Friday, October 31, 2008

Ilha Grande

For months during the cold Antarctic winter at Palmer Station, I dreamt about an island off the coast of Brasil. An island that was an ecological reserve with no cars, one village, a myriad of hiking trails and 102 beaches. I did my research online so I was worried that this place would prove to be less cool than the pictures I saw and the reviews I read. However, on day 3, I feel I'm ready to make this place my home for the next week or two or three.

The waters here are calm, clean and a good temperature. The village is small and mostly caters to tourists with a few mercados, many restaurants and souvenir shops and a few dive centers. There's a whole culture here among the locals which I have yet to figure out. There is probably one dog for every two people here. I don't believe they are strays. Most have collars. I've seen puppies being hand carried or sitting in bicycle baskets. The older dogs walk around town seemingly with purpose, swim with their owners and will occasionally accompany you on the trails or lay with you on the beach. I've only seen one cat.

My personal escort hiking through the forest back to town from a nearby beach

Monday, October 27, 2008

Entry Into Brasil

Getting into Brasil wasn´t easy. It took $150, two visits to the Brazilian Consulate, many questions by a severe employee, and a couple of emails and phone calls. However, the visa was finally approved, and ironically, though I paid for a 90 day visa, I was only given 40 days at the border. If I want to extend my stay, I have to visit a local Policia for an extension. I hear all of this hullabaloo is an act of reciprocity for all the trouble the Brazilians have when getting a US visa.

However, once legally and happily inside the country, my nighttime bus ambled along the highway to Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo is typically not a tourist town, but Andrea, a previous foreign exchange student who lived with Adam´s family for while, invited us to visit. She was an awesome host and made sure we had places to visit (with handdrawn maps and all) while she was at school and work. Memorable Sao Paulo times included a trip to a great art museum, getting caught in a loud thunderstorm and being swept away in a sea of pushing people into a packed subway train.

After visiting Andrea for a couple of days, Adam and I made our way to an obscure, small town called Cambara to visit Andrea´s family. All I can say about my time there is that the Honda´s are very kind and giving. They made sure we didn´t want for anything and were excited to have us try new things.

Now after a couple more bus rides and a few sad goodbyes, I find myself in Rio de Janeiro. This city is another place I visited in 2003. There have been a few improvements since then, including nice bathroom facilities along Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. Also, I think this time I may very well be the palest person here. I naturally am fair complected and don´t tan easily (was even nicknamed Casper in middle school), but after almost a year in Antarctica, I am the whitest I´ve ever been. In a town where the majority of people have dark skin, I definitely stand out.

A typical street in Cambara

Dinner with Andrea´s family. I ate a lot of food this past week.

Hanging out on some rocks by Ipanema Beach

The Sambadrome in Rio. I am always fascinated by the annual competition during Carnivale featuring 14 samba schools.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Iguassu Falls

My time in Buenos Aires has sadly come to an end. It will be remembered as one of the great times in my life...peaceful, happy and filled with laughter, love, new friends and good food.

Since then, I have been making my way to Brasil. On my way there and to help break up two very long bus rides, I stopped at Iguassu Falls for two nights. Iguassu Falls has over 200 falls, spans two countries and is taller than Niagra while wider than Victoria.

In life, it's always interesting to return to a place you thought you'd never be again. It's happened a few times in my life and now I never assume I won't return to even the most oscure places. I was at Iguassu Falls in 2003 and loved it. However, time passes and things change, and you arrive at the same place but a different person.

This time, I was still entranced by the rush and the majesticness of the waterfalls and when standing close, loved the feel of the cold mist hitting my skin. I also got to see some new wildlife, including some funny monkeys, and venture over to see the falls from the Brazilian side for the first time.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Colonia, Uruguay

On Thursday, I left Buenos Aires for an overnight trip to Uruguay. Colonia is a beautiful and quaint city from old, built in 1680. Travel time was quick, only taking an hour on a ferry that crosses the Rio de la Plata. With barely time for a nap, I was ready to explore this quiet getaway from the big city.

While there, I explored the old historical center, scooted around with windblown hair, chatted it up with an Irish couple and spent some time luxuriating on the beach.

Now, I´m back in Buenos Aires for my last 5 days here. I leave on Thursday for Brazil with a stopover at Iguassu Falls.

The old gate to the city.

A typical street in Colonia.


Ants carrying leaves. There were trails of them all over.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Time Passes

Another week in Buenos Aires and so much but so little has happened. I still love my apartment...waking up, preparing coffee and getting ready for the day's activities. Some nights are spent in, making dinner and watching a movie rented from the local Blockbuster, while others are spent out, dining at yummy restaurants and going to the ballet. I'm taking Spanish classes every other day, going for a run at the local park or doing yoga in my apartment when I can, and seeing my special kitty cat friend at the Botanical Gardens. Life is idyllic, despite the struggle to get a Brazilian visa and the fact that my camera was stolen last week. I honestly feel like I'm not just visiting Buenos Aires, but living here.

Dog walkers can be found all over the city. Watch out for the caca on the sidewalks, though. There's no law requiring citizens to pick it up.

My best friend at the Botanical Gardens. Today, she had a shaved area possibly from a recent veterinary visit. There are volunteer vets who take care of the cats in the garden as well as spay or neuter them.

A cool bird at the lake I like to jog around in a pedestrian only zone. There are several, funny bird varieties to watch.

A local artist getting interviewed on the opening night of her show with some of her photography (seen during an art studio tour in San Telmo).