Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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I have been to some incredible cities while on this trip but I think Rio would have to be the most incredible city I’ve seen. The way that the city is designed is just amazing, huge skyscrapers built amongst mountains right next to spectacular beaches. From above the views of the city are just jaw-dropping.

I stayed in a hostel called Che Lagarto which is one block back from Ipanema beach, one beach over from Copacobana. It was a fantastic hostel and the people who work there were absolutely lovely. They also do open bar on Thursday nights which is always great fun as I found out with my new Aussie friends Harry and Giles, my French friend Greg and Norwegian friend Hanne.

Just having a drink or three at open bar night at Che Lagarto

Ipanema beach is gorgeous and Copacabana was really cool, although when I was there it was overcast so it didn’t look as spectacular as I’m sure it would on a sunny day.

Ipanema Beach

Copacabana Beach

On my second day in Rio I did a city tour which took us to Christ the Redeemer, Santa Teresa, the Cathedral, Lapa Steps, and Sugarloaf Mountain.

The views from Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain were absolutely amazing, giving a grand view of the entire city including Copacabana, Ipanema and Centro.

At the Lapa Steps we were able to meet Selaron, the artist who created the masterpiece, and I got him to sign a postcard for me. He was a bit crazy but apparently we caught him on a good day because a lot of the time he doesn’t even come out of his house which is right next to the steps.

On another day a group of us went to Barra de Tijuca where there is a beautiful beach. Alejandro, Andrea, Greg and I had an absolutely fabulous day lazing about and enjoying the sun (and a sneaky caipirinha).

Rio is also an amazing place to go out. Twice I went out salsa dancing in Copacabana, then went to an incredible street party in Lapa with people everywhere, cheap drinks and plenty of samba, and on my last night (Halloween) had a great night out drinking in Lapa and then dancing like idiots in Ipanema.

The food in Brazil is also incredible. I tried some sushi (thanks to encouragement from Greg) and it was delicious but the Brazilians really love there meat which means I was very happy. On my last night, Greg, Hanne and I all went out for churasco, which is pretty much all you can eat meat (chicken, beef, pork, sausage) with a side of rice and chips. Accompanied by a nice glass of red wine, of course. It was AMAZING!!

The vibe in Rio is absolutely awesome! It really has a buzz that makes it the exciting place that it is. The people are all gorgeous and aren’t afraid to let you know it. The guys all get around in tiny swimmers (or budgie smugglers as we’d call them in Australia) and the women wear g-string bikinis, most of the time on the beach I didn’t know where to look!

I’m so glad I went to Rio, because it wasn’t originally on my list of places to visit. And despite many people telling me that it can be dangerous, I felt safe all the time I was there. Rio is definitely a city I’d recommend visiting, but be aware that it’s expensive compared to the rest of South America, with prices for most things on par with Sydney or London.

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Exploring Lima

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I spent today exploring Lima, the capital of Peru. After grabbing some breakfast at the hotel, I was thinking ‘what the hell am I going to do today, and how the hell am I going to find my way back once I leave?!’. But, the nice man at reception asked me if I’d be interested in doing a city tour, which I thought would be the perfect way to learn about Lima.

So off I went and jumped on the bus and we headed to downtown Lima or El Centro which is the historical part of Lima. First we visited the Museo de la Nacion where we saw artefacts from many of the pre-Incan civilisations. Very interesting!

Next we went to the Plaza de Armas which used to be the centre of the Inca city however when Francisco Pizarro foundered Lima in 1535 he built a cathedral on top of the Incan temple and his own house on top of the Inca leaders house. However his house has now been become the Government palace. In the centre of the Plaza there still remains an Incan bronze statue which was erected in 1650. Unfortunately we just missed the celebration of Pisco which took place on the 27th July – on this day the fountain does not run with water but with Pisco and everyone is allowed one drink from the fountain. That would be a happy day indeed!

Many of the buildings have been damaged by earthquakes however some of the original facade still remains and is very spectacular.

We then went onto the St Francis Monastery where Franciscan friars live. The church is one of the best preserved buildings in Lima and underground there are catacombs filled with the bodies of the 70,000 people who paid to be buried with the friars. It was a bit unnerving to see all the bones piled up in the crypts but extremely interesting. The monastery was full of beautiful paintings depicting the life of St Francis, alters where the friars prayed and a gold plated room where the friars kept their robes and jewels.

Afterwards we were able to be dropped off anywhere we chose so a group of us decided to get dropped off at Larcomar, a modern shopping/entertainment complex which is located on a cliff overlooking the sea. The view was spectacular, even though it was quite misty so it wasn’t very clear.

Lima’s food is meant to be among the best on the continent, so we decided to eat at a buffet restaurant called Mangoes so we could sample a bit of everything. The specialty of Lima is Ceviche, which is raw fish marinated in lime juice with onions and other spices. I don’t usually eat fish, but thought I’d better give it a go (when in Rome! ) and it actually wasn’t too bad. I also got a bit of everything else to try, and half the time I didn’t really know what I was eating, but it was delicious! And of course, I left enough room to get dessert which was also divine – cheesecake, lemon tart, chocolate moose and, my favourite, a chocolate fountain with strawberries. We all had a Pisco Sour which was so strong we all felt a bit tipsy after one!

Back at the hotel, the group who were going on the Gap Adventure tour met up and got to know each other and our group leader, Rod, and then headed off to dinner for more delicious food and drinks.

The next day we had free time in the morning so a few of us decided to head to Huaca Pucllana (‘sacred place for games’) the site of a 1,600 year old pyramid. The pyramid is partly in ruins however they began a restoration program 25 years ago. The pyramid is unlike Egyptian pyramids, it is solid and has flat platforms at different levels where they performed rituals including human sacrifices. We were shown how they hand made the bricks and learned that they developed a system of building the pyramid with gaps between the bricks so that they were earthquake resistant. Amazing that 1600 years ago they knew how to do this!

So, all up I found Lima a very interesting place, particularly the history of the place, and it was great to meet the tour group, I think we’re all going to have a fantastic time.

A few things that I learned were:
– Lima is one of the world’s largest 30 cities and is the 5th largest South American country
– It almost never rains in Lima, they get 5 inchs of rain all year, however it is constantly overcast and always feels like it’s about to rain. It doesn’t get very cold, generally the coldest days in winter have temperatures of 12-14 degrees.
– Peru’s coastline is desert which makes up 10% of the countries land mass, 30% is highlands and mountain areas and 60% is jungle.

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