Posts Tagged With: Brazil

Been There, Done That (But Would Do It Again)

On the wall of my office is a large world map, covering the majority of the available wall-space above my desk. I used to have one twice the size before I sold my home with the purpose of literally downsizing. In each case, the map was/is liberally dotted with color-coded pins detailing the places I’ve been – a badge of honor within the travel community; a lame attempt at looking cool to everyone else. While the act of pinning my map on the safe return from a voyage abroad is a great source of joy (See my blog post: Happiness is Pinning a Giant, Oversized Map), the greater joy comes from reflecting on which experiences were had on that particular spot, and the memories each pin represents.

With so many unpinned places on my map, I’m always quite reluctant to use my precious time and resources to go back to places I’ve already been. But experience has shown that there are some places that are most certainly more than worth it. Below I’ve compiled a list of five of my greatest travel experiences (in no particular order) and the wondrous places where you too can have those same experiences for yourself.

Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey

This region in Central Anatolia is right out of another planet. With cities carved out of the soft volcanic rock and the giggle-inducing shapes of the so-called “fairy chimneys” it’s hard to believe you’re still on earth and not in a galaxy far, far away (See my blog post: The Witty Traveler’s Guide to Cappadocia). The best and most-awesomest way to take in this surreal landscape is by hot air balloon, which will allow you to alternately soar far above and skim the surface of this otherworldly wonderland. If it weren’t for parking and three-point turns, I’d say hot air balloon is the nicest way to travel, period.

Zip-lining in Jodhpur, India

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Zip Lining Mehrangarh Fort

I’m a fan of zip-lining in general, having done so numerous times; mostly in jungle settings. The only gripe I have about these “canopy tours” is that often there’s little to see other than branches and tree trunks as you hum along a cable to the next platform. It’s still an awesome experience, but in the city of Jodhpur, India, you can have the same zip-lining excitement with an entirely different backdrop – in this case the mammoth Mehrangarh Fort with the ethereal ‘Blue City’ lying at its feet (See my blog post: A Hyper-Inspirational Shade of the Color Blue). Starting and ending from the fort’s massive stone ramparts, participants will soar over and around an artificial lake and stare out at the boxy monochrome houses right out of an Escher drawing. So if you like your adventure with a side of scenery, this is the place to do it.

Cheetah Encounter in Livingstone, Zambia

Zimcon 1246As an animal lover, some of my greatest travel experiences quite understandably revolve around animal encounters (See my blog posts: Game On! A Rundown of What to Expect on a Safari Game Drive, and The Chobe Riverfront: Botswana’s Got Game). Of all these encounters, the most thrilling most far was the Cheetah Encounter excursion I had in Livingstone, Zambia (See more on the blog post: When a Cheetah Licks Your Head, Try Not to Laugh). Having the chance to pet, walk and get licked by these gorgeous giant felines was a thrill that still hasn’t worn off. Located near incomparable Victoria Falls, these spotted kitties almost made me forget about that ‘other’ attraction in town.

Shark Diving in Bora Bora, French Polynesia

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Lagoon of Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Continuing the animal encounter theme, the only thing I like more than seeing animals is seeing animals underwater. I’ve done a few shark feeding dives where a ribbon of meat is lowered down an anchor line to the sharks waiting below, and each time it was both thrilling and a tiny bit terrifying. What made the experience in Bora Bora so memorable was the appearance of a trio of 8-10 foot Lemon Sharks who nonchalantly snapped up a morsel of floating food just inches above my head. Being in the open water with creatures longer and fatter than I am is a humbling and exhilarating experience; so much so that it trumps my enthusiastic octopus encounter (See my blog post: To the Octopus I Chanced Upon One Early Winter’s Eve) for Best Undersea Experience.

Hanging Out in Brazil’s Costa Verde

Abraao

The idyllic harbor of Abraao, Ilha Grande, Brazil

I know hanging out doesn’t sound all that exciting, but if you’ve been to Brazil’s Costa Verde I’m sure you can understand. Whether it was a night out on the town in Rio de Janeiro (See the blog post: In Rio de Janeiro Save the Drama for the Scenery), a stroll through the rain forest on idyllic pedestrian-only Ilha Grande (See the Post: A Love Letter to the Island I Met a Year Ago), or an evening’s exploration of the cobblestone streets of supremely charming Parati (See the post: Parati, Brazil – The Whole Package), doing something or nothing was an amazing experience either way. In a perfect world, this is where I’d want to live. I would also have less grays and a six-pack but that’s a story for another time.

Insufficient Data…Sort of

To date I’ve visited 65 countries/territories across all seven continents. That said, according to the handy app Been (#beenapp) I’ve only covered 26% of total world countries (29% of Europe, 18% of Asia, 52% of North America/Caribbean, 42% of South America, 10% of Oceania and 100% of Antarctica). This means that however many pins might adorn my map, there’s still the majority to go. Knowing as I do that each future pin represents an as yet unrealized experience, the above list is subject to change and the activities mentioned are by no means an exhaustive compilation of all that awaits. The fun is going out and finding those experiences that will last a lifetime. That, and pinning it on my giant map.

How About You?

Do you have a Top-Five worthy travel experience that you’d like to share? Leave a comment and share your story to inspire the rest of us

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Categories: Travel Tips | Tags: , , , , , ,

Extra Time Never Sounded So Good

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Call me a weirdo, but as I follow the games of the World Cup—like most of the rest of the world—my eye doesn’t just search for the final scores. I look to see where the game was played. The reason is because I’m not just fascinated with the games, but with the backdrop as well. Politics, riots, and social injustice aside, Brazil appears to be the consummate host and most appropriate setting for the games. Soccer may not have its origins there, but it can certainly be considered it’s home in spirit. And the already party-like atmosphere is enough to get even passive fans excited.

In 2013 my visit was limited to Rio de Janeiro and the Costa Verde, which more than filled the ten days I was in the country. Like other geographically large countries such as Australia, the US and China, it was immediately obvious that only a fraction could be seen in one practical visit. So as stadiums fill in Recife, Natal and Manaus, I intently observe whatever video snippets are shown of the cities and their surroundings. I also can’t help but think what early Amazonian explorers fighting native tribes, hordes of insects and malaria would think of an internationally televised soccer match being played in the lands they had to cut through with a machete (though I suppose the whole attempted cannibalism on the part of Suarez might seem uncomfortably familiar).

 

My favorite part of watching the games has been the reaction of the crowds massed together on Copacabana Beach. That place is already like a nonstop party, and when you throw in thousands of raucous supporters from around the globe cheering and dancing, it must be like Carnival every day of the week. The commentators and experts have the amazing backdrop of Sugarloaf Mountain and it seems they can’t cut to commercial without a shot of the famous Cristo Redentor statue. Rio—which is scheduled to host the next Olympic Summer Games as well—is definitely getting a lot of oohs and aahs from the international audience. Even people I know who are stationary homebodies have expressed a desire to see it for themselves.

 

One would hope that this influx of visitors and revenue will go back to the people of Brazil, creating further stability and greater incentive for travelers to come and spend their money. Either way, the majestic backdrop and natural eye-candy have already boosted people’s image of Brazil, and filled me with a renewed desire to return and explore the regions I couldn’t get to before. In this case it is the stage, and not the actors, who have stolen the show. Extra time never sounded so good.

Categories: Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A Love Letter to the Island I Met a Year Ago

the tranquil cove of Praia Pousa

The tranquil cove of Praia Pousa

Who can forget the bittersweet memories of our former loves? Most times, it followed the same parabola: The flush of excitement upon meeting, the whirlwind of good times spent together, and that sensation of loss that you don’t yet fully comprehend when inevitably your time together runs out. You might be sad for awhile but life goes on and so do we. But there will always be those random triggers that will have you thinking about those magical times on a Tuesday afternoon when driving home from work, or some rainy Saturday while doing laundry.

A year ago I experienced such love. Fortunately I don’t have to hide it from my wife because she was there and I believe was equally enamored as I was. The object of my affection was not a person at all but a lovely island on Brazil’s Costa Verde called Ilha Grande. And now, on the one year anniversary of my arrival there, I’ve decided to write the love letter I always wanted to send.

The idyllic harbor of Abraao

The idyllic harbor of Abraao

I first met Ilha Grande (pronounced eel-ya grun’jee) after a 2.5 hour bus ride from Rio and a 15 minute transfer in a glorified Zodiac with an outboard motor from the tiny hamlet of Conceicao de Jacarei. The day was overcast and well on its way toward evening, but even in the diminished light she was sufficiently beautiful for me to fall in love at first sight. I felt excited disembarking in the only settlement of any size on the island—a village called Abraao. I was enchanted by the lack of vehicles and the sandy streets cutting through the lush greenery that makes up the entire remainder of the island. And I felt that buzz of contentment walking downhill from our hillside pousada and dining right on the beach until a thunderstorm chased us off. Yes, for me sparks were flying on my first night there and the prospect of several more left me in a state of complete well-being.

Lopes Mendez Beach, Ilha Grande, Brazil

Lopes Mendez Beach, Ilha Grande, Brazil

The next day we spent time together at Ilha Grande’s most famous beach—Lopes Mendes. While everything is walkable if you have the time (and stamina) we opted for a boat transfer to the trailhead for the 30 minute hike to the beach past monkeys, sloths and slower tourists. Stepping out from the jungle, I fell in love all over again.

The amazing sand and surf of Praia Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Brazil

The amazing sand and surf of Praia Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Brazil

The sand was a glimmering ribbon of white stretching out in a giant crescent—most of which was peacefully empty. The water was turquoise but choppy given this was the Atlantic side of the island. Laying there listening to the surf, feeling the sun and drinking uma cerveja estupidamente gelado (literally: stupidly cold beer), like many former loves, you wish the good times could last forever.

Nighttime Dining al fresco

Nighttime Dining al fresco

Such longing continued into the evening while dining outside in a backstreet pizza parlor followed by a few hours of leisurely souvenir shopping in the small but lively village. After that it was another walk along the beach under a starry sky with the rich smell of wet vegetation like an intoxicating pheromone. Man, I miss her.

The Loop Trail, Ilha Grande

The Loop Trail, Ilha Grande

The next day we spent some more quality time together, leaving the curve of Abraao Harbor and entering a state park with a loop trail that brought us to scenic overlooks, black sand beaches, an ancient aqueduct, and the remains of a former prison that was once this island’s raison d’etre. This was followed by more dining, shopping and strolling that left us dreading the following day when we knew we’d have to leave.

It’s hard to accept when something good has to end, and leaving Ilha Grande was no exception. Sure, we moved on with our trip, returned home and got on with our life. But like other loves gone by, I still steal a thought or two of our times together, wondering if we shall meet again, and hoping in my heart of hearts that the answer is yes. And it’s that thought that keeps the memory fresh and flame still burning. And yes, it makes doing the laundry all the more enjoyable too.

Categories: Anecdotes, Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A Love Letter to the Island I Met a Year Ago

the tranquil cove of Praia Pousa

The tranquil cove of Praia Pousa

Who can forget the bittersweet memories of our former loves? Most times, it followed the same parabola: The flush of excitement upon meeting, the whirlwind of good times spent together, and that sensation of loss that you don’t yet fully comprehend when inevitably your time together runs out. You might be sad for awhile but life goes on and so do we. But there will always be those random triggers that will have you thinking about those magical times on a Tuesday afternoon when driving home from work, or some rainy Saturday while doing laundry.

A year ago I experienced such love. Fortunately I don’t have to hide it from my wife because she was there and I believe was equally enamored as I was. The object of my affection was not a person at all but a lovely island on Brazil’s Costa Verde called Ilha Grande. And now, on the one year anniversary of my arrival there, I’ve decided to write the love letter I always wanted to send.

The idyllic harbor of Abraao

The idyllic harbor of Abraao

I first met Ilha Grande (pronounced eel-ya grun’jee) after a 2.5 hour bus ride from Rio and a 15 minute transfer in a glorified Zodiac with an outboard motor from the tiny hamlet of Conceicao de Jacarei. The day was overcast and well on its way toward evening, but even in the diminished light she was sufficiently beautiful for me to fall in love at first sight. I felt excited disembarking in the only settlement of any size on the island—a village called Abraao. I was enchanted by the lack of vehicles and the sandy streets cutting through the lush greenery that makes up the entire remainder of the island. And I felt that buzz of contentment walking downhill from our hillside pousada and dining right on the beach until a thunderstorm chased us off. Yes, for me sparks were flying on my first night there and the prospect of several more left me in a state of complete well-being.

Lopes Mendez Beach, Ilha Grande, Brazil

Lopes Mendez Beach, Ilha Grande, Brazil

The next day we spent time together at Ilha Grande’s most famous beach—Lopes Mendes. While everything is walkable if you have the time (and stamina) we opted for a boat transfer to the trailhead for the 30 minute hike to the beach past monkeys, sloths and slower tourists. Stepping out from the jungle, I fell in love all over again.

The amazing sand and surf of Praia Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Brazil

The amazing sand and surf of Praia Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Brazil

The sand was a glimmering ribbon of white stretching out in a giant crescent—most of which was peacefully empty. The water was turquoise but choppy given this was the Atlantic side of the island. Laying there listening to the surf, feeling the sun and drinking uma cerveja estupidamente gelado (literally: stupidly cold beer), like many former loves, you wish the good times could last forever.

Nighttime Dining al fresco

Nighttime Dining al fresco

Such longing continued into the evening while dining outside in a backstreet pizza parlor followed by a few hours of leisurely souvenir shopping in the small but lively village. After that it was another walk along the beach under a starry sky with the rich smell of wet vegetation like an intoxicating pheromone. Man, I miss her.

The Loop Trail, Ilha Grande

The Loop Trail, Ilha Grande

The next day we spent some more quality time together, leaving the curve of Abraao Harbor and entering a state park with a loop trail that brought us to scenic overlooks, black sand beaches, an ancient aqueduct, and the remains of a former prison that was once this island’s raison d’etre. This was followed by more dining, shopping and strolling that left us dreading the following day when we knew we’d have to leave.

It’s hard to accept when something good has to end, and leaving Ilha Grande was no exception. Sure, we moved on with our trip, returned home and got on with our life. But like other loves gone by, I still steal a thought or two of our times together, wondering if we shall meet again, and hoping in my heart of hearts that the answer is yes. And it’s that thought that keeps the memory fresh and flame still burning. And yes, it makes doing the laundry all the more enjoyable too.

Categories: Anecdotes, Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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