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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Spain? April 18th 2017

Madrid, rolling hills and mild clear weather. Unfortunately  we are stuck in the terminal for 5 hours, no, the plane arrived ahead of schedule, 05:45 in the terminal.

Euro exchange rate is bad and Burger King is hideously expensive. Still no McDonald's and having not left the airport I guess we never actually reached Spain.
Madrid Airport
Flight back to Heathrow and drive back home, via, finally, McDonald's, uneventfulbut curiously for the green & pleasant land a lot less green than where we were yesterday.

Home at last.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Brazil, day 18, the final day, 17th April

Last day so down to Copacabana Beach to body surf in the waves.
Copacabana Beach
Beach is surprisingly busy
Copacabana Beach
but still we get whistled at a couple of times by the life guards, it seems that anything neck high is considered risky but then when most the the populace cannot swim no surprise.
I knew I forgot something
Final drinks back at the paderia before check out and more final drinks around the pool at the top of the hotel.

To our surprise the shuttle was on time and the journey back to the airport, passing fabulous views across to Sugarloaf and our last view of the Frigate birds soaring overhead, trouble free.

Overnight flight to Madrid, plane more spacious than the last but wish i had taken a jumper.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Brazil, day 17, Rio, 16th April

Fabulous sunny start to the day starting with a short walk along the cooling,  tree lined avenue to Urca
Avenue to Urca
where we picked up the cable car to head up to Sugarloaf Mountain
View up Urca
with its great views across the city of Rio de Janeiro
View from Urca
and across to Niteroi and surrounding cities.

Very hot on the journey down and a madcap bus ride, 581, to Corcovado, I think on one corner we were only on three wheels,  for the funicular train up to Christ the Redeemer. Just our luck he was shrouded in clouds which meant more people at the top hoping to catch a fleeting glimpse of the views.
Christ the Redeemer
Returning on another exceptional bus ride, this one with a grumpy driver and apparently zero rear suspension, smashing through every pothole raising cheers from those on board.

Time for a splash in the rough waves before dinner and clag at a local paderia with time on our return for Alex to test out the gym in the hotel.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Brazil, day 16, Rio here we come, 15th April 2017

All packed and ready for our flight to Rio with Roger & Ale joining us but the dogs are sad to see us go.
Sad to see us leave?
Made an attempt to check-in for our flights to Madrid. The Iberia site says flight check in is open. Check in is going fine until attempting to put one of our partys' detail in, for his birth year there are only 4 months listed, none correct.

Tried on another tablet and a PC for home and the airport to no avail. Messaged Iberia, who are notably faster at public Facebook responses than private messages. They say that we cannot check in until 24 hours before the flight, so why did the website say we could check in? No answer.

Flight to Rio de Janeiro, on Latam, went without a hitch and tried again on the machines in the airport which just say contact your agent. No Iberia staff available before 5pm.

A new message, tickets booked through Latam using Iberia can only check in at the airport on the day. Seems deeply suspicious and suggests we are likely to get the dregs of the seating. Not impressed.

Finally made it to the hotel and dropped bags to walk down to Copacabana Beach, enormous, sandy (windswept and drizzly too) expanse.
Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janerio
Christ the Redeemer from Copacabana
Clag on the top of our building and Alex took a dip in the roof pool.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Brazil, day 15, last day on Florianopolis, 14th April

The last day on Florianopolis which is a shame, we've had a lovely time here and enjoyed being with family and seeing the sights. Alex hasn't been exposed to so much beach and sea ever. For the last day we took a trip to the historic village of Santo do Antonio de Lisboa
Boat at Santo do Antonio de Lisboa
followed by lunch in Sambaqui and afternoon at the beach of Canasvieras which has a lot of water but not a lot of beach meaning more stall holders in the water.
Not a lot of beach at Canasvieras

Brazil, day 14, turtles at Project Tamar, Tuesday 11th April

The rain feature is here to stay it seems
Rain Again
which meant a late start and an opportunity to try the remote trigger on my camera to take pictures of the ground canaries and little doves
Birds feeding
Once the weather stopped weathering sufficiently we went to take a look at Praia de Mozambique which was incredibly exposed and windy,
Praia de Mozambique
followed by seeing the turtles at Project Tamar which was an interesting experience for Alex.
Turtle at Project Tamar
and onto Barra de Lagoa where it was very chilly and windy but still busy and our first encounter with beach sellers pretty much setting up in the water.
Barra de Lagoa
For our evening meal we drove back into the outskirts of Florianopolis to a churrascaria for another excellent meat fest.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Brazil, day 13, Monday 10th April

That rain is certainly doing its thing again this morning discouraging positive action.

Resigning ourselves to using umbrellas we head into the center of Florianópolis town for a little souvenir shopping. By the time we arrive the weather has perked up and the sun is showing a little which makes the town centre feel more vibrant. Good job too because we forgot the umbrellas.  Alex now has sunglasses, flip flops and a Brazil t-shirt, I have less money and we have all seen the old banyan tree at the centre.

Returning via the point of land where the Fort is, we again splashed in the waves at Praia do Forte, very shallow and for a treat empty because the moment it started raining, oh yes, we found ourselves the only ones in the water.
Praia do Forte

Monday, 10 April 2017

Brazil, day 12, waves, Sunday 9th April 2017.

There is definitely a pattern forming of rain in the mornings improving as the day proceeds.

For us that mean hitting the beach, Praia do Campeche, around late afternoon where Roger, Alex & I proceeded to play in the crashing waves on a large sandy beach with the occassional surfer visible. 

Back home to watch the Argentinian Moto GP, photos of the dogs
Bruxa
Sooty
and home made pizza and clag, Roger successfully predicting his own win. 

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Brazil, day 11, beaches, Saturday 8th April.

There was heavy rain again overnight so the morning was grey and cool so another slow start day, it's already becoming a habit, up early but sit around chatting and drinking coffee.

The strange thing is that washing simply is not drying here, the weather is hot for us but direct sun has been limited over the last few days due to a lot of loud cover and the humidity means clothes are struggling to dry.


As I type I can hear the ground canaries and little doves scrabbling around in today's seed ration.

Alessandra and Alex cooked some chocolate fairy cakes filled with hot chocolate sauce which were a hit and home made chicken pie leftovers made for a great lunch.

Eventually we got going and a reduced party headed to investigate a beach and some falls.

We failed to find the falls at Praia de Solidao but subsequent googling would suggest the local signposting let us down, still the nearby sandy beach yielded the bony remains of some sand dollars urchins, light coloured mussels with distinctive mother of pearl insides and a rocky areas covered in sand hoppers which moved away from us in droves.

We rescued a fish which had gotten itself washed too far up to beach and found that sand dollar remains make great skimming stones.

Driving back we stopped, further on the same stretch of sand, at Praia do Santinho Acores, where the beach was in use as a way point on a round island (140km) run (good day for it, relatively chilly and a decent wind).
Round island run
Whilst Roger and I watched the running and surfers
Surfing
Alex braved the, admittedly warmer today, South Atlantic with some decent waves.


Saturday, 8 April 2017

Brazil, day 10, Friday 7th April

Good plan for day, a slow start and then off to Ponta do Caetano for what Google maps suggested is a twenty minute walk to Praia de Naufragados.
View of the mainland from Florianopolis
The ensuing walk through the rain forest,
In the rain forest
seeing monkeys,
Wild Monkey
birds, insects,
Red Spider
streams, lots of green
Spiky Tree
and the deep red clay where the topsoil had been washed away was an amazing, hot, sweaty 2 hour walk before reaching a deserted beach.
In the rain forest
At the beach horses wandered around on the sand while we gathered our courage for a swim in the frigid South Atlantic. Using the danger of a passing jellyfish (it must has been at least 4 cm across) as an excuse we took our sandy bodies for the walk back.

Back at the car park welcome cold drinks and a chat with the lady who had created a car park just so she could chat to people.
Fabulous trip but a bit more ambitious than we had expected.
home made chicken pie and a large glass of vino for dinner.
Chicken Pie

Brazil, day 9, return to Florianopolis, Thursday 6th April 2017.

The forecast yesterday for today was just as awful, which is a shame because if the weather had been good I was sorely tempted with booking a helicopter trip to make up for missing the Argentinian side of the falls. So typically we woke up to beautiful clear skies on the the day we are leaving the falls.

A lovely day of airports, Florianópolis
Florianopolis Airport
and Rio de Janeiro,
Rio de Janerio Airport
arriving back in Florianópolis in time to see the night flowering succulent in full bloom
Night flowering Orchid Cactus
and clear night skies.
The Night Sky
Great pasta dinner with a glass of wine before falling into bed exhausted.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Brazil, day 8, Iguacu and Argentina, Wednesday 5th April

The day started well inspite of the forecast but soon caught up with expectations and I was clearly mistaken yesterday as what qualifies as tropical rain, today we had tropical rain and later lightning.

The Iguacu falls are stunning right from the first glimpse of the very first part of the falls and the volume of rain over the last few days ensured the falls are at their peak flow with the sound of rushing water drowning up everything except the rain itself.
Iguazu Falls
Visibility was much reduced and most of the photos were taken with the camera wrapped in a carrier bag pointed roughly in the right direction because my glasses were obscured. The good news is that the trials of taking the photos is not immediately apparent on the final results.

Iguazu Falls
Everything got soaked, a genuine soaked to the skin, squelching shoes, rather damp cameras, Alex has never been this wet outside of swimming,
Wet
even the Coati were hiding under the same shelter as the visitors.

Coati
Even in the tropics that warm water soon turns chill resulting in a wet and pretty miserable journey back to the visitor's centre.

As luck would have it we managed to get a taxi into Puerto Iguacu over in Argentina, in time for siesta time so almost no one about. We visited a local supermarket where there was a lack of produce on the shelves, very much reminding me of my trip into East Berlin more than 30 years ago and the state of the buildings and roads suggests that this area of Argentina has not managed to capitalise on the natural bounty on its doorstep. Still, whilst it was cold we stopped for an ice cream and then a coach ride back to Brazil to dry off.
Argentinian pavement
It is shame that the weather meant visiting the Argentinian side of the falls was off the agenda but there are practical limits and we had reached them but that said the falls were awesome in their power.

Brazil, day 7, Iguacu, Tuesday 4th April

Well today's plan was to visit the Parque des Aves, the bird park, followed by the Brazilian side of the Iguacu falls but as with all plans....

On the way to the park I chatted to a couple from London who had been travelling South America for the last six months and they confirmed my thoughts on Paraguay that it's actually a beautiful place but with a tiny population and a developing economy remains cut off from today, which made it sound like somewhere untouched by modern levels of tourism and a fascinating place to visit.

The bird park turned out to be brilliant use of 4 hours of our time with lots of South American birds

Grey Crowned Crane

from cranes and flamingos to toucnas, macaws and harpy eagles. Enclosures were a good size, not up to wild standards but many of the birds had been rescued and appeared well looked after. With how close the birds were, particularly the macaws and Amazonian parrots

Amazon Parrot

whose enclosure we walked through and collected some bright feathers (from the floor, not the birds!) and the toucans

  Toucan

who were totally disinterested in us more interested in food

Green-billed toucan

the experience was truly worthwhile. There was even an enclosed area with hummingbirds flitting around, turned out they are pretty tough to get pictures of.

Hummingbird


Unfortunately the tropical forest we walked through demonstrated just why tropical forests are so green and we started to get pretty wet and abandoned for the day as far too wet to see any falls.

That meant that Roger, Alex & I spent the afternoon in McDonald's drinking coffee (and reeling from how expensive it was, approx  50% higher than home in a place where salaries are a lot less) and playing cards followed by dinner in a petrol station forecourt complete with beggars of human and animal varieties, certainly an experience and but for the smell of petrol an enjoyable one.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Brazil & Paraguay, Day 6, Monday 3rd April 2017

Up really early, before sunrise early, for the flight to Foz do Iguacu. Stunning views across open countryside on the flight, frequently with no roads or houses visible as the green of rain forest trees stretches the visible horizon.

Arriving at Iguazu
Beautiful blue skies on arrival in Foz do Iguacu airport, a concrete strip and small building sited outside of town, no fences, just running into farmland and open countryside.

The airport was clearly designed in a time when the landing strip was servicing smaller planes, I am picturing the odd Cessna or private jet not something used for international routes as demonstrated by the need to drop the plane out of the sky the instant it was over the tarmac to maximise use of the available length for stopping.

Iguazu Airport
Picked up by the hotel bus and checked in successfully with time for a wander around town which meant a decision had to be made. So we found ourselves awaiting the bus into Paraguay to visit the town of Ciudad del Este. The bus duly arrived and took off at warp speed, slowing only to navigate customs on the border with no need to show passports and ending at a bus station out of town as Estadio 3 de Febrero, way beyond our intended destination.
welcome to Paraguay
Now we have been warned that Paraguay is dirty and dangerous and we are not where we are supposed to be.

Indeed Paraguay is dirty but only in a way that a lot of less well off countries are, there is rubbish all over the ground, often right next to bins and I have to conclude that the difference to what we consider normal is that we have been indoctrinated at school, with adverts on television and by families and peer pressure to throw rubbish in bins and there are places that have not reached that stage yet.

Luckily for us, lost in Paraguay is a small story because we have our language expert, Ale, with us to get us going in the right direction, passing on the way the biggest, newest supermarket we have seen or will see in South America (or anywhere else I can think of for that matter). That did give us the opportunity to purchase cold drinks (including Aloe vera, strange but refreshing) although we had no clue how the currency related, we tried to figure out something but actually credit cards still work regardless of language.
Motorbike taxis line up ready
Finding the bus stop back a conversation ensues because none of the locals can agree the best way back to town but we settle for a 5 minute walk. A 5 minute going on 20 minute walk in 33c was a reasonable challenge but finally made it back to a bus stop and a more leisurely ride back into Brazil and inspite of what the Brazilians told us, completely unmolested.

I suspect that is one of Alex's first foreign "adventures" where it really doesn't matter that we didn't know where we were and we were always within walking distance of where we started and never in any danger more than we would be in most cities beyond the fact that we notably stand out from the local population which unlike Brazilians appears to have retained a lot more of the indigenous South America look.

The stresses of the day meant an easy option for dinner was really required and one thing we had promised ourselves was to visit a Brazilian BBQ and luckily for us the nearest was literally around the corner from our hotel, Churrascaria do Gaucho (Steakhouse of the Gaucho in Google's half translated efforts). This is a place were a wide variety of meat and cuts of meat are brought to your plate to complement an eat as much as you like buffet and Alex was there trying pretty much everything, this boy is not destined to suffer from vegetarianism any time soon but space was saved for repeated trips to the desert section.


Brazil, day 5, Sunday, April 2nd 2017

It does rain here.

I think that is a pretty good summary of the situation and when it rains boy does it rain. Yes it is typical rain forest / tropical type of rain.

That meant with a busy day planned for tomorrow that for all of us it was a slow day which is quite welcome, time to wander around the garden investigating the plants.

Plants in the rainy gardenPlants in the rainy gardenPlants in the rainy garden
In the evening we walked around to the local pizza parlour boasting a bewildering range and having arrived as the doors opened we were early which meant we had an awesome pizza in a large, deserted restaurant where we were able to watch the pizzas being made in the kitchens.