April started with a long flight home from Thailand for another whirlwind week at home. We were making quick stop for a good friend’s wedding which was very much worth the trip. Fi & Pete got married in Pitlochry, a beautiful Scottish town a couple of hours north of Edinburgh. We stayed up there for 2 nights with my maths uni friends and had such a fun weekend – see highlight.
We also managed to fit in lots of friends & family with the other few days, with trips to Hartlepool and Middlesbrough and a small amount of time in Edinburgh before we were packing up again. This time in backpacks with 4 months worth of stuff, eek.
Bought some new wedding rings for £14 in the airport as I didn’t want mine to get stolen and we were off to start our 101 day South American adventure. Weird how a 12h flight (20h travel in total) doesn’t feel traumatic anymore!
The rest of April was spent in Braaaazil visiting the following:
Rio de Janeiro – Rio was much less scary than I was expecting and actually was a lot of fun. There is so much to see and do. We stayed in Santa Teresa – a safe, wealthy, arty neighbourhood which was a perfect base (apart from having favelas either side so some taxi drivers wouldn’t take us there). Our hotel (MAMA Shelter) was great and we ubered everywhere we went on their advice. (This certainly made it more expensive but it was easy and might be why I found it less scary as we went door to door most places.)
We met John, an old school friend of David’s brother, Michael, who has been living out there for a while and he gave us so many tips!
We visited Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf, Copacabana & Ipanema beaches, the botanical gardens, walked down the colourful Seralon steps to Lapa and on through the Centro to MAR (Museum of Art Rio), samba danced in Lapa, drank lots of caipirinhas and ate lots of new Brazilian food.
Visiting Christ the Redeemer was probably my Rio highlight as I’ve always wanted to go there and I felt a bit emotional! I think it just made me acknowledge how lucky we are to be doing this.
Paraty – Our next stop was a quaint colonial old town a couple of hours down the coast to Rio. Paraty is a popular holiday spot for those living in Rio with lovely beaches and islands close by. We had a couple of chilled out days here staying at a hostel which could only be reached by boat. This meant that one of the perfect beaches was in walking distance which we had to ourselves until the boat trips decended midday. Our stay was uneventful apart from a burglar being caught on the roof of the house next to our room! Nothing was stolen thankfully!
Salvador – we’d been warned that Salvador was more dangerous than Rio so we were less relaxed here. It did feel palpably unsafe walking around the old town and, even staying in a really good area, we were still told not to take phones out at night. We accidentally crossed paths with 3 policemen with their guns drawn as they walked towards their target. Pretty scary! Also we could hear machine gun fire from out hotel one night!
On a more positive note, Salavador was a vibrant city with some tasty food and nice beaches. We did all of our runs for the month along the promenade round the beaches of Barra.
Trekking in the Chapada Diamantina National Park – we spent 3 days trekking through the Pati Valley in the National Park and had such a great time. It was so stunning and each day we had another spectacular view to observe.
We were staying in the house of one of the few local families living in the valley, which had a proper bed and good food and TURANTULAS. I found 3 turantulas. 2 of which were in our room. 1 of which was ON OUR BED. I woke up at 5am to find it crawling across David. Traumatised.
Morro de Sao Paulo – this is a small island not far from Salavador where Brazilians go on holiday. We stayed in a lovely apartment for a few days and explored the island by foot as there aren’t any proper roads. It was the perfect place to relax for a bit post trek. We also ziplined off a cliff into the sea and went scuba diving which were both fun!
We then flew out of Salavador down to Foz do Iguassu, the town on the Brazilian side of Iguassu Falls ready for our visit on 1st of May (more on this next month).
Brazil has been such a great place to start the trip and throw us into Latin America culture, although our Spanish we’ve been learning hasn’t been too helpful!
Highlight of the month:
Both (travel) – Chapada Diamantina
Both (home) – McFennell Wedding
We’re cheating this month and having two highlights, one for home and one for travel. It’s unfair to choose when we’ve done such different things.
Chapada Diamantina was a highlight for me because it was just so beautiful. The third day when we were sticking our heads over a 300m drop to watch the waterfalls and rainbows was just incredible. I asked David if there was a specific bit he enjoyed and he said ‘nah the whole thing was excellent’.
As for the wedding, getting to spend a full weekend with some of our favourite people that we haven’t seen for ages was such good fun. Beautiful wedding with the best company.
David – “it’s so nice to have a bland meal”
It’s most important to note the context here – he said this TO Katie who had just cooked the meal!! He was trying to say it was nice not to have all the Thai flavours and have some homecooked food, he just said it very inappropriately.
Also need to note another conversation had with Katie here. I was telling her we were “going to do Sugarloaf” that day, to which she replied “mmm that sounds tasty”. I’m not sure why we both have very limited knowledge of South American wonders.
David – Boteco do Franca
Jess – Aprazivel
David says this as an ‘experience thing’, it was the meal he enjoyed the most because the meat was awesome and we sat eating in an alley, people watching with lots of Brazilians. He also says he thought the food in Brazil could be underwhelming.
I picked Aprazivel because the food was so tasty and the restaurant is at the top of the hill overlooking Rio which was lovely.
For some reason I didn’t expect the Brazilian cuisine to be so different but here is a list of some of the new things we came across, some very good, some we were happy not to try a second time:
- Fejoada – a slow cooked beef and sausage rich stew served with farofa (fried tapioca flour), rice and greens.
- Mocequa – a fish stew cooked in a tasty sauce with coconut milk and palm oil.
- Pao de queso – gluten free ‘dough’ balls made with a gluey cheese.
- Acai – berries from the Amazon but they blend them with ice into a slush. This is typical breakfast in Brazil and they cover it with muesli and if you’re lucky you get sliced banana on top too!
- Tapioca – looks like a crepe but made with the tapioca flour giving it a crunchy weird tasting consistency. You can have them savoury (filled with ham and cheese) or sweet (filled with Nutella)
- Corn cake – self explanatory, cake made from sweet corn. Very dry.
- Acarajé – a Bahian specialty (Salvador). Made with deep fried mushed peas and filled with spicy shrimp paste and dried shrimps. Not great.
- Bolinho de bacalhau – kind of like a fish cake in a ball.
- Maracuya caipirinha (passionfruit) – ok not food but the best cocktail ever. A whole passion fruit, cachaça (or white rum) and sugar.
- Hartlepool & Middlesbrough
- Rio de Janeiro
- Chapada Diamantina & Lencois
- Morro de Sao Paulo
- Foz do Iguassu
Car / Bus: 2,238km
Run: 20km (15 of which we did in the last 3 days of the month – so rubbish at this)
Cumulative Total: 119,081km
(3x around the world…)
Plans for next month:
May sees us go to Iguassu Falls, move on into Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and even into Peru. We’ll be visiting the Atacama desert, the Uyuni Salt flats and the Amazon! We also start our 9 day trek to Machu Picchu on the 31st May so we might not get to write the May summary if we don’t make it back (9 days!!)