151003 Rio de Janeiro to Melbourne

Rio de Janeiro (B)

Your tour ends after breakfast and you will be transferred* to the airport for your onward or homebound flight (flight not included).

International Airport, Rio De Janeiro (GIG) 03 Oct 15:20 Arturo Merino Benitez Airport, Santiago (SCL) 20:20 LA787 Economy OAERTQ.G

Arturo Merino Benitez Airport, Santiago (SCL) 03 Oct 23:20 Jean Batten Airport, Auckland (AKL) 05 Oct 04:30 LA801 Economy OAERTQ.G

151002 Rio de Janeiro

For some unknown reason at the time we arranged this group tour, we managed to finish our wonderful trip to South America with a cruise. The schooner slowly motored around the bay for 3 hours while we relaxed and enjoyed the view of the hills from which we couldn’t see from yesterday.

The other Scenic Free Choice options were a tour of the Shanty Town, a walking tour of the historic centre or a tour of Petropolis, the retreat of the former emperors of Brazil.

After our bay cruise, we came back to the hotel about lunch time, had some lunch on the beach front, and wandered around the shops for an hour before Lyn had a snooze beside the pool, while I did yesterday’s post.

Tonight was a farewell dinner for the group around the pool. Tomorrow, a couple stay here for an extra night, then a few extra nights in Santiago; two  other couples fly with us and stay in Santiago a few nights before one of the couples fly home and the other does a 4 day desert trip in the north of Chile. We have a 5 hour wait in Santiago before boarding our flight to Auckland, change to a flight through to Melbourne and arrive in Melbourne around 8:30am Monday.

This has been a better trip than we expected with so many adventures in the 34 days of being here. There have been some days when we seemed to have been at an airport or on transfers to or from one, and then there have been days that have been full on grand experiences. I cannot say which has been the one highlight for me, but I can say there have been many. Galapagos – nature untainted, Machu Picchu and Sacred Valley – very special, Amazon River was tremendous, the Tango Night in Buenos Aires – dazzling, Uguazu Falls were magnificent, the Bird Park was great for photography, and Rio was the place I expected it to be – lots of action all through the night. The accommodation all through the trip has been 5 star and meals have been up there too.

We have had a good group with some “imports” that have fitted in well and have enjoyed being part of our group. The Tour Director did the best we could ask for, never showed dismay at any request and had most things in place before the need came to be. Being a fluent speaker of Portuguese, Spanish and English made things so much easier for all concerned. Thank you so much, Roberta

We leave this trip awaiting our next adventure to Europe for a 21 day Mediterranean Cruise in May 2016. Come join us – click here for more details.

151001 Rio de Janeiro

Our hotel is right on the Copacabana Beach Strip and there is so much going on down there – all night – we are on the 5th floor with a view to kill.

Today, we lived in hope. Hope that the two major sites of Rio de Janeiro were going to have clear views of the city. But our hope did not turn out as the postcards show. We had mist in the air.

As we were leaving for the first segment of the tour to ‘go get up close’ to Christ the Redeemer’, the mountain was clear. However, after the long cog-wheel tram up the side of the mountain, plus 222 steps, the mist had enshrouded the famous statue and we could hardly see the top of the head. It looked like the mist was there for the long term so the ‘tourist traps’ got browsed again and souvenirs purchased. The statue of “Christ the Redeemer” was built in 1927 and originally was not to be a religious symbol. It is now considered one of the best views of a major city in the world.

We came down and on the way to a famous restaurant for lunch, we visited where the famous Carnival de Rio is held. At first, I thought we could see a line up of football fields but they were the grand stands along the parade route. The Carnival has nothing to do with the Gay and Lesbian Parade of Sydney; it seems Sydney thinks it is though. The Carnival has 10 or 12 teams that have designated colours used in each years’ parade. There are 4000 members on each team. They have to compose appropriate music each year. All their costumes have to be identical to the plan and they are all judged on many many points. It is really competitive. At this site, there is a store where you can put on some of the remarkable costumes and have your photos taken. What an array to choose from.

We visited a very different cathedral. I didn’t feel like it was a Roman Catholic Cathedral, rather a religion of another category. Big, expansive but without the normal trimmings of a cathedral constructed in the 1600’s or so. I like it which is kind of against my trend of “not another cathedral” after seeing my fair share in Europe and Scandinavia.

Lunch was in a rather unique restaurant in the busy city area. It was constructed in 1863 but the food was ‘fresh’ we were told – it was, and lots of it. There was a waiter guy there who had been working as a waiter there for 63 years.

After lunch, we took a cable car ride up Sugar Loaf Mountain. Sugar Loaf is a peak situated at the mouth of Guanabara Bay, on a peninsula that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean. Rising 396 meters above the harbour, its name is said to refer to its resemblance to the traditional shape of concentrated loaf sugar. It is known worldwide for the cable car and the panoramic views of the city. There are really two cable cars, one to a shorter island and the second to an even higher island. The views are very misty and we can’t see anything. But an ice cream makes up for the lack of the vista the mountain is known for – NOT!

On our return at 4:00pm, we have a free afternoon which allows us to take dinner in one of the seaside restaurants and then a stroll along the esplanade to a night market. More tee-shirts for the relatives and now we have an extra suitcase – full. When the group left Australia, we had 29 suitcases. Now we have 41. Not bad – its a way of supporting the economy in South America.

150930 Iguazu Falls – Rio de Janeiro

We had an easy day today as we flew to Rio de Janeiro around 1:00pm, so a bit of a walk back to the falls before breakfast, pack up and get ready for departure from this great location was the order of the morning.

We were met at Rio and transferred through the busy highway to our Copacabana Palace Hotel right on the busy, well known beach of Rio de Janeiro. After settling in, some of us took a walk along the beach before getting ready for an evening sea food buffet at a Marius Seafood Restaurant just down the road.

And that’s about all I have to report today. I have included some photos of the ceiling of the restaurant and the bathrooms. Lots of hard rubbish collecting has gone on to make this place what it is.

 

150929 Iguazú Falls

We had a much desired uninterrupted sleep last night – no wake up call at some unearthly hour. After a good breakfast, we crossed the road and walked towards the Iguazu Falls. This resort is the only one in the National Park. The park opens at 9:00am and if we get going early, we won’t have the thousands of other tourists around us while we visit this section of the falls. Just beside the road was a large tree and it had on one of its branches, a tucon. He looked great so I was busy videoing him when I realised that each time I hit the button to start filming, I was really stopping the shot of the sky and trees.  Bummer! but there was more tucon to come today.

The walk along the cliff and down to the lower parts of the cliff had some beautiful vistas to enjoy. I ended up well back from the rest of the group as we made our way towards the view of the falls from the Brazilian side. We ended up at the base of the falls walking out towards the centre of them. There was quite a bit of spray but not enough to keep the cameras away. The rainbows had a great day to perform and many were a complete half circle and deep in colour.

From the falls, we made our way by coach to the helicopter pad. It was a fabulous blue sky and the ride would be superb. We waited an hour before we could get on one of the two very busy aircraft. There was just 3 minutes from take off to above the falls and we did 4 passes of them before heading back to base.

Just across the road from the helicopter pad is a magnificent bird park, Parque das Aves. There were tucans, macaws, and many other very colourful South American birds. That was number ‘3’ of the 4 adventures for the day.

Just down the road from the bird park is the entrance to what turned out to be the most fun we had had on this trip. The adventure had been described as ‘taking a strong shower and getting very wet.’ Our guide kept mentioning this during the day and seemed to be putting the ‘willie’ up everyone. However, he was unsuccessful in that only two folk made the decision not to have a good clean. Preparing for the venture meant, having as little clothing on as possible with a life jacket over top. We were about to hit the waterfall, at the base. After the ‘pictures’ were taken, (they make more money by taking them – they are mounted and available at the end of the adventure, as well as a DVD), we were off in this rubber ducky, four abreast, with twin 200hp outboard motors on the back.

When we hit some waves along the way, we started to believe the comment “taking a strong shower”. As we enter the turbulent waters near the falls, we get indulged with water coming straight down from the edge of the top of the waterfall. Our driver listens to everyone, “AGAIN”. And he does another circuit. And again, and again – then one more. Our Tour Director takes a vote (she really wanted another trip into the wall of water). She won of course and off we went into the mist and water cliff again. Comments later were of the type, “the best experience of my life”.

Yes, of course, the DVDs and photos were ready for us as we came out of the park. What the stay at this park deserves is a third night for us to enjoy the surrounds of the resort and the park just a little more. Sorry, we can’t share any photos with you as it was suggested ‘too much water will damage your camera’.

Tomorrow is a late departure for Rio de Janeiro.

 

150928 Buenos Aires – Iguazú Falls

If today doesn’t make someones bucket list, and you like to travel, I feel sorry for you. The Iguazu Falls can NEVER be overrated. They surpass the historical Victoria Falls in Africa in expanse, the Niagra Falls in USA Canada, and the majestic Helmcken Falls in Canada. The amount of water that was coming over the 275 individual drops was just sheer brilliant.

We had another early wake-up call to start our day today. We are leaving Argentina and heading to Brazil via the Iguazu Falls, Argentina side. The semicircular waterfall at the heart of this site is some 80 m high and 2,700 m in diameter and is situated on a basaltic line spanning the border between Argentina and Brazil.

Our guide is definitely Brazilian. It shows in how he promises that viewing the falls on the Argentinian side is not as good as the view from the Brazilian side. We are about to find out. As the sun is shinning onto the Brazilian side of the falls, we take the low walk along the cliffs to view them. Looking slightly up is astounding and puts us into perspective in that we are so small, in comparison. We then take a little train ride and walk about a kilometre across the river out towards where the falls start throwing water in copious amounts down the Devils Throat.

How amazing! There is a photographer waiting for us to take photos which will be ready at the end of the day. A good way for poor photographers to make money.

There are perfect little butterflies landing on our arms and clothes and one called the “double 8” as the wings have what looks like a double eight symbol.

Once our long walking tour is complete, our bus takes us to the border to both ‘leave Argentina’ and ‘arrive in Brazil’. This takes an hour or so and is a good time for another nap. We arrive at the hotel with a view of the falls just on sunset and try to take advantage of the sunset across the falls from the ‘bell tower’ of the hotel. Missed out!

For the first time since leaving the Amazon River Cruise, we have a buffet for dinner tonight and I can get a good sized plate load of vegetables and soup for a meal.

Tomorrow, we have an early morning walk along the river to the Brazilian side of the falls.

 

150927 Buenos Aires

After the late night last evening, we were able to have a bit of a sleep in before taking a 10:00am tour of the Sunday Flea Market. Fortunately, we were able to walk the 5 or 6 blocks to this well-known South American Market instead of arranging a coach. It became busy as the morning wore on but we weren’t able to buy too much as the pick-pocket incident yesterday has put a damper on us taking money anywhere in this city. But that’s good really. The husbands are happy today.

After lunch, we took the graffiti art Scenic Free Choice optional tour. The tour should be called ‘street art tour’. This enabled us to  see some of the outer suburbs of the metropolitan region of the city. The local tour guide is part of a company that joins bland walls to artists and gets some interesting results. Graffiti itself is really only a signature of a person or group, but street art is something beyond the dreams of the graffiti artist who paints a wall that becomes aesthetically accepted within the community. Much graffiti is scrawled over a blank wall to the owners disgust. Because graffiti artists recognise the beauty of some of the street artists, they do not deface the street art by scrawling their ‘tag’ all over the street. Now, there’s something to be learned from that for many councils in Australia.

And so many street artists are being employed to make good the look of a graffiti messed up public, and sometimes private, wall. The artists seem to paint artistic messages with positive vibes, whereas the graffiti artists paint, in general, messages of protest. It can be protesting anything but rarely has a positive effect on what they are protesting about.

One of the most well know street artists in the world is an Australian who travels the world painting blank walls and picking up $1000 for a couple of days work.

In the evening, we had a meal together at the bar. Cramming up against each other, trying to juggle a meal can be rather chaotic indeed. This was proven when someone hit the table a bit hard and two drinks when spilling all over me and into Lyn’s shoes. Some would say, “it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy”. But the floor became very sticky indeed. I had zip-off trousers on and quickly became a ‘shorts wearing customer’ in a posh bar.

Tomorrow we fly to Iguazu falls and into Brazil.

150926 Buenos Aires

Today was a coach tour of some of the highlights of the fascinating “Paris of South America”, the city of Buenos Aires. With Paris colonial architecture and wide boulevards, the city is clean, tree-lined and inviting. Today was bright sunshine warming a town yearning for spring and summer. The bright pink blossoms in the main boulevard are suggesting that this is so.

We board the coach at a reasonable hour and make our way towards what is a famous graveyard. You may wonder, “why a tour of a graveyard?” You can ask. And to answer that question, make a trip to Buenos Aires to find out the reason and the stories behind why the history is worth knowing. And aside, if you have over $300,000, you can be the proud owner of a tomb for all your relatives to be next to you at your final resting place. By the way, you have to be rich AND famous.

The Plaza Mayo is, for sure, the people’s square with the Cathedral of Buenos Aires at one end and the Casa Rosada, or Presidential Palace, down the other. This area is so ‘public’ that pick-pockets operate without notice until what you own has gone. We found out very quickly as one of our group had her wallet snatched from her bag, probably while lifting her camera with two hands. Our fantastic Tour Director, did a search of the rubbish bins and found the purse at the fourth rubbish bin, but with a large sum of cash missing. At least the credit cards and other information was still there. I think security has been increased.

We took a walk around the colourful district of La Boca for a private display of Tango dancing. This is an old house that an Italian couple have kept for years and use it to do their artwork as well as allow tourists to try the well-known Tango. Just along from there is  the colourful Caminito Street, where even the local folk from Buenos Aires come to, for a meal while Tango dancers entertain, or to just wander the streets viewing the art works or handcrafts.

After lunch in a typical Italian Restaurant in a Spanish community, we were given a free afternoon. Man, that 2 and a half hours of sleep went quickly! But how needed it was both for the past lack of sleep and for the night’s entertainment to come.

Our selection of an “Exclusive Gala Tango Show and Dinner” was worth waiting for. Argentinian restaurants don’t open until 8 or later and our evening got started around then. While waiting for the meal, some of our group were given one-on-one Tango lessons by some of the dancers who performed after the dinner. Then came the real thing. For the next 2 hours or so, we were entertained by some excellent Tango dancing and a fabulous Tango band. There was some great Spanish singing and a top-notch ukulele player. A couple of guys did some hard-hitting drumming and, well if I say poi twirling like the Maoris do, I would be wrong but may be what describes their act. Very good acts.

Late though it was, we all had a good evening, although on our return, one of our group had his mobile phone stolen or lost, either at the restaurant or getting in and out of the bus or by some ‘extra’ person that squeezed into the lift with them. Who knows?

When I turned on my phone on my return, a sad message arrived letting me know that my sister, Margaret had passed away after a long battle with throat cancer. I was aware and expecting that she would find her resting place while I was away. She had fought hard but not overcome this, now common reason that many don’t see the 3 score years and 10.

150925 Lima – Buenos Aires

With a 4:00am wake up call, today was the start of another full day of traveling. It was kind of the Swissotel staff to get breakfast for us by 4:30am so we could leave by 5:00am for a very busy Lima Airport, but we could have slept in as our flight waited 90 minutes after we had boarded to start moving towards the runway. I have been trying to complete a Sudoku game between ‘push-back’ and take off, and I was able to complete 3 at this departure.

The flight was over 3 and a half hours and things got a bit boring for certain individuals who didn’t get included in the photos. It’s fairly normal for me to nod off if I am sitting still for a little while. The sleep can be from 1-30 minutes and the sleep on the flight became extended. One of our ‘humorous’ travellers thought it a good idea to load me up with all the wrapped blankets he could find. I woke when the first one was put on me and recognised that ‘something’ was happening. I just went back to sleep and when I woke a couple of minutes later, the blankets were piled high on top of me. I didn’t get a fright but gave all the practical jokers a fright when I started heaving the blankets around the cabin. Then started sending them down the aisle at who I had worked out was the culprit. Flights are often boring and it got turned into a more ‘here are the noisy ozzies at it’ exhibition.

We arrived into Buenos Aires late, of course including the 2 hour time change. The local Tour Guide welcomed us as we joined the coach for the 40 minute ride on the freeway into the city – quite a bit different to the traffic filled streets of Lima. Buenos Aires is quite a modern city with very wide boulevards; some with 18 lanes of traffic across. Arriving at our hotel, we are greeted by lots of teenagers and young people. Well, they weren’t waiting for us but we took the opportunity to accept the screams they had ready for some famous rapper staying at the hotel.

Apparently, Argentina is famous for beef; real beef, they say. A group of us made our way to a beef steak restaurant for the evening just a few blocks away. The first waiter appointed to us didn’t know english so an older gentleman came to help. Older is correct as he came back to our table four times to make sure he had our order right. And then when we wanted the bill, it took over 30 minutes to be prepared. Never had that sort of exceptional service before – not. He suddenly became very happy when he the tips were given but that was too late for him to do justice for the tip.

Tomorrow is a city tour of Buenos Aires with a free afternoon.

150924 Lake Titicaca – Lima

We woke to a new day not knowing what was outside our curtains. Wow! Our room has a floor to ceiling view of the interesting, Lake Titicaca. Considered the highest navigable lake in the world at 3812 meters and the largest on the continent of South America, the border with Bolivia is just south of Puno, where we are staying.

We have a 7:30am boat departure for an excursion to the unique floating islands of Uros. The Uros are a pre-Incan people who live on floating islands on Lake Titicaca. The purpose of the island settlements was originally defensive, and if a threat arose they could be moved. The largest island retains a watchtower almost entirely constructed of reeds.

The Uros use bundles of dried totora reeds to make reed boats, often termed balsas mats, and to make the islands themselves.

The larger islands house about ten families, while smaller ones, only about thirty meters wide, house only two or three.

After a 30 minute launch trip, we come into the main area of the floating islands and we see ladies in bright clothing waving at us and beckoning us to come to their island to learn about how their islands are made from the reeds. We arrive at one and are given a very friendly welcome and ushered to some reed lounges to hear their story.

One of the village people describe how they form a new island and how they give it maintenance regularly. Also, the way they make their houses and boats out of the reeds.

Close by is the island’s ‘gift shop’. How perceptive they are – we must have brought money to buy their handcrafts. We take a cruise around the area in a reed boat with some of our group trying their skill of rowing for us. In the high altitude, most of us find it exhausting to say the least.

We must be back to the hotel for a 10:30am transfer to Juliaco. Climbing out of the town of Puno, we are at 4000 meters again but have brilliant views of Lake Titicaca. The sky is clear and clean.

The city of Juliaco is a mess. With the ‘no completed building, no rates charged’ scheme, it means that towns look just untidy and as if no-one cares. Predominantly, the garbage is cared for but all the unfinished buildings don’t do anything for being proud of what you own.

Our flight back to Lima is the fourth time we have arrived at this large and busy city. We say good-bye to Mick and Robyn, Mark and Kirsten tonight as they return home via other ports.

Tomorrow, the tour group travel to Buenos Aires.