Warning: file_get_contents(http://picasaweb.google.com/data/feed/api/user/ATSARTS/albumid/5284503967322776449) [function.file-get-contents]: failed to open stream: HTTP request failed! HTTP/1.0 400 Bad Request in /home/content/62/2482862/html/photos.php on line 10
The Works of Jed Appelrouth
Jed Appelrouth

View slideshow in Picasa Web Albums

Brazil: Rio de Janiero, Iguassu Falls and the Amazon river basin

Brazil. The land of seemingly endless rain forests teeming with monkeys, sloths, anacondas and 40% of the planet's species; the sensuous sounds of Samba; dark-skinned, elegant beauties who take your breath away; hordes of soccer fans pouring onto a field of victory; the visual and acoustic extravagance of Carnivale.

There are many reasons to visit Brazil. For Larry and me, our primary motivation for this trip was to visit the Amazon basin and experience the rainforest firsthand.

This trip involved some preparation including procuring the necessary visas, vaccines, and anti-malarials. Additionally I picked up a new zoom lens for the Rebel XTi, the first digital SLR I've ever used. On the 9th of December I finished my final papers, presentations and exams at GSU, and on the 10th, Larry and I were on a plane to Rio De Janiero.

When we arrived in Rio, after we changed out some currency, we hopped in a cab and headed towards the Copacabana beach. Paulo, our exceedingly garrulous cab driver was a virtual fountain of Portuguese. We were vainly attempting to communicate with him, but we lost some 80-90% in translation. He didn't seem to mind in the least and gave us a running commentary as we headed towards our destination.

The drive from the airport to our hotel on the Copacabana Beach afforded us the first views of the great divisions inherent in the society of Rio, city of 10 million inhabitants, many living in entrenched poverty. We drove past miles of favelas, the incredibly poor districts (as shown in City of God- Cidade de Deus) replete with trash, graffiti-covered edifices, exposed cinder-block, grated windows, and political signs at every turn. The millions of inhabitants of the favelas may have very little economic power, but the politicians certainly vie for the political capital of this impoverished citizenry. As the traffic slowed, numerous vendors, likely inhabitants of the favelas, began walking around the cars on the highway selling all manner of food, drinks and touristy items. Certainly not the easiest way to make a living.

We finally arrived at the Orla Copacabana, a nice hotel that we had found on www.tripadvisor.com, a major resource for anyone considering international travel. We roamed the beach while our room was being prepared, grabbing two coconuts to drink along the way. The sky was dark gray, and clouds cloaked the mountaintops, concealing the famed Cristo El Redentor, resident statue atop the Corcovado mountain. Unfortunately, during the 10 days of our trip in Brazil, we would have very little time with the sun shining down upon us, free of cloud cover.

We made our way to a touristy restaurant on the strip. Within minutes, vendors were walking up to us hocking shirts, belts and other knick-knacks. We found that nearly everyone was selling something on the Copacabana, but very few people were begging. It was unadulterated commerce. And to accentuate this point, within minutes of our arrival at the restaurant, two beautiful Brazilians sat down next to us and began complimenting Larry and I on how good looking we were. Apparently everything was for sale in Rio. Actually we had heard that prostitution was rampant and that some hotels had even posted no-prostitute policies in their lobbies. The restaurant staff, however, seemed very comfortable with the girls and seemed to accept them as a normal part of the clientele.

After lunch and a few hours of much needed sleep back at the hotel, we felt revived and headed out to the beach to walk the length of the Copacabana Beach. We found a nice cafe along the way and enjoyed a few drinks and snacks as musical groups traveled up and down the beach playing for tips. As the night fell, powerful lights turned on and illuminated the beachfront: these provided a deterrent to crime and a fantastic opportunity for night-soccer. Dozens of soccer matches took place along the well-lit beachfront. Mile after mile of organized and pick-up teams engaged in heated soccer matches.

After a Malarium inspired, dream-filled night, Larry and I headed down to the first floor restaurant to partake of the complimentary breakfast, the best we had in Rio: an outstanding variety of fresh fruit, juices, pastries, and other confections. These folks do not mess around when it comes to breakfast.

The first full day in Rio was marked with wind and a persistent drizzle. We walked to the Ipanema beach, a slightly more upscale and less commercial offering, and watched surfers negotiate the waves at the Arpoador beach. We were impressed by the backdrop of massive rocky outcroppings looming in the distance. As we made our way down the beach, we were taken aback by the beautiful girls from Ipanema; when they walked, it truly was like a samba. In general, the women of Rio were stunning. The rumors are all true, Brazilian women are the most gorgeous on the planet. With long hair, great bodies, elegant lines, and tight fitting clothing to accentuate every curve, these women were captivating. As we humans are naturally drawn to the exotic, the women of Rio, a melange of European, African, and Native American ancestry were extraordinarily alluring. It was hard to turn away from those hazel-blue eyes! Larry and I were constantly calling each other's attention to women at every turn as we came to appreciate the natural beauty of Rio in all its forms.

We spent some time walking through the tree-lined neighborhoods around Ipanema, walking over streets of patterned black and white tiles: an allusion to the "Meeting of the Waters": the junction of the Amazon River where the "black" Rio Negro meets the "white" Solimoes River.

That evening we grabbed grub at a pizza joint and were surprised to hear the restaurant's pianist deliver a set-list including favorites by Barry Manilow, Bon Jovi, and Phil Collins. Pizza and Barry Manilow: I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a more poignant example of authentic Brazilian culture.

We made our way to the Bip-Bop bar for a little low-key Samba, but we had just missed the band. Instead of listening to the soft sounds of samba we found ourselves harassed by an inebriated local who wanted to talk about Barack Obama once he learned we were from America. We were entertained by the parade of vendors selling Christmas decorations, disco santas, and Corcovado Jesus statues, and amused by a particularly enterprising peanut vendor.

The following morning we awoke at the crack of dawn, headed back to the airport and flew to Iguassu, famous for its world-class waterfalls. We decided to see the Argentine side of the falls during the first day and save the Brazilian side for the second. The border crossing ate up a good chunk of time, and we only had an hour or so left when we arrived at the Argentine park. We hopped on the train to the Garganta del Diablo station and when we arrived, we took to the boardwalk. As we approached the mighty cataratas, waterfalls, a great plume of mist could be observed overhead, and the sound of crushing water grew more intese. We arrived at the observation deck, and took in the raw power of the greatest single falls in the park, the Devil's Throat.

Standing over this great abyss, watching millions of gallons of water cascading down the side of the falls, we were baptized by waves of rainbow mist. Waves of white alternately cloaked and revealed the precipitous walls of the gorge. Swirling within the mist, the winged flight of the swifts, the vancejos, who launched themselves from the moss-covered sides of the falls into a treacherous, twisting, diving, hurtling trajectory through sheets of white. An incredible juxtaposition: the kinetic power of the falls and the ethereal flight of the swifts. Crashing through the waterfalls, the swifts paused to rest, perched for a moment on a mossy overhang, before flying out again into the expanse of the gorge.

It was majestic. I was mesmerized by the aerial acrobatics of the swifts against the backdrop of roaring water. Unbound freedom. Love of flight. Power and motion. I could have stayed there all day.

The next day we headed to the Brazilian side of the Iguassu falls. Photographing lizards, little bands of Coatis (fairly cute raccoons), and other life forms along the way, we approached the great panorama. The Argentinean vantage point is from above, but the Brazilian observation point is located at the base of the falls, where you can feel the power of the falls. Being surrounded by 270 degrees of roaring water was an awesome experience. We stayed on the Brazilian side for the morning and then returned to the Argentine side to explore the upper and lower circuits of individual falls. Soon after we arrived, a storm rolled in, cleared away the majority of tourists and allowed us to capture some beautiful close-up shots of the falls at Salto Bossetti and Salto Bernabe Mendez. We spent more time watching the swifts, tried our best to shield our cameras from the fairly persistent rain, and finally headed to the exit.

On the way out of the park, we ran into two Belgian girls who were 2 months into a 9-month tour of South America. They had purchased and colorfully painted a beat-up Volkswagon bug to ferry them around the continent, but it had broken down, yet again. We gave them a lift back to their hostel, shared a few drinks and then headed into Porto de Iguazu for a dinner of fajitas, nachos and caiparinhas, those delectably strong cane-juice cocktails, celebrated throughout Brazil.

At 4:30 AM we were up and out the door. Back to the airport and on a flight to Manaus, launching point for most Amazon tour operators. Our guides from Iguana tours picked us up at the airport, and soon we were on our way into the jungle.

We drove to the edge of the Amazon and were amazed by the enormous scale of this river. It is huge!! We hopped into a speed boat and began the fifteen-minute journey across the river. It was some five-and-a-half miles across to the other side, and the boat operator navigated around the giant trees that were floating in the water. In the middle of the river, the boat slowed down to allow us the chance to appreciate the "meeting of the waters", the junction of the darker Rio Negro and the lighter Rio Solimoes which blend to form the Rio Amazonas. We finished our journey across the Amazon, hopped into a van, and began the overland journey to the Rio Juma, a tribuatary of the Amazon, and the site of our jungle adventure. The roads were slick and muddy, but our capable driver negotiated all the turns and twists and dropped us off at the river's edge. We took a speedboat to our accommodations 20-minutes up-river, where we met Vincent, our guide.

Vincent radiated positive energy and good humor. Twenty-seven years old, Vincent was a medical student, studying epidemiology, and public health. He had fallen in love with the Amazon in his teens and had spent eight years exploring the rivers and jungles of the Amazon basin. In his own words, he was drawn to the "mystery" of the river, and he went off on his own for weeks at a time, deep into the jungle, exploring and studying the rhythms, sights and sounds of this vital environment. We were lucky to have been paired up with such a capable guide.

Once we had dropped off our packs, Vincent fired up our motorized canoe, and we headed out on the Juma river. Vincent impressed us with the breadth of his knowledge: we discussed the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, Chavez and America, the drug trade in Rio, the problems of deforestation, and the future of Brazil.

We knew Vincent had special talents when a fish jumped up out of the water and he caught it barehanded in mid-air. That night we would watch him catch a 3-foot long Caiman, alligator, with his bare hands and a flashlight. Vincent was not afraid.

The first morning, we were awakened by our 3:30 AM rooster and officially started the day at 5:00 AM for a foggy tour of the Juma river. We listened to the industrial groan of a troop of well-hidden Howler monkeys and Vincent, with his remarkable visual acuity, spotted the quick-hopping Cappucin monkeys and the mean-faced, bushy tailed Saki monkeys, high in the canopy. Birds were everywhere: egrets, kingfishers, eagles, quails, hawks, tucans, to name a few.

We made our way upriver and left the boat for a rain-forest hike. The forest floor was spongy year-round, and covered by water for 6 months of the year. The wet-season had only just begun, and the water level on the river would rise another 20-30 feet by June. Vincent recommended coming to the Amazon from February through March, when the water level was high enough for the flooded-forest tours, but advised avoiding April and May when the rain was nearly constant. He said it was not unusual to have rain for 5 days solid, with only a 30-minute recess. The forest we were tramping through would by 8-feet underwater in a matter of months.

We walked through the spongy forest, admiring the millions of vermicelli vines that descend from the upper canopy. Strangler figs enveloped and consumed established trees. Vincent spotted a sleeping sloth, motionless in the trees, 30 feet above us. This guy literally had eagle eyes. At the end of the rainforest we saw light pouring down where the tree stumps and cow pastures began.

After our hike, we returned to our home-base, took a nice swim in the river, and listened to Vincent's stories over lunch. We went up to our cabin to rest, walking by the giant mango tree, which would regularly drop swollen fruits to the ground. Periodically we'd hear the ping of a falling mango hitting one of the corrugated metal plates resting at the base of the tree. Swollen fruits scattered about as an army of insects swarmed and devoured the sickeningly-sweet smelling fruit. Like bickering relatives at a holiday dinner, the parakeets sounded their shrill cries from their green-winged, cacophonous tree.

After a brief and much needed siesta, we returned to the boat and headed up-river to continue our quest for wildlife. We watched pink and blue dolphins (the only fresh-water dolphins on the planet) swimming alongside our canoe, jumping playfully out of the water. After an hour in the boat, Vincent's eyes lit up when he spotted a very rare two-toed sloth, a species he had only seen 5 times in 8 years. He drove the boat closer to the tree in which the sloth was resting. Vincent jumped out of the boat and began to climb the tree. Larry and I were amazed. Vincent deftly made his way up the branches, took a rope and chased the sloth to the highest branch. The sloth was out on a limb, and Vincent somehow broke off the limb, tied it to the rope, and lowered the sloth and the tree limb down into our boat. Suddenly we were staring at a tree-sloth in our canoe.

The sloth didn't know what to make of the situation. He sat on the edge of the canoe, looking morosely into the water, our forlorn captain. Vincent came back in the boat and tried to engage the sloth, being mindful of the powerful claws of the little fella. The sloth didn't seem too thrilled about his present situation, and he gave us some angry sound effects and some claw-in-the-air action to signal his discontent. Like any victim of the paparazzi, he felt violated, used by the heartless, grocery-store tabloids. We canoed back to the tree and returned the sloth to his natural habitat. I put my camera on sports mode and captured the step-by-step ascent of the much relieved sloth into his tree. You can see the full sloth series here:

Sloth in action

After the thrilling slothscapade, we canoed further upriver to meet our native hosts for the evening. We parked the canoe and ascended the hillside to the open-air wood and palm-frond constructed home. The family was so welcoming. The 3 youngest children in the home, David, Larissa, and Laissa (sp?), were completely amused with Larry and me.

The kids were awesome. We took a quick tour of the grounds and had a chance to witness one of the dogs attempting to infiltrate an Armadillo's den as David cheered the beast on; the mother watched approvingly from the sidelines. But the armadillo dug deeper, and made it out of harms way, so we needed to find some other food source for the evening.

We took a quick canoe trip down the river to pick up the night's catch. The family had placed nets across several inlets/coves, and we gathered the fish that had found their way into the nets during the course of the day. Piranha, Monkey Fish (Macaca del Aqua), a type of Bass, and several other species of fish were trapped in the nets. The family had to clean the nets each night or the Piranha and the Caiman would tear up the fish as well as damage the nylon nets. We returned with the catch and watched the mom clean and prepare the fish, throwing the extra fish parts to the animal menagerie: 20 chickens, 2 roosters, 3 dogs, 3 ducks, 2 pigs, a goat and a cat all wandering freely. The fish that were not meant for dinner, she filled their bellies with salt and saved them for the next day.

While dinner was cooking, Larry and I played dominoes and Cabeza de Merde with the kids, using a deck of cards that had seen years of heavy use.

Dinner was fabulous: fresh fish soup, rice and Manioc (cassava). Bugs were everywhere- crawling on the floor and up the palm frond walls, but nobody seemed to mind. That night we learned the proper way to sleep on a hammock so our backs wouldn't hurt in the morning. The rooster alarm went off promptly at 3:49 AM, and the whole family was up around 6:00. We grabbed a quick breakfast, followed by some hang-time with the kids. The rain came, but the kids didn't even notice. The school boat was not coming as the holiday break was in effect; soon the kids were back to playing their card games. As they played, their battery powered boom-box cranked out familiar songs by Ludacris, Kanye West and other American hip-hop artists. The kids showed off their American gear- Guns N Roses and Avril Lavigne t-shirts. Though we were obviously off the grid, we were not that far off the grid.

That morning we took a comprehensive tour of the family compound. In the back we found a huge field of manioc, the cassava staple which provides roughly one fourth of the family's calories. Mangos, guavas, acai berries, coconut, pineapple, papaya, cherries, tomatoes, bean fruits, and many other fruits were in great abundance. The family had a Manioc processing facility in the back, which they used for their own use and as a means of generating some supplemental income. Vincent showed us how to harvest and process the manioc in such a way as to remove the cyanide and render it fit for human consumption.

We were surprised when the kids carried up the drinking water right from the river, water that would have turned our stomachs inside out. Though their bodies had adapted to the water, Vincent helped the family by providing them with necessary medicine and vaccinations. Before we left, Larry and I purchased several pieces of hand-crafted jewelry, necklaces and bracelets the kids had made, as a means of expressing our gratitude for the family's hospitality.

Back in the boat and back to the compound where we found two Dutch students who would be joining our tour. They were good guys and would hang with us until our departure. The conversation over lunch predictably turned to American politics; it was unreal how familiar they were with the subtleties of the US election, down to the level of which states were for Obama or for McCain. Apparently the whole world has been watching.

In the evening, we took a spear-fishing expedition. We turned off the motor and canoed into a shallow cove. The night sky brimmed with stars. All around us we heard the sounds of the jungle and the intermittent splashing of jumping fish. Vincent jumped out of the canoe into the darkness and returned with an irritated, clicking Caiman. With impressive accuracy, Vincent then speared a monkey fish, and brought him into the boat. At the sight of our flash-lights, four other less fortunate fish jumped directly into our boat. One of the Dutch guys speared an electric eel and Larry maimed a smaller fish.

In the morning we took our final jungle tour. This rain forest was much thicker than the previous one we had explored with Vincent. The eerie sound of howler monkeys filled the forest as we walked deeper into the dense jungle. The Deet that Larry brought worked wonders with the mosquitoes, but took the paint off of my Nalgene and camera. I had to wonder what this stuff was doing to my skin. As we walked through the jungle, Vincent taught us many survival techniques: how to make fire from a resinous sap tree, how to crush ants into your skin to hide your smell, how to eat the milky nut weevils for protein and locate other food sources. Vincent cut the bottom off a vine, cleared away some brush, and let all of us live out our wildest Tarzan fantasies. At one point, Vincent displayed his Jaguar escaping abilities by climbing 30-feet up a completely straight tree, using a palm husk to bind his feet together and an ingenious climbing technique.

We returned to the canoe and rode back to the compound. After a final swim in the river, and a lunch of freshly caught monkey fish, legumes and manioc, we packed our bags and were picked up by a speed boat heading back towards Manaus. This boat ride was a pure adrenaline rush. We arrived at the end of the river and were met by our diminutive, plaid hat, plaid shirt driver. We were transported over slippery mud roads in his furry-heart dangling dashboard ornamented van. We crossed the Amazon and made it back to Manaus where we found our way to the beautiful, black and white tiled Teatro Amazonas for some entertainment and refreshment. Christmas decorations and lights made the theater all the more beautiful. We sat outside a cafe, having a few drinks and dinner as we were entertained by a musical show in the square. When the rain rolled in, we walked around the city, drank acai shakes, played old school video games- AKA 1990s Street-Fighter- and finally made it to the airport in time for our 12:30 AM flight back to Rio.

After an insane cab ride from the airport, we were dropped off at the Porto Bay Rio Internacional hotel on the Copacabana beach. We pulled in, exhausted, at 8:30 AM, and the front desk miraculously had a room waiting for us! Thank you for small favors! After a much needed slumber, we found one of the only ATMs that would work with our cards and hopped a cab to Botafogo beach. Certainly more rundown than Copacabana, Botafogo was replete with 60's art deco buildings that had never been renovated. We found an outdoor park where all the local kids were playing soccer. Larry jumped in and played for a while with one of the aspiring soccer stars. I took a bunch of action shots with my camera. You can see that series here:

Larry Playing Soccer

Everything was much cheaper around Botafogo; generally the prices were one third what you would find around Copacabana. We grabbed lunch for a few Reals (Brazilian Currency), some dumplings and more acai juice, and walked out to the beach to take photos of Sugarloaf Mountain. The beach was sketchy, and didn't seem so tourist-friendly. We walked from Botafogo to Flamengo beach, snapping photos, and at two different times, people stopped us and warned us to be very careful with our cameras, low-hanging fruit for hungry, desperate folks. We took their counsel, put our cameras away, and walked towards Flamengo park. Every now and again El Redentor would emerge from the clouds of Corcovado. As we walked to the Flamengo beach, Larry and I wrote, practiced and perfected a song called "Corcovado", sung to the tune of "Desperado", made famous by the Eagles.

After some calisthenics in Flamengo Park, and a short walk on Flamengo beach, we flagged a taxi and headed to Sugarloaf mountain. We took the cable car to the top of the peak where we were thrilled to find breathtaking views, in spite of the overcast sky. What amazing shapes! The rock formations, the curves of the beach, the buildings tumbling down the mountainside towards the sea. And what a perspective! It was beautiful. A wedding was underway atop the mountain and cable-car after cable-car filled with beautiful, well-dressed people arrived. As the night came in, the lights of Rio shone brightly. With the reflections, the mountains and ocean, it was a stunning city-scape. Sugarloaf by nightfall is a must see. Larry and I grabbed a drink and spent an hour or so playing with shutter speeds and F-stops trying to capture the night scene.

After Sugarloaf, we grabbed dinner at a local Carioca hangout where we had to wait 40 minutes for a table. Once the locals claim a table, they generally stay for hours. As we waited to be seated, getting buzzed on Caipirinhas, we struck up a conversation with a Cariocan (Rio local) who was anxious to talk about Obama, the immediate topic of conversation when most people learned we were American. Two nights earlier, he had attended the sold-out Madonna show in Rio, and when Madonna posted a picture of Obama on one of her digital screens, the entire crowd erupted in cheers. It seems the Obama-love fest is a global phenomenon.

Saturday morning we awoke to find hints of blue in the sky. We spent most of the afternoon on the beach, and it turned out to be a beautiful day. The hotel guys watched our stuff, and we were able to swim in the ocean for 40 minutes. So nice! When we were lying out, vendors came by approximately every 45 seconds selling all manner of goods: sunglasses, wraparounds, shrimp, beer, chips, henna tattoos, bracelets, towels, hats, purses, nuts, whole term life insurance, dental implantsиanything you could possibly imagine was for sale. The vendors did circuits on the beach, staying in their respective territory, hawking their wares. All the while, bikini-clad Brazilian women were parading around the beach, and in the background, we heard the booming techno sounds as DJs helped the beach soccer teams warm up for their matches.

In the early evening we hopped a cab to Corcovado to visit the world famous statue and symbol of Rio. When we arrived at the top of the mountain, we found the redeemer completely covered in clouds. He emerged momentarily, and we fired off as many shots as we could, but the glorious panorama of the city would have wait for another trip.

This was our final night in Rio, and we were ready for a real night on the town. We took the metro to Lapa, party capital of Rio. As we walked around the streets of Lapa, young people were everywhere, drinks were flowing, and music was coming from every direction. We passed a number of loud, booming techno clubs, but we were on a quest for Samba. When we finally arrived at the Rio Scenarium Pavilhao da Cultura, we knew we had found the right place.

The Scenarium was the coolest, funkiest, and most fun bar/club I have ever been to. The decor was nuts. So much visual stimulation: chairs on the ceiling, collections of clocks, sculptures, art objects, stained glass, paintings, dolls. Very classy and artistic. Every floor was different. In the center of the ground floor was the 17-piece band, Tambor Carioca, with an exuberant lead singer, talented guitarist and rocking 12-piece percussion section filled with drums, rattles, tambourines and the distinctive sound of the cu▓ca. This was Samba at its finest. The energy was so powerful. Feet were moving furiously around the dance floor. Not only was everyone dancing, but they were also singing along enthusiastically with the lead singer. Five hundred people all having the most fantastic time, letting loose, partying, laughing, singing and celebrating: a small slice of Carnivale. I could not believe people have this much fun on an ordinary Saturday night.

The women, needless to say, were riveting, and they were all dressed to the nines. The guys sported a much more casual attire: lots of jeans and fashionable T-shirts. My Portugese was still rather rough, but I had the good fortune of finding a French-speaking Brazilian who was there with an English speaking friend. Larry and I had found our dance partners! And the Franco-Brazilian, as it turns out, was a dance teacher in Paris, and was happy to show me the steps and turns of the Samba. The hours passed, everyone kept drinking, and by 4:00, one in three couples was making out on the dance floor. So much PDA, it was like being back in a college frat-party. That Samba heat seemed to work its magic. By 5:00 AM it was time to head back to the hotel. It was a brilliant night and was one of the highlights of the trip.

We woke up, and got the latest checkout possible from the hotel. We headed back to the downtown region and walked around the city. We took in some culture, walking through three art museums. The Museu de arte moderna was my favorite. Larry and I were a bit slap-happy and our sense of humor had degraded and devolved after 10 days together. At this point, we had abandoned all hope of mastering Portuguese, and instead we were amusing ourselves by getting increasingly ridiculous with the natives, who generally did not speak a word of English. Over the 10 days together, Obregado (Thank you) became Obregad and then devolved into Obregatz and by some unprecedented linguistic turn headed towards Italy/Poland and became Obregatski, the red-headed step child of linguistic progeny, the bastard son of Obregado. As we ratcheted up our linguistic abuse, we were totally cracking up, but no one else seemed to notice. During the course of the trip, we had been able to communicate rather effectively using sign language, Larry's Spanish and my French drizzled with enough Spanish and Italian to be dangerous. But in the final days of our trip, we began to throwing in completely random and inappropriate foreign words into our conversation. By the end, easily half of our communications with foreigners were inside jokes between Larry and me.

Our final hours in Rio ticked away as we walked around the mostly desolate downtown area. Pockets of poverty and urban blight. Graffiti on otherwise beautiful buildings. Trash and neglect. These were not the final memories we wanted to bring back from Rio. We took a taxi to Santa Teresa, a purportedly beautiful little town on the road to Corcovado. We arrived in Santa Teresa and found it to be quaint, clean and the people friendly. This was more like it. We grabbed some drinks, some snacks and spent our final hours walking through little shops and listening to a small samba band.

As the day ended, we grabbed our bags from the hotel and headed back to the airport. We spent our final Reals on acai drinks in the boarding area, and prepared for the flight home. All in all, it was a lovely trip. I'll definitely be back for Carnivale, hopefully soon. I do need to practice my Samba steps in the meantime. If you've made it this far, thanks for taking the journey with me!

Back to photos