us are together and ready for the next leg of our journey!We have been quite impressed with the craziness and the vast amounts of people everywhere. got a great hostel here in the city which was $4 with all you can eat breakfast. Other than that everything is pretty routine – first shower in a week, finding ticks all the time random places which I won´t specify, stuff like that. Kevin has been sick for a couple days without being able to hold much food in. His remedy for his illness is to eat as much as possible faster than his body can liquify the food… Seems to be working.
Well I arrived in Sao Paulo ready for adventure to find Steve and Kevin looking a little rough around the edges. After wandering around the city overwhelmed by the all the fresh fruit and street food we finally found the perfect meal. We saw this street vendor eating this dish and we knew we had to have it. After crossing some language barriers by using some french spanish and portuguese we ended up in the home of Monica with her mom serving us a dish of chicken, beef,beans, rice, pasta, and corn miel.
All you can eat is the way to go when travelling. We visited people that Steve had a connection with and we went out to a all you can eat pizza place and ate about 20 slices of pizza each, after that, even though we were already packed full we managed to eat some amazing ice cream.
Sao Paulo | Buffalo Grill & Soccer Game | July 7, 2004
Ok, we had the best meal ever. We keep saying this but this time its true. The place was called Buffalo Grill and it was all you can eat meat and the biggest salad bar you can imagine. The best thing about it is that these garcons come to your table and bring you any kind of meat on these skewers. You can refuse if you want but we took it all in. Words cannot describe just how incredible this meal was. We were da bums eating in this posh restaurant with everything imaginable. It was so posh that they even had dental floss in the washroom! The funniest thing was that one time there was a garcon who was about to take my drink can away when there was still juice in there and I quickly grabbed his hand saying “No! I´m still drinking that!” Little did I know that he was about to refill my other drink glass. I couldn´t done it myself but I was too much da bum.
That night we hooked up with my friend Juliana and she took us to our first ever football match! It was so sweet action. It wasn´t one of those big league matches but we ended up watching two professional Brazilan teams. The funniest thing heading to the stadium was that there was a huge line of police checking for any guns people might have. Of course we bought the cheapest tickets but edged our way down to the front. We had good seats but we didn´t sit the whole game because we found out that in Brazil everyone stands and everyone is supposed to cheer or else they may look at you funny. The crowd cheered the whole game(and even after) and it was funny hearing them yell, scream, shout, swear, sing and taunt. In the end our home team Palmeiras won 4-1 against Juventude.
Rio De Janeiro | Beaches and Mountains | July 8, 2004
We arrived early this morning in Rio de Janeiro after a chilly overnight bus ride that only took 5 hours. Upon arriving we found an interesting Hostel to stay in that was strategically packed and stacked with rooms. Anxious to get to the beach we headed off to the well known Copacabana. After hours of swimming, fighting off the waves, realizing modesty isn´t Rio´s strong area we were bound and determined to climb a mountain with out having to pay an outrageous price that tourist would pay.
After trying two mountains and realizing that the military had control of these we decided to go to this mountian called Sugar Loaf where you take two gondolas up to the very top. Not having lost all hope we asked around and found a path that we hoped would lead us the back way. After unexpectingly see small squirrel like monkey and trying to catch them the path ended. We bushwhacked our way up to the part which separate men from boys. The three of us scaled the steep rock face and then when it got too steep and there were no foot holds we almost were defeated, but then we met some local boys that had the same idea to climb up the back of this mountain. Luckily they were more prepared and we used their rope to aid us in our adventure. A gorgeous view is always more beautiful when you have earned it, and have saved 30 R. After enjoying the spectacular view of the city before and after sun set we headed down using the gondola for free. After stuffing ourselves with fruit shakes and food we went and cleaned up to get ready for tomorrows adventures.
Rio De Janeiro | A Time To Rest | July 9, 2004
We started off another day in Rio with a mission. We wanted to get into a favela at all cost. Favelas are shanty towns that are run by drug lords. They can be extremely violent and the police are there every day. Gangs within the favelas fight for power and the thousands of people that live within keep quiet in exchange for favors from the people in power. We heard a rumor that there was this guy who did tours through these favelas so we called him up and for a pretty penny we jumped on some motorbikes and went into this thing. It was totally safe with this guy ok? If there was any trouble he said he would take us down a different path or stay with one of his many friends along the way. So for a few hours we walked around this garbage dump where people somehow survive. Bulletholes line the walls of graffiti depicting the stuggles within their community. Fortunately some of the money we gave him goes to support some relief work like schools and health clincs. What an experience!Later that day in poured hard so we decided to stay another day in hopes of getting some more sunshine. We decided to go see a movie. We wanted to see Spiderman 2 but it was sold out so we bought tickets for Shrek 2. After a little wit and lack of Portuguese skills we found ourselves sitting in the Spiderman theater anyway. All in a days work! Ok, Brazilians are passionate about life. Imagine the passion you’d expect at a Brazilian soccer game and trasfer it into a theater. There is cheering, clapping and they get so into the movies that it is more like a big friendly party. I have never seen people go crazy and cheer at the get the girl parts or laugh their heads off at the cheeziest jokes ever. Luckily for the 3 english speakers in the crowds, everyone had to read the subtitles over the english movie. yay!
Campo Grande | Christ Reedemer & Iguacu Falls | July 24, 2004
Our last day in Rio, we climbed to the famous Jesus statue that overlooks the city. Everyone is supposed to take taxies or private busses up the mountain but being the cheapest ever, we chose to do the 2 hour walk on foot. Everyone laughed at us and at the top lots of people commented that they saw us and felt sorry (not sorry enough to pick us up though).The view from the top was pretty amazing. Rio is probably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The beaches are amazing and there are narrow mountains everywhere with city surrounding them. The official language in Brazil is Portuguese but at the Jesus statue I am pretty sure it is english. If we were the only ones there it would have been a pretty good experience but pushing through all the tourists damped the experience quite a bit. After that it was back to the beach. The waves were huge and people were surfing. We had more fun doing the cheaper alternatives like letting the waves swirl us around and contort our bodies.
After Rio we headed towards the famous Iguacu falls. These falls (supposedly) have the most water in the world crashing over them – I think they are probably right. 250 rivers (koop says so) combine and crash over the falls at the confluence of 3 countries (argentina, paraguay, brazil). We went to the Argentinian side and had another great experience despite the flocks of tourists. Once we ventured off the path and tried to hike closer to the falls then allowed. One of the security guards got angry at us but to us it was actually more humorous than anything – there are some very convienent times to know nothing about the language.
So after 3 night busses we find ourselves in Campo Grande. The bus we just got off of was the most interesting. Last night Kevin located a bed at the back of the bus where the driver was supposed to sleep before switching off. Kevin slept there for a bit until the driver came back and got really angry at him “you think this is your house?”. Later on in the trip a Portuguese person told us the reason for the outburst. Kevin had stumbled upon some drug smuggling. Throughout the night there were people opening compartments and making odd stops along the road. After that, we decided to keep our mouths shut and mind our own business. As much as we didn’t want to look interested, it was impossible not to keep one eye open and see everything that was going on. We made it though! We just signed up for a 3 day trek in a region of Brazil called the Pantanel. It is kind of a wetlands area where the best animal viewing in Brazil is possible. Later!
Corumba | Pantanel Trek | July 16, 2004
The last three days we have been on an amazing, relaxing adventure in the Pantanel in western Brazil. So much has happen and I will tell about some of the highlights. Early on in the trip, this English guy and I started to count noticably different animals. Excluding birds, fish, and insects, we made it to 30! Some of these included snakes, alligators, monkeys, armadillos, parrots, toucans, deer, and capybaras (ginourmous rodents). Our camp was situated in the middle of this swampland and there were animals passing through all the time. We all slept in hammocks which was an experience in itself and ate fresh fruit and local food the whole time. We had our first ultimate game of the trip and of course some good soccer too.
The most frequent words that came out of our mouths were “puedo comer?” or “can I eat this?”. We really wanted to eat some wild and/or endangered animals, especially the alligators. They were everywhere! The closest we got was the second morning. Our guide loured an alligator to shore with a fake fish and then roped it. He got on it’s back and then grabbed its jaws. Then he said “hey steve, take this”. I was like “what the!”. But we all ended up passing this alligator along by the jaws. I could hardly lift the thing it was so heavy! Our guide asked us if he should kill it and cook it up. Despite our begging, one of the girls with us said no so he didn’t. Later he told us he has never had to do it cause someone in the group always buckles.
One morning we woke up to the most horrible sound imaginable. It sounded like a motorcycle combined with groaning and screaming all at once. We jumped out of our hammocks and ran towards the noise – it turned out to be some monkeys. Seriously, it was the loudest thing on earth and it woke everyone in a 1 km radius up perfectly for breakfast at 6am. Other notable experiences were pirhana fishing and horse riding which Ryan is going to talk about.
Pantanel | Piranha Fishing and Horseback Riding | June 29, 2004
On day two we had another early day starting a 6 am but it was amazing. First of all a little background information. I have gone fishing quite a few times with friends and I have never caught a fish. Not only have I never caught a fish usually everyone else who I go with does. I was bound and determined to catch a fish in the Pantanal of Brazil. My determination paid it self off in huge amounts. Success, finally! We went piranha fishing in the morning and it was an interesting experience. First of all before going into the piranha infested waters you want to make sure that you aren´t the bait. What I mean is if you are bleeding then the piranhas see you as mighty tasty and they would work in a team fashion to strip you to the bone. This is a bit of info that is good to know before going in. After checking for open wounds you head into the water up to you waist or chest with the piranhas swimming around you. The fishing rods were a long piece of bamboo with fishing line and a hook attached we used chunks of cow heart as the bait. When we were entering the water we had our rod in one hand and a handful of cow heart in the other. I reminded everyone just before we entered all the way in that it wouldn´t be wise to put the cow heart in our pocket for many good reason. Kevin quickly agreed and quietly removed the meat from his pocket. Once fishing you cast three times and then leave your line in the water and the second and I mean second you feel a nibble you need to yank your line out of the water or else you will find that your bait has been eaten. After losing my meat quite a few times and getting frustrated at the fish I caught the hang of it and in the end caught 5 piranhas. I was a thrilling experience! To top it off there were four alligators swimming around where we were fishing and they would just hang out on the shore and we would taunt them with fish and grab there tails.
In the afternoon we got to go for a horseback ride. This ride wasn´t your typical horse ride you have at camp, it was the Pantanal version. Let loose, go wild! Forget the stay in a straight line, no galloping, follow the leader type style. There was a guide, but he was all over from the front to the back and sometime I didn´t know where he was. So my horse and I we decided to be the leaders of the group. It was slow at the start and then I realized that I needed a thick piece of grass or a little stick and then things got moving. Another thing that is fun in smacking other people´s horses to get there horses moving. We did everything from walk to trot to gallop and it was at our leisure. Steve switched horses twice trying to find the perfect horse that would match his crazy style however his first horse was a little loco and wouldn´t follow Steve’s lead and the finally the second took a lot of whipping to get it moving. Kevin was almost a little too wild as Rusty and him would just take off in one direction in a jolt with Kevin bouncing all over. There was one moment where I felt like a true South American cowboy when one girl was racing me with her horse. She took off before me so I quickly got my horse to go by yelling yaaah yah, eeeeee, and other various south american cowboy things. Then as my horse was galloping I leaned over to the side and grabbed some tall grass and then repeatedly smacked my horses backside as I took the lead and then I finished by putting the grass between my teeth. Yeee haaaa! The ride lasted over 3hr and was just perfect but I am feeling the side affect today throughout my entire body. -koop