A Travellerspoint blog

Coffeeeeeeeeee!!!!!

overcast 25 °C

In brazil it is the custom to drink tiny cups of coffe. Espresso? No, tiny cups of coffee a bit weaker than (weak) drip-coffee. Also, since there don't appear to be cups of porcelain/sustainable material made tiny enough (or, maybe because cups that small would be a drag to wash?), the coffee is served in plastic cups.
Plastic.
No matter if you are at a cafe or just drinking coffee at your hostel, thin, flimsy plastic it is, holding, oh, about a tablespoon or so. Flashbacks of flourtanten (the Swedish lady who comes to school and makes the kids rinse fluoride mouthwash once a week) occur with increasing frequency.

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Well. Imagine our surprise, delight and utter, sheer happiness when we today visited a Turkish restaurant right next to our hostel and got "Turkish coffee" (without sugar, so modified Turkish coffee, but still). We were thrilled to see it served in actual little tiny cups of porcelain! They were white with little flowers painted on them! They had handles!

Also.. as if the touch of porcelain wasn't enough joy for one day...

The coffee...

... Wait for it..

...WAS STRONG.

Asia and I just about died and went to heaven. Today we have had our best cup of coffee yet on this entire trip. (That includes Argentina where expresso actually exists).

Wow. So. Happy.

We have also spent the whole morning kayaking around on the Atlantic coast outside of Paraty (where we are at the moment). As I think I have mentioned earlier, the water all along this coast is pretty rough, making it tough or impossibly dangerous to swim. Outside of Paraty, though, the coast is made up of mangrove forest and this, as well as a number of small islands and inlets, makes the water really calm at all times. "Never any waves here" said our guide, and he should know.
Anyway. Kayaking through a flooded mangrove forest (full moon tomorrow so the tide is higher than normal) was definitely one of the many highlights of this trip.

Coming home we took a quick rinse to get rid of the salt and then skipped to Istanbul -the Turkish restaurant right around the corner that we've been recommended. I had the best falafel I have ever had in my entire life. Fresh-baked brownies (with walnuts on top and gooey in the middle) came out if the oven jut as we were finishing our meal. And the coffee was so delicious I even finished the centimeter or so of grounds in the bottom of the cup.

It is now 16:34, and I have enough contentment and happiness inside of me to last about a week (or a year, give or take).
Outdoors, ocean, excercise, open air, wonderful-tasting and filling food, amazing brownie dessert and coffee to die for (AND all of this without getting too full and feeling sick(!) ) ...

Life is so good.

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Posted by Irmelin 13:11 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

Flashback: last week in Argentina

Iguazú

sunny

The Iguazú falls are truly one of the (many) wonders of the world. Situated on the border between Argentina and Brazil, the falls stretch for over a mile and make up the world's largest (in width) waterfall. I just can't get over the wonder, beauty and sheer magnitude of water and overwhelming sense NATURE that engulfs the whole area.

One of my new definitions of sheer happiness is brought on by thinking of the plants that grow in the vicinity of the falls. Long, thick and deep green, waving in the breeze, being constantly softly sprayed by mist from the falls, the grass and bushes are a picture-perfect image and definition of the word "lush".

Asia, Linnea and I spent a whole wonderful, awe-infused, amazed and dazzled day with some new-found friends at Iguazú national park (the Argentinian side). We got up early to catch a jeep-tour through a part of the jungle that is inaccessible to walk through hoping to get a glimpse of a jaguar (the guide said she had seen one the morning before). We got to see thousands (ok, hundreds) of giant spiders hanging in nets built across the path right over our heads instead. Not quite what we had opted for but at least they weren't poisonous ;)

Next we got into a boat that took us up the river, towards the falls and INTO the falls. Best shower of my life! (and we couldn't complain about the pressure, either)

Sopping wet we were dropped off on land and proceeded to walk around on the paths built all around the falls. It really is an incredible infrastructural piece of work, not to mention that they've had to redo it a couple of times after years of massive flooding when all the bridges and walkways spanning the falls got washed away.

Asia and I stayed a whole week in the town of Puerto Iguazú - the Argentinian iguazu town. As I said, the area stretches between the three countries of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, and they all have their own towns named Iguazú. Normally people only stay in iguazu for 1-3 days as there is "nothing to do" in the town(s). However, because Linnea's flight out of iguazu was four days before Asia's and my flight, we didn't really have a choice and - SURPRISE - we ended up having a great time :D !!
Sure it is a touristy town, but the nature is absolutely amazing, the climate super-hot and humid, and wine, olives and fresh fruits and veggies are available in abundance!

Also, the feat of running to three countries in one day is pretty cool to have achieved :)

We had such a great stay, and I am reminiscing about that wonderful week with a big smile in my face as I'm sitting on a bus that will take us away from Arraial do Cabo (where we have spent the last 5days) to Paraty.

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I love traveling, and I'm loving the way we travel. So many activities (in iguazu we also went zip-lining through the jungle, rappelled down a waterfall, visited a park/reserve/wildlife center for injured wildlife in the area, went back to the falls, and more that I can't remember right now) but also time to hang out with friends new and old, sleep, read, relax, have fika, eat great food, ponder the joy of living and experience the complete happiness and wonder of being a part of this world.

Posted by Irmelin 20:48 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Last night in Rio!

Sort of.

all seasons in one day 35 °C

Everybody talks about Rio. Everybody loves Rio. Everyone lights up and their eyes fill with happiness and longing when we say we are going to Rio. Everyone. Loves. Rio.
Honestly, I had gotten a little tired of the rest of our trip continually being degraded in the eyes of fellow travelers to "WOW RIO! You're going to have SUCH a good time!! (Oh, and the rest is cool too I guess)."

Well, we've now spent 8 days in Rio de Janeiro. We love Rio. We love talking about Rio. For the rest of our lives our eyes will light up with happiness and longing when somebody says they're going to Rio. We will forget all other details they try to tell us about their amazing trip and get caught up in dreamy reminiscence of our own wonderful trip to Rio aka Paradise.

So what is Rio all about? Why is it so great? Why does everyone rave about it so? It would be impossible (and take a very long time) to write a full answer to those questions. I won't even attempt it. However, I will tell you a bit about our experiences.

Rio is a huge city that sprawls through an expanse of hills and valleys. There are numerous viewpoints (or Miradores) that offer excellent breathtaking views, but no one spot is able to show off the whole city at once. It is tucked into the overwhelming nature, greenery and mountains (not to mention the ocean and beaches..!) of Costa Verde - the green stretch of Atlantic coast between São Paulo and Rio (approximately).
Oh, and did I mention that Rio is beautiful?

We arrived by bus from São Paulo at about six on Saturday morning and managed to get a taxi to our hostel. The taxi driver first tried to charge us 70 reais instead if 44 (the price we had gotten from the taxi-organization-booth) (everything is very organized in Brazil), and when we argued and asked why, he said it was "because we had luggage". This was of course ridiculous so we settled on 50. Being "cheated" on 20 reals (or for whatever reason), our driver was pissed and proceeded to drive us through the city at breakneck speed, going straight through a number of red lights in moderately heavy morning traffic. We finally arrived at our hostel and got out of the cab, kissed the ground and shed a tear of relief and have since then taken the metro everywhere :)

Our hostel is called Casa 579 and situated in Santa Teresa, a lovely, hilly neighborhood in between the beaches and the "center" of town. Streets are cobblestoned and narrow, hills are steep, the streets winding and greenery covers everything. From our hostel we have an amazing view of the Christ statue as well as Sugar Loaf hill and the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. It is easy to reach all parts of the city, breakfast is absolutely fabulous, the staff are incredible and friendly, the hostel itself has a great kitchen and common areas (including a rooftop terrace) and great rooms (we should know, we've stayed in about half of them by now ;) ). Originally, we had planned to stay only two nights in Santa Teresa and then move closer to the beach. Well, two nights became three, became four, became six, became eight.. Did I mention that we love this place?

Our days have been spent relaxing, sightseeing Rio, lying on the beach(es) (Ipanema and Copacabana), exploring the local cuisine (meaning: found a local restaurant that we absolutely love and have been visiting 1-2 times a day for the past week. Good thing they let you take leftovers home or I'm afraid we would have starved today as it is Sunday and the place is closed..), running, touring the biggest favela in South America (Rocina, and that experience is worth a whole blog post all by itself), going to a Friday night "street party" (where they close off a huge street in the center of Rio and literally have a giant party with lots of music, drinks, people and pickpockets) and staying up all night. A good number of hours have also been spent taking in the lovely views, relaxing in hammocks on the terrace, reading books and just LOVING LIFE. Because life is SO GOOD.

Tomorrow we leave for Arraiao do Cabo, a small beach town a couple of hours up the coast known for its beautiful beaches, white sand dunes, untouched islands with caves and some if Brazil's best scuba diving. Also, it is only going to rain half the time of our stay ( as opposed to all the time.. The rainy season has come early this year, which actually is one of the main reasons for our prolonged stay in Rio. Originally we wanted to spent a couple of days hiking in Teresópolis, a mountain village on the edge of a national park. We also wanted to go to Ihla Grande, an island a couple if hours down the coast said to be one I Brazil's most beautiful spots and not to be missed.. Unless it is raining, at which you should avoid the island at all costs. Well, we've had thunderstorms nearly every day and there is a week of downpour forecasted.. So Ihla Grande will have to be scheduled for another trip)

Luckily we don't have to say a definite goodbye to our beloved Rio just yet as we'll be coming back to spend a few last days here before flying to Paraguay.

Oh, and did I mention that Christoffer is here also? I can't believe how perfect life is, and how lucky I am to have such wonderful and amazing people around me to share it with.. Every day is absolutely wonderful and my heart keeps swelling with happiness until it fills my whole chest.

I love our life so much.
(We say that every day, several times a day, and we mean it with all our hearts).

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Posted by Irmelin 02:19 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

New country!

semi-overcast 26 °C

I keep forgetting that traveling can be both taxing and tiring between the stunning awesomeness. Indeed, taking in all the amazingness is tiring in itself - the word "tiring" used as neither positively or negatively but simply a neutral statement.

Coming to Brazil and São Paulo from Argentina was one if those quite taxing experiences.
Firstly, we were sad for leaving our precious Argentina (my new favorite country in South America! :) ).
Secondly, (although we didn't talk about it at the time as there was nothing to do about it) both Asia and I were a bit sullen about missing out on a good nights sleep on a bus :P haha never had I ever thought I would feel that way - actually jealous of our hostel friends who got to take the 19 hour bus ride from iguazu to Rio..
Thirdly, coming to Brazil was a bit if a culture shock. New language, new food, new money, new atmosphere.. It is a bit overwhelming!
As I think about it, I realize that this happens (more or less intensely) basically every time I travel somewhere. Then I get over it and promptly forget about it. The good thing about realizing the thought-pattern is that I no longer have to feel "bad" for being tired sometimes while traveling.. Even if it is wonderful (and it is!), it is perfectly natural to be a bit overwhelmed from time to time. I actually think it is a good thing, because it means my brain is processing all the info, right? Allowing me to also fully take in all the GOOD feelings and impressions that come with new experiences. Allowing me to be high on life ;) because boy, am I high on life..! :)

Today we spent all day riding bikes through the streets if São Paulo. It was AMAZING.
I'm awed and happy partly for the wonderful experience, but also if the sheer effort that goes into this project! Large streets here in the city have 3-4 lanes in both directions with a grassy stretch as a divider. The asphalt of the inner lane in both directions is painted red, and every 100 m or so have writing that says "Domingo", "7-16" and a picture if a bike. This is because every Sunday between 7 and 16, that lane is closed off from traffic and only open to bikers. As if that weren't enough, there is an actual person (paid, not volunteer) standing at every crosswalk and intersection (in every direction!) with a bright red flag. When the light turns red this person steps out into the bike lane, holding the flag up so that bikers can't pass and therefore don't get hit (?) by the cars that have a green light. (I'm not sure if this is a courtesy for the bikers or the cars).
This goes on for MILES. It really is incredible. As is the sheer number if people biking around! In my limited personal one-time experience of this phenomenon, I would say the city of São Paolo has definitely reached the goal of increasing the exercise of the population :)

Asia and I biked with a couple of friends who we have gotten in touch with through Linnea. It is such a blessing to know people in the cities we are traveling to, we are SO lucky!!
After a couple of hours riding around the city (seeing a couple if magnificent parks along the way) we were hungry and sweaty. Yamê (originally Linnea's friend) picked up the five if us and our bikes (safe to say, it was quite a project getting them all into a pickup-truck..but three times is the charm and eventually we could carefully drive away. With a pile if bikes towering in a more or less stable pile a meter or more over the sides if the pick-up..).

Then we went for lunch!! O.M.G. I wonder how many times a person can the best meal of their life. An endless amount, seemingly ;) as it happened once again today.
Like a Brazilian-style paella, our lunch consisted if rice and "Fruto de Mar" mixed together with a yellow sauce.. I realize that this doesn't sound exceptional, but you'll just have to take my word for it. We scraped the plates clean (and would probably happily have licked them, too). Just thinking about that lunch makes my mouth water. I can feel the tender calamari almost melting in my mouth.. Aaah yuuuuummmm!!

The rest of the afternoon (17-19 or so) was spent at a bar watching a soccergame that was actually held in São Paulo. Asia and I had originally decided to go see the game at the stadium, but watching it with friends seemed a lot more fun as we thought about it (that, of course, had nothing to do with the facts that we 1. hadn't managed to get tickets yet and 2. didn't really know how to get to the stadium.. ;) )

After that we were exhausted.
After quiet evening spent playing drawsomething and chatting, we are looking forward to a whole nights sleep (Asia is actually already in that far-away dream-world ;) ) before flying to Florianópolis tomorrow afternoon! Yay! Exciting!!

Goodnight! :)

PS. I have a feeling that although Argentina us my new favorite country, Brazil might turn out being my favorite people.. EVERYONE is so friendly, open, curious, extrovert, helpful.. And this is in São Paulo, south America's biggest city, known for being ugly, unfriendly, unsafe, impersonal, and overall not very much fun. If that really is "true" (in comparison) I can't even imagine what Rio will be like..!

Posted by Irmelin 19:13 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

Mendoz.. Just kidding ;) TATTOOOOOOO!!

Córdoba! Great city! Like Buenos Aires but smaller. And we stayed in the Best hostel yet!!

rain 18 °C

Going to Córdoba wasn't part of the original plan. However, we had decided that we would stop SOMEWHERE for a few days between Mendoza and Iguazú. (Well, technically, Mendoza wasn't part of the original plan either).

In Mendoza we found a friend in Francis, a Swiss guy living in Córdoba to study Spanish so as to regain fluency and be able to work in Argentina. As he spoke warmly of Córdoba, we naturally wanted to visit (it is so much fun visiting cities where you actually know someone!), and that us precisely what we did.

Now. Asia and I had repeatedly talked about wanting tattoos forever, what we thought about getting and where as well as realizing that nothing was really stopping us.. We just needed that extra motivation. We had joked about getting tattoos done in South America but decided that we probably wouldn't find a good, clean, safe place since we would never have any references.

While checking into our hostel in Córdoba, Linnea hands me a flyer laying in the reception. Amilkar Tattoo Studio. A sign from above? I can feel excited butterflies starting to gather in my stomach as I show Asia the flyer and we turn to the guy in the reception and demand any information he might have on the subject (excitement sometimes doesn't leave enough room for politeness). He surprises us by saying that it is the second-best place in all of Córdoba, but only half as expensive as the "best" place. Still, the rumor of "second-best" probably simply comes of the lower price, as the quality is very good. He himself recently got a large tattoo at Amilkar on his right calf, and he is extremely happy with it. He strongly recommends the place.
Sign or no, Asia and I could now barely contain our excitement.

That evening we sat for hours researching, drawing, talking, dreaming, going through our most serious tattoo-ideas from the last couple if years.

The image most strongly etched in my brain (or I should say heart because that is where the feelings sit :) ) is something I drew a couple of years ago and have been thinking on and off about (in relation to getting it tattooed) since then.
It is the silhouette if a bird flying into/past the sun/moon and the strong sense if freedom, strength and love of life that the said image projects to me.

The day after that we had them done. It was exhilarating, wonderful, amazing, didn't hurt a tenth as much as I thought it would and definitely extremely addictive.

I love my tattoo so much. I can hardly begin to describe the feeling. It's as if a part of me that has always been there is suddenly visible. Something that was missing is now there. I have gained something precious. I love it.

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Posted by Irmelin 15:11 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

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