Paraty, the old city, both beautiful and dangerous.

Posted by on May 9, 2011 in Brazil | 2 comments

Visiting one of Brazil’s oldest Portuguese cities can be made into a fun and easy day trip from Ubatuba that is well worth it.  Paraty is an absolutely charming city adorn with white colonial buildings lining cobblestone streets dotted with pink flower blossoms. It honest to god feels like you are walking in a vibrant scratch and sniff oil painting. However if you’re in high heels, not recommended for cobblestone street walking, or just don’t feel like huffing it, you can take in the city’s picturesque views by way of water taxis or horse drawn buggies since there are no cars allowed in the Historic District… strict. Ben and I went after Carnival, during the offseason. We enjoyed having the colonial city mostly to ourselves.  Even though not all the shops were open, the ones that were, were more then enthusiastic to have us wander in.  Our favorite shop being a canned peppers and spirits vendor that gave us free shots of cachaca! Cachaca is a distilled alcoholic beverage produced in Brazil and made from sugar cane. Cachaca IS THE very potent and secret ingredient in caipirinhas, the official cocktail of Brazil. However to truly experience Paraty’s uniqueness and rich culture, I would have loved to have visited during one of one of the city’s many festivals.  Paraty is known around the world for their colorful traditional rituals, both patriotic and religious, where the locals make ornate carpets out of colored dust and flower pedals, pretty. Since Paraty is located in Ilha Grade Bay, it is a great place to stay while visiting the area’s beautiful beaches, remote islands, tiny coves, and cachoeiras (waterfalls).  There are scheduled jeep jungle tours of the area’s highlights but Ben and I being budget-minded travelers decided to do our own tour and rent bikes. After a very long three-hour uphill bike ride with only rudimentary map of the cachoeiras, we made to the Tobogan Fall. This waterfall is unique because you can actually slide down it like you would a water park slide! What, what! Ben and I slide down the waterfall together… awww!!! But disaster stuck, when Ben’s hand that was holding his waterproof camera hit a rock and he dropped his camera! Footage and camera lost but what an adventure! Lesson learned though, always tightly secure your camera before descending down waterfalls. After that the weather stopped cooperating with us.  We were forced to move on without visiting Trinadage, a well hidden but near by beach community that was highly recommended by locals and famous for it’s own waterfall, “The Rock that Swallows”.  Seeing that we only scratched the surface with this visit, it’s safe to say we will be...

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Skim to Surf: An fun alternative to paddling out.

Posted by on Apr 29, 2011 in Brazil | 0 comments

One of the highlights for me on our Ubatuba adventure was finding hidden or secluded beach in and around Ubatuba.  Of course the tourists flocked to the more well-known and larger praias (beaches) of Ubatuba: Praia Vermelha, Enseada, Flamego, Lazaro, Domingos Dias, and Grande, but with 74 beaches and 15 islands, Ubatuba is a smorgasbord of beaches and we were on a quest to find a tiny beach of our own. Since our hostel was 200 meters from Praia do Lazaro we decided to visit the two tiny beaches that flanked Lazaro’s sides. The one to the northwest was practically deserted with water the temperature of bathwater. Was our search already over??? Was this our beach? We decided to check out the one to the southeast anyways, just to have a look. It was there where I found something I had never seen before but always thought possible. As a surfer, I can tell you that the only downside to surfing is the padding out, fighting past the breakers so the waves don’t engulf you before you have a chance to harness their power.  I guess there’s more of a sense of accomplishment after you battle the breakers but any surfer would much rather use that energy surfing rather then paddling.  Big wave surfers have the luxury of being towed in by wave runners, but what about the rest of us smaller wave surfers?  Were we doomed to a life of padding? The locals enjoying this tiny beach southeast of Lazaro had the answer; the lazy man’s way to the waves and the fun. Why not skim board into the ocean instead of along side of it.  Skim to Surf is what I decided to call it and ever since I saw the skim boarders in SoCal, I thought there must be a way to combine the two, I just didn’t know how. The reason the skim surf combo works here is because of a huge smooth bolder that forms a right angle with the beach.  There are two waves that form here. One wave that comes in parallel to shore, like any normal beach and then another wave that comes in perpendicular. This break is due to the fore mentioned bolder. The wave that comes in perpendicular is the wave the skim boarders use to skim into. Here is the run down of how it’s done with pictures of course. Please try this at home. =) I would love to see someone in Cali find a place to do this at so when I come to visit we can play. Kristy Smith I’m counting on you! 😉 Step 1: Running Step 2: Throw Step 3: Skim Wait for it….. Step 4: Surf!!! Board: It looked as if they were doing this on regular skim boards. No special board required.  A surfboard would not work because of the fins. Warning: These waves formed a T off the main shore and where these two waves crossed seemed to get really intense. I’m sure it looked worse then it was. Being clueless I didn’t think to take a video… doh, but I did take rapid succession pictures of the skim to surf phenom and strung the pictures together to make a primitive video for you guys.  Enjoy the black and white film. =) Skim the Surf...

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Florianopolis, Brazil

Posted by on Apr 11, 2011 in Brazil | 0 comments

What could make a beautiful city on an island covered with beaches, fresh fish, and oysters better? Meet Paula, our couchsurfing host. Paula has a heart much bigger than I could have ever imagined, she opened up her beautiful condo to Leah and me over the weekend. Couchsurfing has met a lot of opposition from friends and family. For those of you who don’t know what it is, is a online community of people who open up their homes for “strangers” to come and stay the night. The idea of couchsurfing is much bigger than a free place to stay, its an open canvas of cultural exchange. The niceties are always interesting in travel (where you’ve been, where you’re going, cultural and linguistic differences, etc). But the real beauty of our stay with Paula was much deeper. Minutes after meeting Paula, we felt at home, and talking with her was like talking to an old friend. Paula showed us Lagoa da Conceição a very trendy section of Florianopolis, with restaurants, shops, and street markets to rival any hipster area in an US city. We shared a large bowl of Acai and hours of window shopping. It was an acleptic mix of Brazilians, from the fashion-concious middle class, to the jewerly making Rastafarian, to the old men playing dominos. After a long stroll in Lagoa da Conceição we picked out fresh ingredients and cooked a pizza together; sharing stories, pictures, and wine late into the night. Paula’s friend Eleanor joined us for pizza and stayed for the rest of the weekend. She is a lively, free-spirited british girl living in Paraguay. (well Paraguay this week, her country of residence seems to change faster than the weather). Eleanor was a godsend, with her experience as a tour guide in Boliva, and extensive South American travel, she helped us tremendously. The next day Paula brought us to a delicious seafood restaurant in the San Antonio de Lisboa Beach section of the Florianopolis island. My mouth waters when I think about the meal of oysters, mashed yuca and shrimp that we all shared together. The views were splendid and the food to die for, all amist the best company this world has to offer. We shared a matte and watched the sunset on a bay sprinkled with fishing boats and osyter platforms. Florianopolis was a success and couchsurfing provided us with a door into the vast culure in Florianoplois, and further examplifies how caring and giving people are everywhere in the world. Its a true catalyst to live-long friendships. The mood is a bit somber as we leave this city we loved so much. Thanks again Paula and Elanor, best of luck in life and travels! PS Paula wanted me to spread the word that all Brazilians don’t live in trees, and they don’t ride elephants. Check out my photo album for more pictures of...

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The Samba Parade, Part 3: The Spectacular.

Posted by on Apr 2, 2011 in Brazil | 2 comments

On Sunday afternoon Ben and I were walking around Rio De Janeiro’s city center and saw that night’s Samba Parade floats still under construction! What… procrastination station! As we walked around taking picture, we joked that they had some major work to do… It looks like they pulled it off… To out stage one another, Samba parade floats often have some kind of mechanical moving part. In some cases a little menacing mechanical shark that emerges out of a pool to eat a Samba dancer will do.  Oh no!  Oh yes. Or maybe what a float really needs is a mechanical horse that gallops around a cottage? Of course this is Brazil so the rider must be topless!  I think Ben must of took this picture. Some floats would spray bursts of glitter or colorful strings, but to really out do the competition you need a fountain flowing with water or some gorillas swinging from trees. Of course there were scores of celebrities, none of which I heard of because most of them were Brazilian. But there was one name that was familiar to me…Gisele Buendchen.  She’s the one in gold in the front middle. I looked for Tom Brady after that in the stands with no luck. The only thing that is more fantastic then the floats are the samba dancers. Each school’s best Samba dancers can be easily spotted even from the top of the Grandstands. They are scantly clad; not wearing more then strategically placed sequences, a tong, a feathered headdress and wings.  They are either leading legends of samba dancers or perched on tall pedestals atop giant float. Their feet moving at warp speed in 6-inch heels.  But you don’t have to be a samba dancing beauty to get and keep the crowds on their feet.  A street cleaner that broke into a samba while sweeping the streets during intermission received the loudest cheers of...

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Posted by on Mar 25, 2011 in Brazil | 1 comment

Overall, Brazil is a lot more westernized than we expected. Of course we’ve been only in the south, and this is supposed to be the most westernized part. So everything is as it should be =) nonetheless, I’ve witnessed a view things a bit strange. This post is a collection of oddities, so hopefully its possible to follow my train of thought. I did a post on buses already, and how exciting city ones can be. One I thing I noticed is, the buses don’t always stop at the bus stop. They only stop when a passenger on the bus requests a stop, or if someone at a bus stop flags the bus down. Sometimes, even flagging the bus won’t make it stop. I watched a guy flag 4 separate buses before one stopped to let him on. Also, you have a limited window to exit the bus. I saw one elderly lady trying to exit the bus, and the driver started to take off, luckily everyone shouted and the bus driver gave her more time to exit. The showers here are nice. Everyone has in-line hot water. Which means, no cold showers in hostels! Something you aren’t always guaranteed when traveling, especially if you like to shower at peak times (mornings or nights). However, the in-line hot water is electrically heated, so basically there is a live circuit on the shower head, with exposed wires. Not a big deal, except to change the temperature means you adjust a knob on the top of the shower head. I adjusted it a little to far and received a pretty nice zap. No flushing tp. Despite the heat and humidity, the bathrooms don’t smell bad. Rains a lot! And Leah misses dryers to dry her clothes. Hanging clothes to dry can be difficult when you are in the rainforest. Some things are expensive! And some are cheap…. Meat…Cheap ($1 for a nice slab of beef) Mouthwash..Expensive ($8 for a small bottle) Fruit…Cheap Fruit Juice.. Expensive (weird) Cheese… Expensive And the last oddity… Bacon flavored popcorn?!? what? Yes, it is true, my life is now complete, I’ve found the holy grail of food. Some inventions are so obvious you kick yourself for not thinking of it...

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The Samba Parade, Part 2: The Survival.

Posted by on Mar 21, 2011 in Brazil | 1 comment

1.) What to wear? So what does one wear to a Samba parade?   Answer: Anything or next to nothing if you wish… as long as your costume is not big. While in line, two Australian guys who looked like they walked out of a Samba parade, were asked to discard their costumes because of their size, heart breaking, but the stands were packed so the request was understandable.  We kept our attire low key.  Ben in his red and white poke-a-dotted onesie with discarded giraffe, elk hybrid hat… nothing but class. I in a curly purple wig and a silver Carnival mask I picked up at street vendor for 18 Reals. Another option is to run away and join the Carnival! To samba in the parade with one of the schools requires a costume that you can actually buy from them online! Once you have their outfit you can join the Samba Parade with that school. Costumes range anywhere from $195 to $1300 US Dollars plus the purchase of a Parade ticket ($100 US Dollars). 2.)  When to arrive? We sat in Section 4, which is a General Admission Grandstand. Every $100 US Dollar seat had an amazing view but get there a few hours early if you want to grab a closer seat.  The closer you are the more detail you can see in the elaborate costumes and the more you can feel the beat of the more then 300 samba drums. 3.)  What to bring? Bring water and food in your backpack since the parade is eight hours long. You can leave whenever you want but the floats do seem to get progressively more spectacular as the night goes on so try to stick it out until the end.  We didn’t bring snacks or water… clueless, so we ended up spending a small fortune.  Beer and snacks are sold in the stands and in booths just like any US sporting event. Bring a poncho since umbrellas are discouraged because it obstructs the view. We only brought our umbrella and could only use it during samba school intermissions. Count on it raining, you are in Brazil, the land of Rain Forests. Bring or buy a seat cushion or follow the Parade program.  Seat cushions are good way to stake your claim on seats during samba school intermissions. I, however, just followed the program and sat down after the last float went by guaranteeing myself a coveted spot during the intermissions… smart. 3.) What to know? The secrets no one tells you, but we will! Know your samba songs. Get on The Rio Carnival Guide website: or other similar websites and learn that year’s Samba songs. Everyone will be singing along to them. To feel like a true Carioca (Someone who is from Rio de Janeiro) you have to know at least the favorites to get by. Do not buy your tickets ahead of time.  Many international tourists (Ben and I included) buy tickets for both Sunday and Monday. After barely surviving Sunday night, many tourists sell or even give away their Monday night tickets!  We sold ours at a $50 dollar discount.  In fact the guy we sold our tickets to ended up acquiring 2 more tickets for free! You can easily acquire them at a hostel or on...

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