Audley travelers David and Ann Brierley visited Brazil at the end of last year. Read their account of this fascinating and varied country.
Tired and jaded after our 12 hour flight, the delights and sounds of Rio de Janeiro soon made us forget our tiring journey. We had two full days to explore this stunning city. On our first day we agreed we would like to visit the favelas.
Our guide took us to the biggest favela in Rio, Rocinha, which we explored on foot, mixing with the local people and even visiting a family who lived there. We were given an insight into how these communities work and get on together in such close proximity.
The next day we combined a city tour with a visit to Corcovado (Christ the Redeemer) and Sugar Loaf Mountain. First up San Sebastian Cathedral, a modern gem that wouldn't be lost in a Star Wars movie. Next, onto the Maracanã Stadium, the location of the World Cup 2014, where many famous players past and present have graced the hallowed turf.
We then made our way up to Christ the Redeemer which involves a long winding road to the top, finishing off with a lift to meet the man himself, who watches over the vast and splendid city below. We spent time here taking photographs and admiring the views which were awe-inspiring to say the least. Back onto our air-conditioned bus into Rio for a lunch stop at one of the unique churrascarria, where we sampled cuts of succulent steak, chicken and pork. These are all hand-carved at your table.
Off we went again on our tour via cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. This looms over Rio like a giant, but sadly the cloud had rolled in and the views were not so great, we all agreed that it was only a minor hiccup on a day to remember viewing Rio’s famous sites. So we departed Rio for our flight to the Iguaçu Falls. We were met at the airport by our driver and taken to our hotel bordering the Iguaçu National Park.
Due to time constraints we made a decision to visit the bird park adjacent to our hotel, this was extremely worthwhile. It was not just a place to see the unique avifauna of the area but also a rehabilitation center for injured and endangered species. The species we saw were macaws, parrots and other exotic birds. As we had dinner that night all the talk was about the following day and our excitement at seeing Iguaçu Falls.
We departed into the Iguaçu National Park on the first double-decker bus of the morning, after 12 km (7.5 miles) we reached the pathway that takes you to the viewing platforms for the falls. There are 275 waterfalls 24% of these in Brazil and 76% in Argentina. They say that Argentina puts on the show and Brazil gets the finest views.
The falls are truly magnificent and are now one of the new seven wonders of the natural world, I now know why. We finished our day off by taking a rigid inflatable boat on the river to the base of the falls. It was an exhilarating ride, and we got a complete soaking (which was expected), certainly a unique experience. We arrived back at base and we agreed it was an experience and privilege which we wouldn't forget. The park also offers wonderful wildlife viewing with birds and butterflies aplenty.
After a 3.30am wake-up the following day, our adventure continued with two flights and a three hour road journey to our lodge in the Pantanal at Pousada Rio Mutum. On arrival we were treated to a cold drink on the veranda and an explore around the lodge grounds before an early night.
The next day we departed on our first trip of the day with our guide who accompanied us over the next few days. We explored numerous waterways on one of the lodge’s motorboats and witnessed the ecosystem of the area. We met local indigenous people who rely on fish from the waterways to help sustain their lives and discovered the unique diversity of the wildlife. Cayman, capybara, Jabiru stork and numerous other species, too many to mention. After a siesta we went for a horseback ride, this time deep into the lodge’s grounds looking out for other Pantanal specialities and of course the magnificent scenery.
The following day we were up at 5am and back on the Cuiabá River. Just after departing we encountered a family of four giant river otters who were calling and playing on the river. We saw numerous other exotic species and our morning was complete.
The afternoon trip took us on a jeep safari into the savannah, the target species being the rare hyacinth macaw, a critically endangered species. We viewed two of these birds with their vivid hyacinth color. On our return to the lodge we spotted a pair of burrowing owls with three chicks — what memories, a fantastic place.
To complete our vacation, our next destination was Manaus and the Amazon. The Amazon Eco Park was our home for the next three nights. Here we visited homes of the local people and took a night-time boat trip to view the baby cayman. The following day was an all day boat trip to view the meeting of the waters, where the Negra meets the mighty Amazon, which is born in Peru and spills into the Brazilian Atlantic. One of the highlights of this trip was the Boto, the Amazon pink river dolphin.
Sadly our trip to Brazil had to end, with many fond memories and experiences that will stay in our minds forever, a truly beautiful country.
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