Classic South America – 2nd November – 17th November
We arrived late at night and Rio de Janeiro announced itself, not as the usual vast circle of artificial light, but as swathes of darkness with patches of light crowding round them. Clearly, Rio had more mountains than the two we were scheduled to visit, and equally clearly they were within rather than circled around the city.
Next morning, the top floor breakfast room of our hotel gave us a panorama including, Sugar Loaf Mountain and part of Copacabana beach, with frigate birds and vultures circling above.
Later we inched through traffic jams between the peace and views of Corcovado (Christ the Redeemer) and Sugar Loaf Mountains. That afternoon, free time to explore the sports and community centre that is Copacabana beach with its multiplicity of sports pitches, lots of shiny (and well used) sets of resistance bars for those sculpting the body beautiful, and among the bars and schools for various sports at the back of the beach, a stall offering health checks and advice from a doctor, nutritionist, or fitness professional (each identified by his or her tee shirt)
From there to Ilha Grande, where all traffic is foot traffic and where howler monkeys did our groaning for us as we laboured up our first hill, towards the first beach. As well as its wooded hills interesting town and fabulous beaches Ilha Grande was memorable for the mega-strength of the Caiparinas at the Bar Djeco –and the uproarious evening meal that followed their consumption. We only had one each, honest.
Next, Parati where I succumbed to a moment of negativity under the combined effect of hammering rain and the outrageous tourist prices in the historic centre. Once I’d found the much more interesting and reasonable cafes just outside the centre the rain went off and I recovered perspective. The design of the colonial town, with streets open at the ends to the sea or the river was intended to make use of high tides and periodic flooding as free street cleaning …and our rainstorm proved that it kind of still works! Next day, we joined the locals on the bus to the beaches – a very jolly, if crowded, bus ride to beaches large enough to seem remarkably uncrowded away from the main concentration of beach bars.
We arrived at the mind blowing Iguassu Falls in time to take a walk on the Brazilian side, with the best views of the whole shape of the falls…and extraordinarily beautiful butterflies perching on hands or shirts to harvest the minerals in our sweat.
Next day, on the Argentine side we saw our first toucan, our first several coatimundis and took walkways way out over the river to look over each of the largest three individual falls, then down the banks for close-ups from underneath. The rainstorms we’d encountered in Parati had increased the amount of water in the falls and added to the spectacle…and we’d another tropical rainstorm during our time at the falls.
A bumpy three hour drive into the jungle brought us to Yucatinga lodge for a relaxing three night stay, each in our own cabin in the jungle, complete with screened porch. Our first morning walk brought much more wildlife, including an enormous poisonous snake, which our guide leapt on with cries of delight, pinioning it with his snake stick so that he could pick it up for us all to have a closer look! Our afternoon “floating experience” revealed an even greater number of birds than we had seen in the morning…and was fun, too. Also memorable are the variety of sitting or lying down spaces and the meals.
Buenos Aires is a pampas city, so almost completely flat and, being built on a grid, really easy to walk around. Our hotel was very well placed both for exploring on foot and catching transport out of the city if desired. Our City Tour on the first morning was excellent for orientation as well as visiting many places we’d heard of.
Argentine beef lived up to its reputation in our first evening meal in Buenos Aires, which was very special even compared with other excellent meals we’d had at previous stops…and our second night was our fantastic “Tango Night”.
Each of the destinations on this holiday is very different – so much so that on our last night there was general agreement when someone suggested the best feature of the holiday was its variety.
John Carter once described a trip he was covering for a BBC travel show as “a journey for travellers” rather than just a holiday. I regard that as high praise and I think that Classic South America deserves the description. I’m already searching the new brochure for another Ramblers Worldwide Holidays “Great Journey”.