Leaving Rio, heading to Paraty: The last and final phase.

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Brazilian riders had these fabulous baroque Andalusians.

Sadly all fun things must come to an end…for us, that means leaving Rio, wrapping up our last Olympic sport (dressage) and hopping in a bus to head four hours out of the city to the Disneyland-beach town of Paraty (pronounced Para-chee, for some crazy Portuguese reason…).

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Art in motion!

When I say it is a Disneyland place, it’s because, compared with Rio, Paraty is just so..easy. Fun architecture, no cars really drive around in the old town, beaches galore, tons of adventure type stuff to do (kayak, snorkel, take party boats out, horseback ride, hike, taste cachaca). I would have LOVED to spend more time there, and was so sad when we had to leave.

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Kayaking!

When we arrived it was very chilly- brrr! The weather improved for our 1 full day there, and we went kayaking for 3 hours! I have never kayaked before in my life but it is pretty easy as it turns out. We went around the archipelago and into a mangrove swamp. We saw some land crabs there that are pretty big.

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Going through the mangrove swamp.

The restaurants in Paraty are excellent- we ate seafood stew from a cauldron type thing, and the day after a great feijoada- black bean stew with chunks of meat. YUM! As always, portion sizes were out of this world huge…

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Treacherous cobbles, but a very neat place.

And we were fortunate enough to be there during the Cachaca Festival! That’s right, cachaca any way you can drink it- I had it in hot chocolate in the evening, and in the daytime I had it in a slushy – your choice of frozen chocolate, coconut, tangerine. YUM!!!

I wanted to spend more time in Paraty- such a lovely place, quite busy but really lovely. Easy to get around it, safe, and totally cool. I miss it so much.

 

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River in front of our hotel.

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Very old Portuguese church. Look at how huge the door is!

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Creatures of Brazil: Phase 6

A trip to Brazil isn’t complete without the awe of seeing so many cool critters. We did see the larger capybara at the airport in Sao Paulo, but no photos sadly as we were whizzing by on a bus too fast to capture it!

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Meet Mr. Agouti!

Otherwise you will have to feast your eyes on these little guys: the agouti.

Much smaller than the capybara, the agouti- also referred to as the ‘common agouti’- sidenote does anyone find it strange they refer to these cool and unique animals as ‘common’? Like the ‘common’ marmoset I posted about earlier?

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They look like weird guinea pigs and are actually related to them but have longer legs and can pick things up with their front paws and sit on haunches, much like squirrels. In a large park in the middle of Rio, there were about a thousand of them. I’m not kidding. The park was absolutely crawling with agouti…homeless people…about a 100 cats…Ibis…and geese? They are apparently very fast and pretty good swimmers. They are also regarded as one of the only animals that can open Brazil nuts! Funny eh?

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Like squirrels at a feeding station.

It was a very strange and unusual experience for us.

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Look carefully at the top of the trees.

They all existed more or less in harmony? There was food put out for the animals in food stations, so I guess the city or whoever is okay with this little animal kingdom happening. In Costa Rica, the agouti are incredibly shy and I never saw one in the two times I visited. Go to the middle of a huge city and there they are! All over!

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There they are! Ibis on a mating display.

 

Girl from Ipanema: Phase 5!

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Ipanema Beach!

Our time in Rio wasn’t all Olympics- we made sure to do lots of other fun things, like check out the Leblon area (SO chic, and very, very expensive!), as well as Ipanema Beach. Sadly we didn’t spend a lot of time (or swim) at Ipanema beach, as we had kind of tacked it onto an already busy day, but it was quite lovely all on it’s own to chill out at.

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Christ the Redeemer

That morning, we had booked tickets to go see Christ the Redeemer. A foggy day but it really turned around and worked out fine in the end. Quite the sight- I highly recommend going!

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Me with a foggy Christ the Redeemer

And the view…Amazing!

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Just stunning….This is where the they did the Olympic rowing too.

And then we went straight to the Jardim Botanico- and wow, so many monkeys. I loved the common marmosets the most, and the capuchin monkeys kind of scared me a bit. Crazy little guys, there were so many! I was like, oh look, a monkey…and Ian said, there’s never just one monkey…He was right!

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Many capuchin monkeys

They were very close to us!

13995602_10100602801628726_7934411114911010201_oMarmosets too!

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Cute but weird up close.

And some very active lizards in the desert section of the Jardim.

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Olympic dreams: Cross-country! Phase 4

Back to the plan- we watched cross-country out in the Deodoro area, which seemed like quite the trek out but after learning how far boxing was? I was counting my blessings it was only subway + train ride away! (and a long walk).

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RIO!!

The cross-country course was extremely technical and thrilling. There were quite a few falls by horse and rider but no serious injuries and everyone was up and walking immediately. This is important because the eventing community has come under fire the past few months and years due to a number of serious falls at a series of events, some resulting in the deaths of horse or rider. It is very frightening, and I was soooo glad that while the course was very challenging, it was not a killer.

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The course (it was hard to decipher)

That aside, I was in AWE of the skill, bravery and sheer balls these gutsy horse and rider combos had. WOW. Just WOW. Go you guys! It was stunning to watch and just so amazing. I loved watching so much I was super sad to leave and wanted to come back the next day…

Just amazing.

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So much power!

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Spooky? Huge? No problems!

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Keyholes…no biggie

Wow!!!

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Just love it.

These guys are consummate professionals!

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Into the other water like no prob.

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I loved this, it is a churrascuria picnic table en rodizio!

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We interrupt this Olympic broadcast to say…

I love my pony! We had our first real jump lesson- with tiny jumps- back since our vacay and Oats came back great, if a little half-assed haha. He could NOT be bothered with tiny jumps, so he sauntered over them the whole time.

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Me from literally three years ago.

We worked over a small gymnastic (remember our last gymnastic experience- it did not go well- and this one was great) and then over a small course a few times. He was lovely! My eye kind of sucked and I made a few ‘non choices’ when it came to distances (yes-no-yes-no…go!).

Oh well! I have work to do on that clearly. The positives include my dad watching Oats go in a lesson for the first time in forever, and he remembered when Oats was a total shithead. Now, Oats looks like the easiest pony in the world to ride, and it’s nice to have people see him go completely nonchalantly…Ah…

Also positives- the jumps were tiny, rode tiny, and didn’t excite me at all. Hmmm!

So far, so good for our days back in action. Whoop! Two great lessons in a row, I am a greedy girl (a nice but extremely tough dressage lesson with Karen on Tuesday, and then my jump lesson with Nicole on Wednesday). Oats gets a well-deserved rest day today and I get to go shopping to the Sitka sale. YAY! *after work, of course. Blah…

Olympic hopefuls: Rio here we come! Phase 3

After our trip to Sao Paulo de Morro, it was back to Salvador via boat-bus-boat for a half day. We went back to the restaurant we loved so much (the Zulu lounge) and had another fish moqueque for dinner with cairpirinhas- love them!

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The aqueduct in the Lapa district.

Then it was back to the airport bright and too early to head to Rio. We had an Olympic soccer game that evening to attend! The trip to the airport was a little more stressful than we anticipated at 5am…There was an all-night party on the highway median and it was wrapping up as we drove to the airport. That meant there was gridlock traffic the whole way to the airport- a good hour drive on a regular day! That meant we were scrambling (again) for our flights. Just once I’d like to get to the airport in Brazil with looots of time.

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A very fun restaurant area near our air bnb.

Anyways, we made it fine to Rio and met up with my family. They were staying a few subway stops away from us, while we had an air bnb in the Lapa district- super grungy and distinctly ‘bummy’ with lots of homeless people, but at night really comes alive as a hot nightclub/bar district. The parties went until 6 a.m. most nights!

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The Olympic torch!

We zipped off to the Maracana Stadium for the evening games- we had missed the first games as we got in to Rio too late, but were able to catch the Argentina- Algiers match. No big surprise, Argentina won, but it was a tense 30 minutes…

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Briefly thrilling!

It was a fun game, and a bit hectic getting back to Lapa but all in all, not a big deal.

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Me and my dad at the game.

Some shots of Lapa- the aqueduct now has a tram that goes on top of it, that you can ride for free to Santa Teresa, a cool rooftop neighbourhood.

 

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Enjoying a different view via the tram on the aqueduct.

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The tram! So cute and free!

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The aqueduct in early evening.

Brazil Journey Phase 2: Sao Paulo de Morro!

After landing in Salvador, we hopped the ferry boat to Sao Paulo de Morro (St. Paul’s Hill) a super touristy little island that is for people-only, no cars!

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Way out in the tidal flats

Well that was the plan, except it is winter and the Atlantic was so rough we had to cut sideways to a closer island, hop into vans and drive for two hours, to get into another boat to get to the island. It took closer to 3.5 hours than 2 on the open ocean! Argh!

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Boat ride #2

Once we were on the island, everything was so close. We walked to our hotel, and it was super nice, a boutique hotel. Things on the island are NOT cheap- quite pricey compared with Salvador. It was much quieter than we anticipated, apparently the island as  reputation for being quite wild, a real party town in tourist months. We had our pick of restaurants- there are like a zillion, and they seem to offer a lot of Italian food for some reason hahah. We had lobster two days in a row! Can’t complain about that!

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View from our hotel…Amazing.

The draw there is the beach- it is enormous, there are three of them and we had the beach right outside our room. There is also a big zipline, which I didn’t do because I am quite frankly afraid of heights!

Swimming was fun- because it is winter, the rainy season also happened and it was hot and sunny, then pouring rain, then hot and sunny, then pouring rain. Made for an interesting day!

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The town square.

We ate acai (yum!!) frozen gelato, chips and bought beers and generally just had a fabulous time. It’s very easy to like the island Sao Paulo de Morro, I can say that! We even waded out to a tide pool that has a ton of very friendly fish- it’s like snorkeling except you don’t even have to snorkel, haha.

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I loved the breakfast our hotel had- it was AMAZING. Best spread of the stay I think! I would definitely recommend visiting the island- the trip out can be a bit of a pain in the butt, but you it’s worth it.

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Tranquil.