Travel Journal

Rio and Gramado conference in Nov 2009

(Saturday 21 November 2009) by Brennan-adventures
Hi Folks,
Long time no hear!!! Well we have managed another quick trip back to Brasil, Mike going to a conference in Gramado in the south of Brasil. We decided to have a couple of days in Rio then fly down to Gramado.
We left a sunny but cold U.K. on Thursday morning and had a chilly flight over… I have never been so cold on a plane before…. Still better cold than too hot!!! We arrived 5 mins early in Brasil and then waited 30mins to get through Immigration, by this time it is 11pm and I am falling asleep on my feet. The temp was 25c…..
The journey to the Hotel had the usual racing driver wannabe behind the wheel which somehow felt more out of control driving around tight bends on viaducts…. I didn’t look that much to be honest, too scared.8-O

Arriving at the Hotel, I was thinking cool shower and air-con; we got a surprise to find complete blackness….a power cut, Help NO AIR-CON!!!!! Booking in was done by the light of a couple of computer screens, then we were told 5th floor…. You guessed it no lifts.
The porter was tasked with pulling our luggage up the flights of stairs. While we were on the stairs the emergency lighting was used…. I managed to climb all the flights without stopping….
More a pride thing than fitness level, as my thighs were crying out STOP !!! :-\
The corridor going towards the room was pitch black, not able to see your hand in front of your face, I suddenly thought this is what blind people face every day…. Sheer terror for me!! The porter and Mike had gone ahead to the room and were completely silent…. I had no idea which direction or how far to go, I yelled for them to talk to me so my honed radar would pick up the direction…. In reality the porter appeared with a torch, is that another item I have to carry in hand-luggage now???!!!!

Well the room was dark, indeed very middle earth cave like would have been a better description, and sticky. The window was open, fat lot of good that did as there was no breeze. The porter hung around, and embarrassingly we had no change, #20.00 seemed a little excessive even if he did climb 5 flights!! We must remember to see him the next day. :-\
Mike had a brainwave to use his lap top for light, that way we could find the things necessary for bed…. Earplugs, mossie cream… remember back to July this was where I had been bitten to death and looked as if I’d been beaten up, so very important slathering it on especially with the window open.
We had seen a large group of men working on the electricity problem around the block of our Hotel, so I was hoping they wouldn’t be long fixing the problem.
It was 7am when the electricity was resumed; I slept on and off but remarkably well considering the lack of cooling breezes!!

Next morning 35c, down for breakfast and then to find a bank and hairdresser….. OMG yes my nails are awful; the legs have logs growing on them and my eyebrows look like a couple of hairy caterpillars. It will be bliss to sit back and have someone do them…. Gosh I sound like one of those spoiled rich women. Believe me I cannot afford to do this in the U.K. so it is a huge treat out here.

Mike is off to visit the University here in the morning and I suppose I will see him later in the afternoon.
Well now can be seen out without a bag covering me. I went into the beauty parlour at 12 O’clock and vacated my seat at 3-30pm. Hair done, nails on hands and feet cut and painted and now I do not look like a yeti after the waxing. :-)
I managed to get back to the Hotel just as Mike appeared back from his visit to the Uni. It was slightly cloudy but we went for a walk along Copacabana sea front. Lots of people around and we meandered along stopping frequently for drink stops.
Our meal was in an Italian that night, strangest Spaghetti Carbonara I’ve ever had.

Next morning I awoke after having a lovely cool sleep, sun shining and temp around 35c…. What a bind having to walk to the beach and find a spot for the day!! We headed to Ipanema and found a spot that was not too busy…. The beaches were packed, lots of body beautiful and some not so perfect ones too!! There was a dip going down to the waters edge and the ocean did not seem too violent. Lots of people were in the water swimming around and looked like it was fun. Well remind me to ploughter about at the waters edge next time, because the sea was an untamed beast.
I started walking in and one wave crashed into me, then I felt the undertow and I could barely stand still, I didn’t time the next wave well and ended up being thrown off my feet and rolling up the beach like a beached whale. Trying now to stand up as if this had all been in the game-plan without looking as foolish as I felt, I realised there was 2 huge breakers then 3 smaller waves. I pulled myself together and flew into the sea before the next lot of breakers came. Now I had assumed wrongly the tide was coming in.. In-fact it was going out. The swimmers I had seen so effortlessly swimming were obviously Olympic standard and built like iron. I was tossed around and did my usual panic thing when I was out of my depth and felt like I was being pulled out to ocean instead of heading for land. Mike was sitting on the beach completely oblivious to this; he was guarding the camera and money. I eventually managed to get my feet on the ground although it didn’t do me much good as the swell and ebb of the waves buffeted me around, I again did not manage to time the getting out of the sea well; so once more I was off my feet and washed up the beach just to be sucked back into the water again, I know how my clothes feel in the washing machine!! 8-O:-\

Bobbing around waiting for the 3 lesser waves I had to force myself into the sand and rush as quickly as possible onto the hard sand above the waves… I am beginning to dislike water.
Once safely back on my chair I watched how others attacked the problem; now some of the women were tiny slight things but seemed to have no problem getting in and out of the ocean I think they are taught how from an early age.
I tried walking up the beach; I still had a problem if I had to get into the water to pass someone, the waves were merciless and definitely seemed out to get me. Well by 3 pm I was wiped out, luckily the hotel was no more than 3 mins from the beach, however we had a 15min walk back from where we had sat.

Well talk about embarrassing, I looked like a half cooked lobster, typical brit abroad….. a bright red front and white back. I am not sure how this happened as my walk down the beach was to ensure an even coverage of sun to the body…. Hhmm…..I reckon the tan on my back was buffeted off by the waves!!! :-,:-(

Next day off to Gramado in the south of Brasil; the flight was just over 2 hours to a place called Porto Alegre. It is quite a big city in the state of Rio Grande do sul. We hired a car and set off to Gramado, a 2 hour trip away. This area is known as little Switzerland. Lots of German and Italian people came here and the buildings look Germanic. It is fresher here in summer and in the winter gets ice and sometimes snow. It is very close to Argentina and has similar Gauchos (cowboys). Well it was certainly hilly and low cloud cover which made it misty and rainy. There were two directions we could take to Gramado; one looked more direct so we chose that way. After about 1< hours into our journey we came to cone placed across the road with cars driving through a garage forecourt to turn around and return the way they had come…. We turned into the garage but saw a car coming from the area that was coned off…. Lets go, it may be nothing. Well around the next corner 2 huge trees blocked the road. Looking around we saw telegraph poles were down and other trees snapped like matchsticks. We assume it had been a whirlwind as the damage was very localised. The pig was we had to drive back on the road we came for about 45 mins before reaching the other road to Gramado….. We could have used Terra roads (dirt track) but because the rain was causing land slips and waterfalls from the cliff sides we decided the Terra roads would probably be impassable in our little car.
Well I am sure Gramado is on top of a mountain…. We cannot be sure as we were driving through fog when we arrived. The streets of the town were all decorated with huge Christmas decorations and lights, eventually we found the Hotel Bavaria and got shown to a huge room. It is a bit of an enigma, looks swanky but lacking in small touches, the Fridge is sparsely filled and the restaurant food is poor…. First job is to find a supermarket. I do hope the weather will be better and we do not have “top of the mountain mist” for the 4 days we are here!! :-|

Well next day the day started cool… infact really cold. I had to buy some jeans then you guessed it the sun appeared and the temp rose to 24c. It always has a breeze here so the temperature doesn’t feel hot. The town is amazing, lots of Swiss chalet type buildings, and everywhere id decorated with Christmas lights and decorations… Never seen so many!! The food is a little strange ……strudel and pastries; Arab pancakes (that have the taste and consistency of cardboard!!) and typical Brazilian food. So far I’ve not had too much problem eating.

Mike had got in touch with the Amigos asking where they were; and they arrived around 3pm that afternoon. In the evening we all went out to a Fondue restaurant. With a typical Brazilian slant not only did you have cheese fondue with bread, new potatoes and Guyava jelly to dip into the cheese; the next course was beef fondue. A hot stone was placed in the middle of the table and finely cut slices of chicken, beef and pork were brought for you to cook on the stone. There were lots of different small pots of sauces you could have with the meats. Then the next course was a chocolate fondue with pieces of fruit and biscuits…. Quite honestly far too much food!!

The next day Mike and the Ladies went to visit a Canyon…. Well that was the plan. This canyon looked like it’s larger cousin in USA, it was about 80km away and thinking it was a breeze off we pootled. The roads were varied, some parts great others looked like we were in the middle of a battle field with all the pot holes…These parts were dangerous as we couldn’t see the holes until you were on top of them!!! Lots of eye closing and hoping going on with the driver…. ME !! We then had to use a terra road, it was dry with various sized stones and lots of potholes…. 18km of shake, rattle and roll !! The signs were poor - normal in Brasil - but when we saw a man in his garden to confirm the direction he tried to hide…. Very strange; still Marilene got the info necessary and on we went. 4 hours from the start of our journey (which includes a stop for lunch), we arrived at the entrance to the park ….. CLOSED .
OMG now the same journey back…. Well we spent all day in the car seeing nothing!!! That evening we had bought tickets to see the first Christmas parade of the season. An extravaganza of lights and costumed people..1= hours of it. All would have been well if the same 3 songs had not been played constantly on a loop. The costumes and floats were great and it started with a flock of Angels illuminated with lights sewn into their costumes and on roller skates, we then had a variety of things including 3 kings on stilts; huge Father Xmases; the cutest little goslings who had = shell skirts on so when they knelt down it looked like they were breaking out of an egg. There was even a Scottish Santa there. Apart from the annoying music everything was very slick and the age range was between 4 – adult. The photos will give you a feel of the evening. The unfortunate thing was it started at 9-30pm and the Amigos had not thought about Dinner before the event… so we ate at 11-30pm.
Next day I was not so well, I slept most of the day…. Had to be fit for the evening conference dinner and dance !!!

There were over 1000 people at the conference and this dinner was a big affair. The amigos bagged a table and when we arrived all we had to do was mingle and chat to various people Mike knew. Then a band appeared on stage….They were fantastic and had a well choreographed routine while playing. They played while we had the buffet. The buffet area was cleared and then the singers appeared… within 5 minutes of this the floor was covered with dancers…. It doesn’t take long for Brazilians to enjoy themselves!!! The band finished and a disco took over… Really a good night, a pity we were leaving the next day!!!
The morning we were leaving, I had a thumping headache… too much dancing and not enough drinking!!! We had lunch with the amigos and left Gramado around 2pm. The journey back to Porto Alerge was awful… rain and lots of standing water on the road, Mike thankfully was driving. The flight to Rio was on time, then we hung around for 3 hours for the flight to London. Once on the airplane we had to wait 1 hour while British Airways decided if 2 passengers were fit to fly…. No idea why they were unfit??!!! So we take off and fly back, then when we arrive over London we are told air traffic control have said it is rush hour so we are flying around for another 40mins until there is a slot for us…. Once on the ground another 20min delay as the bay we are due to unload on is still being used… I tell you we are really a 3rd world country as far as our transport systems are concerned. So after being awake for 36 hours I eventually get to bed and sleep the sleep of the dead.;-)
Well that’s been our week last week. We are off on a few trips between now and the end of January, so will keep you up to date on the blog!!
Photos are on two places.... both titled rio and Gramado.
Hope all well with you all
Laur xx

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