Rio de Janeiro and Curitiba.

Hello everyone,

I hope life's being good to all of you.

Here's a few lines on what me and Edel's been doing so far since heading off.

== Rio de Janeiro ==

We spent the first 10 days in Rio, enough time to recover from the 12
hour flight, see the obligatory sights and spend a few lazy days -
begin working on a tan and play guess-fake-or-real on the copacabana
beach. We had a couple of cloudy days but temperature was between 25
and 30 most of the time.

The day we went up the Corcovado mountain to see the Christ the
Redeemer statue was one of the cloudy ones. There's a little train
that goes up the 700m mountain, very nice ride passing through some
rain forest on the way. Anyway, I think the train hit the clouds at
about meter 650 or so - was a lot of big white nothing in every
direction and we couldn't see Rio down below. In fact, we couldn't
even see the 30 meter statue right in front of us.. Once in a while
the clouds would clear a bit and Jesus would jump out of the fog, and
then everyone would lift their camera at the same time and take a
photo before the clouds came back. Took some as well..

The other obligatory sight of Rio is the Sugarloaf mountain, we took
the cable cars up one of the last days before heading out of Rio. It's
400 meters high and you have a really good view of Rio from there..I
took lost of photos. Then I found a group of small monkeys in a patch
of bamboo forest on top of the mountain....took even more photos....
Wonder how they got up's really steep flat mountain side
most of the way up on each side..

Hang Gliding over Rio was birthday present from Edel :-)
We got it organized with the usual brazilian messiness (had booked
with one company the day before, but the taxi they sent to pick us up
dropped us off at another one - this one still found me a tandem
flight buddy though..after a while. The disclaimer they wanted me to
sign said I had taken part in a days training but I still signed
it..straight away :-)
First there was a drive up the mountain to the takeoff point. My
flight buddy Martial's car had broken down so we got a lift from his
friend (also a nice parachute/hangglider adrenaline junky). The road
up the mountain was too narrow to meet another car but that was fixed
but constant use of the horn.
Now, I'm not extremely happy with heights, I don't have a problem if
I'm hundreds of meters of several kilometers up or if I'm in the
middle of the sky (have done parachute & para sailing before) but I
don't like being near the edge a few dozen meters up, especially if
there's no railing.
So we got to the takeoff point, Martial assembling the glider and I'm
looking around a bit at other people taking off. The takeoff point is
a little wooden platform at the edge of the mountain top, a few dozen
meters above the hill below, naturally with no railing as we have to
run out over the edge to take off..
At this point I'm hoping to myself that Martial's glider is in better
shape than his car.. He seemed to be very careful with the glider
though and must have told me twenty times not to touch the
handlebar/steering device. We practised takeoff once by running 10
meters side by side then it was time for takeoff.. When we're running
on the wooden platform I notice Martial is running a good bit faster
than me..badbadbad. I could try to blame this on me wearing sandals or
on how I'm attached to the glider but the truth is probably that my
legs were shaking... To keep up I took hold of the one part of the
glider I wasn't supposed to touch and there was a few wobbly moments
of "don't touch that" and "sorrysorrysorry" just after we took off.
Once the glider stabilized in the air it was amazing though, looking
down over the trees in the rain forest (the takeoff mountain is in the
Tijuca national park), and we could spot all the sights of Rio from
the air. The glider was very still in the air (once I wasn't messing
with the handle..) and I could hear just the light sound of the air
passing by my ears.
The landing 10-15 minutes later was surprisingly smooth and we landed
on our feet at the landing zone on the beach.
In a parachute jump you have the really cool contrast between first
the extreme buzz of the freefall and then the silence and peace once
the parachute is opened, but hang gliding seems better for enjoying
the scenery. I'd definitely try it again.

Together with the hang gliding, walking in the Tijuca national park
was probably the highlight of Rio for me. It's part of the very little
that is left of the atlantic rain forest that used to cover most of
the south east of brazil - only 7% or so of it is left now. This park
covers a couple of small mountain tops just outside Rio (well, inside
really - there's city on every side of it now). The day we went there
was cloudy with a few showers of rain, perfect really as it would
probably have been to hot to walk for a full day otherwise, and the
forest is even more beautiful with some rain.
The walk we did was about 8km long, starting by a nice waterfall and
then slowly moving up the mountain. (We probably walked a good bit
longer cause I kept wanting to explore little paths heading into the
jungle from the main road..)
After an hour or so we were walking into the clouds that were lying on
the mountain, was like a white fog covering the forest.
About halfway there was a nice little restaurant where we stopped to
eat and outside the restaurant there were a few humming birds...really
strange little things - move more like insects than birds in the
air..can even fly backwards.
A while later we met some friendly brasilians that were having a
barbecue (under a parasol) in the rain - they even invited us to join
(had to say no to the food since we were stuffed from the restaurant
Once we got back to Alto Boa Vista - a little village outside the park
we jumped on the first bus we saw..not always a brilliant idea in Rio
and we were the only ones looking touristy on the bus.. Got off when
it seemed to be heading towards the shantytowns.., then after a good
while waiting found a bus heading back to copacabana. This bus in turn
way delayed an hour something because of first a blocked off road,
then a peace protest, and finally some gay event. I didn't care - I
had a brilliant day.

The day after we took a lazy day on copacabana beach and I didn't use
enough sunscreen...only on the face to be precise .. me idiot.. Edel
(not badly burnt) saved my skin with some aftersun afterwards, and was
then holding up and pointing to a bottle of factor 60 while making
caveman/ape grunting noises to make sure even I would understand til
the next time. Oh I love her :-)

From Rio we took a night bus down to Curitiba (seemed a good middle
point to break up the otherwise 35 hours bus to Iguazu falls). It was
a very comfy bus that's really made for sleeping...the driver was
almost as mad as the ones on the Rio buses though so it was pretty

== Curitiba ==
First day in Curitiba we decided to take it easy, wasn't feeling a
100% after the 13 hour night-bus. So we were walking around in the
city center being touristy, even tried to get in to a museum. Very
unfortunately it was closed so then (and this goes severely against my
principles) we jumped on one of these tourist buses that drives you
around between all the sights in a town with a voiceover to explain
what you see. Curitiba isn't an extremely big city bus the bus ride
was extremely long.
"...the park you see also has a path with a bike lane and a
tunnel"...."to the left we see a tree; it's not the only tree in
Curitiba, but interesting nonetheless...".
Ok, I made the second one up but you get the idea. It went far from
the center as well so it wasn't really an option to jump off and walk.
To add insult to injury the bus was also very noisy, a highpitch
squeaky noise for every turn. Once we got back to where we jumped on
after 3-4 hours I was feeling like "Edel - carry ...must....have....alcohol..."
Day 2 we took the 3.5 hour train ride through the mountains and rain
forest between Curitiba and the coast - the one we came here for. Some
parts of it was indeed extremely scenic - you could see seven shades
of blue for the forest covered mountain tops closer and closer to the
horizon and the train passed a few nice waterfalls.
The train left at 8 in the morning but somehow got late and didn't
arrive in Paranagua until 1 something. Return train was at 2 so we
really only had time to buy return tickets and some water - no time
for lunch but they had handed out some crackers and peanuts on the
train... The train on the way back....think it must've broke down a
couple of times or something...was standing still very long and then
started again with a bang and kept going another little while... Nice
it didn't break down on one of the small bridges with 100m drop but was past 9 in the evening when we finally got back and
that second dose of crackers didn't help much to keep starvation at
bay... On top of that, once we got back we jumped on a bus to
hopefully bring us to the city center, open restaurants and -=food=- -
the bus said something that sounded like center but must have meant
"the sticks" in portugese cause that's where it was taking us.. Took a
while to realize we needed to get off and catch another one in the
opposite direction - was past 10pm when we got back again... Finally
had a fat ol burger at the busstation and went home to sleep, and
first thing this morning we booked the ticket out of Curutiba..

We're in Puerto de Igazu now, on the Argentinian side of the border.
Arrived this morning and haven't had a look at the water falls yet,
will write about it in the next one..

I'll post a few rolls of film back home today...should get some
Rio/Curitiba photos up on in a week or so..

take care, hope to hear from you all :-)