Sunday, February 5

Brazilian Nut Mix

Perhaps it's time to fill you in on our first week in Brazil. We arrived in Rio on November 14, after two weeks in Peru. This next part of our RTW ticket proved to be another whirlwind of sights, sounds and smells.

Our less-than-direct flight from Lima to Rio passed without incident. As some of you will know we flew Lan Chile which saw us transit via Santiago. The flight left Lima at 1:15am and took three hours to reach Santiago. However Santiago is currently two hours ahead of Peru so we found ourselves awakened for breakfast barely two hours into our flight. Ouch! The early rise did enable us to watch the sun rise over the Andes. A magic moment. From Santiago we flew to Rio with a brief stop in Sao Paulo. Flying into San Paulo was an experience itself. From the air we could see that this was truly an enormous urban expanse that seemed to extend to the horizon in every direction.

RIO - Grand Prix seafood
Rio was incredible! We wished we´d had more than 1.5 days here. I think we´re definitely going back. The city is set in one of the moment beautiful locations I´ve ever seen. Sydney harbour pales by comparison. Our hotel was close by Flamengo beach, which sits within the main bay of Rio looking directly at RiƵ´s famous Sugarloaf Mountain. We spent our first afternoon strolling along the beach promenade trying our best to soak in the wonderful laid-back culture.

We caught a cab to Marius, a popular seafood restaurant later that night. The meal was an endless degustation menu consisting of every fresh seafood dish you can imagine. We literally rolled ourselves out the door after one too many prawns! Marius also operates a meat restaurant with the same format next door. Garry immediately made me promise we’d try this establishment the following evening. Those of you that know Garry will also know that there is no more dedicated carnivore than he. We did indeed return the following night and consumed every conceivable part of a cow known to man, plus a few pigs, chickens and other meats I was too nervous to ask for a translation.

Catching a cab to both restaurants is something everyone should experience once in their life. Rio cab drivers are all in training for the national Grand Prix, revving engines loudly at every red light, taking any corner at breakneck speed and generally doing their best to pass every other vehicle on the road. Of course road chaos is nothing new to me after many years in Asia. India and China definitely have random driving as a national sport, however, Rio adds the frightening element of speed to this mix!

Discovering a better use for Vodka
Almost ten years ago now, Kinselas, a popular bar in Sydney briefly closed its doors. The bar's new owners gutted the joint, transforming it into a trendy minimalist water hole. Upon reopening, its signature drink became the Caiprioska. What a wonderful beverage. It's the perfect cure for scurvy, and it's preparation is the ultimate workout routinue for any barman.

Trying making your own version:

In Brazil, Garry and I soon discovered that Kinselas had simply been cashing in on the nation's favourite drink. The Brazilian national drink is the Caipririnha. It's made from a sugar cane alcohol called Cachaca, which is mixed liberally with crushed limes and palm sugar, then shaken over ice. If you subsitute the Cachaca for Vodka, you've created a Caiprioska. However, unlike Kinselas, the correct method for making this drink in Brazil requires the barman to pour vodka into your glass until someone suggests he stop! This is the perfect drink mixing process for any customer that’s just completed a Rio cab ride.

Death by cable car
I shouted Garry a private tour of Rio for his birthday. This involved a whirlwind tour with a personal guide of key Rio highlights including the famous Corcovado mountain where a 30 metre statue of Christ watches over the city. The view from here was spectacular and gave us our classic postcard photos. We took the local cable car to reach the summit, an experience on it´s own. We then drove through the old neighbourhood of Santa Teresa where even the cable car drivers think they´re Grand Prix champions. I´d never seen a cable car sway quite the way they did in this particular neighbourhood! Thank goodness Garry refused to ride one the day before due to pure exhaustion.

Dancing in the streets
Of course, Rio wouldn't be Rio without Carnivale. Our guide took us to the famous street where it all happens. Television can be so disceiving. You'd think the parade was snaking it's way through miles and miles of city suburbs, when in reality, it's all taking place on a purpose-built roadway, less than 800 metres long. While in the area, I boldy rented an old costume and had my own little Mardi Gras.

We then caught the cable car up Sugarloaf mountain for more spectacular views. One highlight was watching ant-sized climber making their way up the rock face the hard way. From Sugarloaf our tour took us past an endless stream of beautiful coastal beaches that reminded us of the best in Sydney.

PARATY - a Portuguese paradise
We joined our next tour group later that evening. Early the next morning we drove to the heritage-listed town of Paraty. This is a perfectly preserved Portuguese colonial town about four hours south of Rio. A truly scenic town of old white buildings with colourful painted doorways, window sills and trims, located on bone-jarring cobblestone streets. The town is set in a harbour of islands which we visited by boat the following day. Most of the boat trip was spent swimming, soaking up sunshine and drinking the national drink.

From Paraty it was on Sao Paulo with yet another bus driver in training for the Grand Prix. Sao Paulo is huge. We spent our first evening here in a classy bar at the top of a 41-storey building, drinking, you guessed it, the national drink. The city spreads as far as the eye can see in every direction. The following day was spent exploring the city. In the morning we took a walking tour with our guide through several city neighbourhoods before leaving the group to do our own thing at the local Zoo.

Our Brazilian adventure continues here.

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