South America (Part 1): Rio De Janerio & Iguazu Falls (Brazil)

The first leg of our South America trip was Brazil. It was the first time either myself or my travelling companion Abi had visited South America, so we were excited as you could imagine. 

Rio De Janerio: 

Casablanca 3: Our Rio Home:

We arrived at the beautiful, rustic Casablanca 3, the day after our arrival in Rio. Our host Jeanne’s neighbour, Mauro, picked us up from the airport hotel. 

Our home for the next 4 nights was located in Vidigal, one of the most successful “rescued” fevelas in Rio. It was surrounded by a tropical terraced garden, with a small beach just a 5 minute walk away. There were incredible views from our balcony, which was well worth the 100 plus stair climb up to the house! 

We were just a 15 minute walk from Leblon and Impanena Beaches, and the world famous Copacabana was the next beach on from there. 

Jeanne was a super host, living in the house just in front of us, and she was on hand to assist during our stay, more on that to follow later! 

Christ the Redeemer & Sugar Loaf Mountain:

When visiting a new city or country, I think you need to get the balance right, between visiting tourist attractions whilst also experiencing local life and culture. We’d heard that the views from the top of these two famous landmarks were unbelievable, so we had to check them out. 

We headed over to Christ the Reedemder (or Cristo Redentor as it’s known locally), early one morning, taking the scenic vintage train up to the summit. Dotted across the hillside were little homes, and the views became more beautiful the further up we ascended. 

Although not a perfect sunny day, the views over Rios rugged landscape were still indeed incredible. 

Sugarloaf Mountain also had some amazing views of the city. We took 2 cable cars to get to the very top of the second peak just before dark one evening.

Caprihinis & Football on Copacabana Beach! 

Copacabana beach was less touristy than I’d imagine, perhaps because it wasn’t peak season. Locals flocked here at the weekend, and you could buy pretty much anything on the beach. There was even one offer of space cakes, which was politely declined of course! 

There are numerous food and drink vendors on the beach front. We wanted to try something local one day, so we opted for the Feijoada (Brazillian black bean stew), and Queijo and Carne Pasteis (fried pastries with cheese and mince). Everything was really tasty.

To wash down our food we had to have our first Brazillian Caprihinis (a Cachaca sugar cane spirit based cocktail, with fresh fruit and ice). I’ve tried Caiprihinis before, but they were nowhere near as strong as these. After the second one we were both feeling tipsy but at least we had the beach to go down and sleep it off on!

Being a football fan, I had to kick a ball on Copacabana beach. After haggling with some local boys we got one, and me and Abi enjoyed a kick around. 

The Rio locals do look after themselves and are indeed beautiful people! The beach areas are constantly full of people playing football, volleyball, running, cycling and using the beach gyms. We stared often at them in admiration, and slight jealously! 

Samba & Music in Lapa: 

Brazilians love their music and dancing, and in Lapa, there’s an abundance of it. 

We headed down to Lapa & neighbouring Santa Teresa mid-afternoon one day, so we could walk around some of its historical sights and rustic buildings before it got dark. We had read it was a little rough around the edges and needed to be careful once the sun goes down. 

The Escardiara Selarion Steps were pretty cool. Chilean artist Jorge Selarion spent over 20 years decorating these favela steps with tiles and mosaics, with travellers from all over the world bringing tiles to Rio for him to include in his designs. He was unfortunately found dead on the steps back in 2013. 

We found a little cafe bar to take shelter in at dusk until the area became busier and felt safer, as we weren’t exactly sure of our bearings. From here we walked up to a nearby square which was busy with young locals eating and drinking, so this seemed a good place to start. 

The night market across the way soon opened up and we went across for some Caiprihinis and food. We tried some Creme De Ervilha, which was very similar to Pea & Ham soup, but used a type of smoked sausage. 

Being wary of walking around the streets of Lapa at night, we jumped in a taxi, and headed to Rio Scenarium samba club. Taxis are in abundance in Rio, and the majority are licensed, just make sure the meters are on to avoid being over priced. 

The club was on a quaint, pedestrianised, cobbled street, with numerous bars which had outside seating and live music playing. We couldn’t resist to stop at one en-route. 

Rio Scenarium was a cool place, if not a little pricy. There were various rooms with live bands and singers playing samba music, which we had fun dancing away too. 

Cooking the Brazilian Way: 

One of the things, which not unsurprisingly, I wanted to experience on my trip in South America, was to cook and eat with locals. 

I offered to cook for our host Jeanne and her husband on our last night in Rio. I opted to cook a Moqueca, which is a Brazillian Fish Stew. 

That morning Jeanne took us round a local food supermarket to get our ingredients. 

My cooking seemed to go down well (separate blog to follow on the recipe!). Jeanne even offered me a chef job to open up a pop-up restaurant in her house. This was though after we’d had consumed a few glasses of wine and some Cachaca spirit! 

As well as the fish stew, I also made one version with banana instead of the fish. I found this version even better, with a good combination of sweet & sour flavours. 

Obrigada Rio! (Thanks!):

We enjoyed our stay in Rio. It’s a cool, laid back city, with some clearly vastly different areas, from the upmarket areas of Leblon and Ipanema, to the favelas of Vidigal, cool Copacabana and historic Lapa. 

Despite staying at the bottom of a favela, we felt safe. There was just the one occasion mentioned above in Lapa at dusk, which was a little scarey. 

Iguazu Falls: 

We took a 2 hour flight inland to Foz Do Iguazu, to the West of Rio, to visit the falls which were meant to be stunning. We arrived early morning so only really had one full night here but that was plenty of time.

We stayed in Tetrix Hostel, which is apparently the worlds largest hostel made out of shipping containers!

The Brazil side of the falls were just a 20 minute bus ride from near our hostel. The falls cross both Brazil and Argentina, and are one of the widest in the world at 8800 feet wide. The views were well worth the flight down for. 

We spent our last night in Brazil at a Churrascaria Do Gaucho (BBQ Steak house), where else would we spend it! For £5 each we had as much delicious meat as we wanted and a few beers! 

The following day we were heading over the nearby border to Paraguay for just the one night, before our connecting flight up to La Paz, Bolivia, for the next leg of the trip………

(May 2016) 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Rita jordan says:

    Awesome diary of your travels cath! And fabulous pictures.


  2. yogicbear says:

    Banana stew!? Would never have thought of that – on the list of things to play with in the kitchen. 🙂 Also seems as good an excuse as any to buy plantains for comparison (not that there needs to be an excuse to buy plantains of course).
    – Thomas (Pyramid of Arts)


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