Rio De Janeiro

Onto Rio De Janeiro.
whenever I have mentioned I was going to Rio the only response I have received is a lot of gushing about what a great city it is and how much I will love it. Now, I live in London which I happen to think is a pretty great city so I was slightly dubious about all the praise that Rio receives. Turns out I was wrong. It deserves all the praise it gets.
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I was lucky enough to be staying with a Nigel (from Durham) who, along with his lovely Brazillian girlfriend Fernanda, were wonderful hosts/tour guides/cooks/drinking buddies! I had 10 days in the city staying in Nigels apartment in Leblon, a very upmarket area only 2 blocks from the beach.
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What amazes me the most about the city is the fact that it has everything, great shops, bars, restaurants, beautiful beaches, mountains to hike up covered in forests. Where else do you get all of that in one place? The other thing that you really notice are how incredibly friendly people are.
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Moving into Brazil and not knowing a word of Portuguese was pretty scary after getting comfortable with my Spanish, but even with a language barrier people are really interested in you, not in a trying to mug you or sell you something kind of way, just in a genuine kind of way! Also, the stereotype of Brazillians being outgoing and up for partying is absolutely true. You see this on the beaches, not just in the choice of swimwear which is eye wateringly skimpy for both sexes, but mainly in that everyone is doing something. The guys selling food on the beaches are singing and playing music or dressed in drag, there are numerous ball games going on, guys working out in the beachside gyms. You don’t need to bring a book to the beach, people watching is plenty of entertainment in itself!
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So, I did all the classic tourist stuff, including sugar loaf, corcovado, botanical gardens and a tour of the favelas. All were incredible and provide the most stunning views of the city. The favela tour was a real eye opener and has totally changed my perception of what life is like in a favela. It is like old school England, with the drug lords as kings deciding all the rules. Seems to work pretty well…
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The other great thing in Rio is the eating and drinking culture. Nigel and Fernanda were great tour guides and I feel like I have tried all the traditional dishes and drinks both of which went down very well! The bar and restaurant scene in Rio is pretty amazing, I would say it gives London a run for it’s money.

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Iguazu falls

I arrived into Puerto Iguazu, the town on the Argentine side of the waterfalls, on Tuesday afternoon and the first thing that I noticed was the intense heat but in particular the humidity. The area in general has the kind of humidity that means you are continually sweating unless you are in the shower or a pool, not the most pleasant feeling! Luckily the hostel had air con, so a good nights sleep was possible which was much appreciated after yet another, but also my final, long bus journey.
Wednesday was a trip to the Argentine side of the falls. Despite having been hyped up by virtually everyone I have met I still found the falls to be incredibly impressive. Just the sheer size and scale of the falls is awesome, but add to this a backdrop of rainforest and you certainly have a winning combination!
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There is actually a lot to do on site with numerous walkways along the falls with many getting close enough to be covered in spray from the falls. There are also trails into the rainforest which provide a hreat opportunity to see lots of wildlife, which included coatis, butterflies and a cobra. The latter being very much an unwelcome inclusion on this on my behalf. My response to seeing it was to scream loudly until the snake, very casually went back into the undergrowth!
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The highlight is probably the walk out to the ‘Devil’s throat’ which is a confluence of the rivers around a horse shoe shaped enormous waterfall. The noise is tremendous, you get soaking wet and looking down you can hardly see anything due to all the spray from the water. We were lucky to have sunshine so saw a wonderful rainbow in the waterfall.
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After a great day at the falls we headed back to the hostel, where we had an asado with yet more beef (I am genuinely considering being a vegetarian for a while when I get back to balance out all this meat I have eaten!) A group of us were sat out until around midnight and it was still around 30C by then, which is pretty hot when the sun disappeared hours ago!
The following day I got a bus across the border to Brazil to the town on the Brazillian side of the falls called foz do iguacu. This only took an hour, so after a quick trip to an ATM for some Reals and a quick lesson in the Portugese pleasantries I headed to the falls again with Tim a dutch guy who I met in my hostel. The falls from the Brazillian side are very different, in that you see the falls in a panoramic view so you get a real feel for the sheer size of the falls and quite how many make up the whole set.
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We took numerous photos along the way but as you come to the end of the walkway you are suddenly next to one of the falls. Again, the noise and spray is tremendous and you start to get an idea of the force behind the falls. Whilst you get some great views from this side there is less to do than the Argentine side, so after half a day we were ready for home. This was only confirmed as it began to rain as we got onto the bus. At one point Tim and I were complaining about being cold, the irony of this given that we had been sweating due to heat and humidity only 30mins earlier!
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So, it turns out that 5th December is a very important day in the Dutch calendar, as much so as Christmas in fact possibly even more so. As such, we were planning on cooking a traditional Dutch meal (I was assistant since I have no idea what any of the things were), however after a quick look around the local supermarket we realised this wasn’t going to happen. We made do with a very good veggie pasta and a lot if beer instead!
Friday morning was unusually not sunny, but no real issue for me as it is time for Rio De Janeiro! I took a flight, (NOT a bus!) to Rio where I met Nigel (friend from Durham) who I was staying with.