A Travellerspoint blog

Iguazu Falls

rain 28 °C
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13th February
Today was a planned day of rest and relaxation to recover from the hustle and bustle of Rio. We spent the day relaxing at the jungle lodge. Shane took advantage of the hammock on our verandah, it backs right onto the jungle.
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Whilst I slaved away going through all of the Carnivale photos and updating the blog. Good one Shane.
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It was a good day to be resting as it was pouring with rain, but it was still hot and humid. We headed up to the restaurant for lunch so didn’t have to venture far. Reception had found a tarantula. I stayed clear.

14th February
Well it had rained continuously through the night and didn’t look like it was going to let up. We were heading for the Brazilian side of the falls today. We had been told that the easiest way to do this was to arrange a taxi to take us, so this is what we did. The driver even took care of the Argentinian and Brazilian border crossings. More stamps in the passport, I just wish they would fill one page before they stamp a new one. At this rate we will run out of room.
We arrived at the Parque National Do Iguacu (Iguazu National Park) and bought our entrance tickets and headed over to catch the bus that takes you 10km into the park to where the falls walk starts. It was absolutely pouring at this stage. We had our waterproof ponchos on to protect our cameras and I took an umbrella from the hotel so we could take photos without our cameras getting wet.
We headed out along the trail, today the trail was only one and a half kilometres so there wasn’t as much walking involved. Our last visit to the falls a couple of weeks ago had been hot and sunny and yet today was the exact opposite, on one hand it was a shame but today due to the rain there was so much more water coming over the falls. I can imagine on a good day that the views from the Brazilian size would actually be better than the Argentinian side but today was quite foggy and there was a lot of mist due to the power of the water. First we came across the Cataratas Falls. We had seen these close up from the Argentinian side but we got another perspective today.
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We arrived at the final lookout near the Devils Throat, we could not see all the way into the devils throat due to the rain, however the views were still amazing.
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The time in the park went really quickly and by lunch time we were heading back over the borders. Before returning to our hotel we stopped at the Argentinian Three Borders Landmark. Though the falls are often described as being at the frontier of the three countries, the actual Tripitarte between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay is several kilometres away, at the deepest part of the confluence of the Iguazu and Parana Rivers.
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The landmarks were originally erected in 1903, the memorials are built around three simple cement obelisks, painted in the patriotic colours of the three respective flags.
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Posted by shaneandnicola 08:47 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Rio de Janiero

Guanabara Bay and the Rio Carnivale

sunny 31 °C
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Today was a big day. We awoke quite excited as today is our day at the Sambadrome to watch the Carnivale.
But here is the video of the street party.

We had other sightseeing to do this morning though, so we headed down to the marina to take a schooner trip around Guanabara Bay. This bay is the second largest bay in area in Brazil at 412 square kilometres. It is 31 kilometres long and 28 kilometres wide at its maximum. The mouth of the bay is 1.5 kilometres wide. This is how Rio got its name as when the Portuguese arrived they actually thought the opening of this bay was the mouth of a river (Rio) and they found it in January (Janiero). It was a lovely relaxing trip and it was nice to see Rio from the water as it gave you a different perspective. Whilst on the schooner we had a drink called Caipirinha, this is Brazil's national cocktail, made with cachaça which is the fermentation of sugarcane juice that is afterwards distilled. It is served with lemon or lime and is great. We have had quite a few of these since being in Brazil. Whilst on holiday 9.30 in the morning is not too early to have a cocktail is it?
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There was no cloud covering Christ the Redeemer this morning and there he was looking over Rio.
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We got to see Sugarloaf Mountain.
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The city
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Flamengo Beach with a favela behind it. A favela is a term for a shanty town.
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There is an old fort in the middle of the bay, there were people fishing off it.
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President Costa e Silva Bridge, commonly known as the Rio-Niteroi Bridge. It is 14 km long and connects the cities of Rio and the municipality of Niteroi. It is currently the longest prestressed concrete bridge in the southern hemisphere, and the sixth longest in the world.
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A beautiful old customs building
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On the way back we could see the port with all the cruise ships lined up.
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We returned to the hotel for some rest as tonight was going to be a big night. The Carnivale commences at 9pm and runs all night and is held at the Sambadrome. The Sambadrome is the biggest stage on earth during Carnivale as it nightly hosts a parade with over 30,000 people showing off their samba skills to the delight of 80,000 spectators. (This is also going to be used during the Olympics for the Archery and part of the Marathon). There are 12 samba schools from the 'special group' that compete over 2 nights. They each have 65 to 82 minutes to perform and travel along the half a mile runway. Each school has a different theme and each samba school has an average of 4,000 participants. There are judges that judge their performance.
We ensured we got dressed for the occasion.
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We arrived at the Sambadrome where thousands of people were taking their seats. There was much excitement.
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At the start of every school they were announced with fireworks and then the clock started and off they went. We were in sector 9 so it actually took about 20 minutes before the performance reached us, but when it arrived it was fantastic. I was really surprised as although I knew that there were about 4000 participants per samba school I wasn't prepared for the number of floats and costume changes each school had, it was amazing. You cannot compare the energy and colourful floats to the Sydney Mardi Gras or our Christmas Pageant, it was way out of that league. The atmosphere was electric from start to finish. I don’t think that there are any birds left with feathers they were in almost every costume. Alot of the action took place right in front of us as this is where the judges were stationed.
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We took heaps of photos and some video footage. Photos just don’t do it justice as alot of they time they are not standing still, but we will try and give you an idea. The schools that we watched were:
Sao Clemente – their theme was the soap operas that made history on Brazilian television.
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Mangueira – their theme honoured the state capital of Mato Grosso.
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Beija-Flor – told the story of a breed of Brazilian horses which came from the crossing of breeds during Brazils civilisation.
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Grande Rio – focused on the federal law that threatens the distribution of oil royalties to Rio.
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Imperatriz – honoured the state of Para in the north of Brazil.
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There was so much action that time just flew. We got back to our hotel at 6am. I can’t believe we stayed up all night. We headed straight to bed. We ensured that we set the alarm as we had to leave for the airport at 2.30.
So we farewelled fabulous Rio and arrived in Foz do Iguacu. This is the Brazilian side of the falls. We were however staying on the Argentinian side. So we made our way through the 2 quickest border crossings we have had for a while and made our way back to our jungle lodge the La Aldea de la Salva lodge. It had been an exhausting day.

Posted by shaneandnicola 07:09 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Rio de Janiero

semi-overcast 34 °C
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9th February
Last night we went out to dinner and there were people everywhere in fancy dress celebrating the Carnivale. One block down from us there were celebrations in full swing with dancing and music. It was really nice as it was a family affair. We had only just retired to our hotel room when we suddenly heard loud music outside the hotel. The block party had got underway and was now travelling along the streets with more and more people joining in. There was a truck carrying musicians and dancers on board with big load speakers. As the truck moved along so did the hordes behind it, sambaing their way down the street. Shane took a movie as photo’s would not do it justice. We will try and put it in the blog at some stage. But here is a photo.
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This morning we headed up to the Tijuca Rainforest in an open jeep. This rainforest is just a few kilometres from the streets of Rio and is the world's largest urban rainforest. Contained within the city limits, this lush jungle is home to over 1,600 species of plants. The contrast between the stone jungle of Rio and the lush green backdrop of Tijuca is amazing.
We stopped to feel the refreshing spray of the Cascatinha (Taunay’s) Waterfall.
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We then took a hike in the rainforest, where we saw some lovely blue butterflies but they would not stop still long enough to take a photo. We were shown the sloths favourite trees and what was really interesting was that the tree had ants inside it. When you knock the tree like a sloth was climbing up it ants came out from nowhere. These ants bother the sloths and therefore they do not stay long to eat all the leaves which would then kill the tree. I would have loved to see a sloth but we didn’t.
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We did however see some Capuchin monkey’s that were eating jack fruit. They were swinging around in the trees and it was hard to get a photo of them sitting still.
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We then stopped at the Vista Chinesa (Chinese View). It got it's name from the architecture and the many Chinese that lived around the area.
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We were to soak in the impressive views of Rio (well that is what the brochures say), I guess it depends on the weather. Although it was a nice day at sea level we were fogged in.
The trip back took ages. All the roads to Copacabana were choked. The Carnivale celebrations were once again underway and the residents of Rio never know when or where celebrations are going to take place. We were eventually dropped near our hotel. We could see the Copacabana Beach and it was absolutely packed with people having lots of fun and the music was extremely loud. It is hard to describe the atmosphere here; you really have to be here to see it. Once again there were many dress up pirates, people with funny coloured hair, colourful outfits and even dogs had been dressed up with shoes and glasses. It was time to get our own colourful pieces to celebrate the next few days of Carnivale. We don't have full outfits but have bought some fun things to wear. Stay tuned.

10th February
We had a big day today visiting the key sights of Rio. We had been told that there were going to be thousands of people in Rio for the Carnivale including 8 cruise ships so instead of going it alone we had asked Magdalena from Enchanting South America to arrange this big day for us. We actually thought that we were going to be on a bus however Christian a local guide arrived with his car at 8am. So off we headed with our own personal guide. The weather was looking promising although first thing in the morning The Cristo Redentor was still under cloud, so we headed for Sugarloaf Mountain.
Sugarloaf Mountain is a peak at the mouth of Guanabara Bay on a peninsula that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean. It rises 396 metres above the harbour, its name is said to refer to its resemblance to the traditional shape of concentrated refined loaf sugar.
The mountain is one of several hills of granite and quartz that rise straight from the water's edge around Rio. To reach the summit you take 2 glass walled cable cars, each holds 65 people, and runs along a 1400-metre route. The first ascends to the shorter Morro da Urca, 220 meters high.
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The second car ascends to Pão de Açúcar. I was a bit nervous as I don’t like heights much, however it was a really smooth trip and as we went nice and early the cars were not packed.
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We had some fantastic views of Rio.
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There was no rush so we spent considerable time at both points taking in the scenery. At the top of Pão de Açúcar we sat and had a drink. Christian suggested Guarana – it is a Brazilian softdrink. It was really nice.
We then decended back down.
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Christian then took us for a drive around the centre of town. He had prewarned us that last night there had been a Carnivale block party and that apparently there had been two million people crammed into the streets. There was still rubbish everywhere and as we got out of the car to take a walk he warned us that it was likely to smell like pee pee. Boy he was right. In places there was what looked like water on the paths but I wasn’t going anywhere near it. He kept apologising that we had to see Rio in that state, but when you have that many people at a party it is likely to get messy.
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We visited the Cathedral of St Sebastion of Rio de Janiero. He is the patron saint of Rio. This Cathedral was built between 1964 and 1979. The New Cathedral, as it is sometimes called, is located in the center of the city. Conical in form and with a 96 metres internal diameter and an overall height of 75 metres, it has a standing-room capacity of 20,000 people. The cathedral's four stained glass windows soar 64 metres from floor to ceiling. With architecture inspired by the Mayan pyramids of Mexico, the conical shape is believed to give proximity to God.
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We then visited Cinelândia which is the popular name of a major public square in the centre of Rio. Unfortunately there was quite a lot of rubbish and stalls still around from the block party. One of the buildings was the Municipal Theatre. It was lovely. There were several colonial buildings around the square.
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Our final stop was The São Bento Monastery which is a true treasure not usually on visitors radar. It was founded in 1590 and construction of the church started in 1633. It is still used today by the Benedictine monks. The inside of the church was amazing. It was all carved wood with gold everywhere.
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We headed back to Copacabana for lunch. By the time we headed off again at 2pm the cloud had lifted and we were in for a real treat. We were heading for Corcovado Mountain. Upon arrival at the bottom of the mountain we took a cog-wheel train to the top. The construction of the railway started in 1883 and completed in 1884. It was the first electried railway in the country. For decades thereafter tourists and locals alike went up to the top of Corcovado Mountain to enjoy the views of Rio de Janeiro and to picnic. There was no Christ statue at this time.
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After 20 minutes we arrived at the top. After taking a lift and 2 escalators the moment had arrived. There he was The Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). This is a statue of Jesus of Nazareth. It is considered the largest art deco statue in the world and is the 5th largest statue of Jesus in the world. It is 30.1 metres tall and then also has a 6 metre pedestal. It is 19 metres wide. It weighs 635 tonnes. It is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone, was constructed between 1926 and 1931 and is located at the peak of the 700 metre Corcovado Mountain. It is now one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Until you see it up close it is hard to explain what an impact it has on you.
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Although the statue is majestic what impresses most visitors is the panoramic view. Some of the major attractions can be seen including the Sugar Loaf where we had been in the morning and Guanabara Bay.
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In the distance you can also see Copacabana where we are staying
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Here is the lagoon where the rowing is going to be held for the Olympics. Behind the lagoon was Ipanema Beach.
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Christian then drove us to see some of the other beaches south of Copacabana. We visited Sao Conrado where the hang gliders land. We sat and had a drink as we watched them land.
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We then visited Ipanema Beach.
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The traffic was terrible as there were once again several roads shut for Carnivale. We finally got back to the hotel at 6.30pm. Again a long day but wow it was worth it. I think that it is probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited for the amazing scenery.

Posted by shaneandnicola 16:24 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Rio de Janiero to Paraty and back again

overcast 30 °C
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Well we are back in Rio where we now have good internet coverage, so here are our adventures for the last few days.

6th February
When we awoke this morning the first thing we did was have a look out of our balcony at the weather. It was a lovely morning and to our surprise the low cloud had lifted and this is what we could see from our balcony. This is the Christ the Redeemer Statue on Corcovado Mountain. We will be visiting him upon our return to Rio.
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Shane also chose his costume for the Carnivale. I told him it wasn't his colour and besides it was $600.
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This morning we drove 4 hours south of Rio de Janiero to Paraty. It is located on the Costa Verde (Green Coast), which is a lush, green corridor that runs along the coastline of the state of Rio de Janeiro and the town is located on the Bay of Ilha Grande, which is dotted with many tropical islands.
This is a little coastal historic town first settled in 1667. It wasn't until the 1800s that the city really made its mark on the map, as this is when gold was found in the area. During this time, the area prospered and Paraty became the second most important port in Brazil as it was shipping gold to Portugal. African slaves created cobblestone roads for transporting the gold. In the late 1800’s an inner road was opened and Paraty was forgotten. This has helped to preserve its old city including the cobblestones, you need to watch where you walk as they are uneven.
Once we had settled into our hotel we had a wander around the historic town. Our hotel is in the historic area.
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The little streets are so colourful.
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Along the way Shane met some friends. These are typical through much of Brazil, but very popular in Paraty, they are "Namoradas". A namorada is a girlfriend. So these are often placed in the windows where the girls can have a daydream and watch the people go by.
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There are four important historic baroque churches within a small walking distance of each other.
Capela de Santa Rita (Chapel of Saint Rita) – this is the oldest church in Paraty. It was completed in 1722. This was the church of the white elite and freed men who were former slaves.
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Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário e São Benedito (Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and Saint Benedict) – This church was built and used by Paraty’s African slaves. It dates back to the year 1725. The church has a much simpler, more rustic style than the other three churches in Paraty.
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Capela de Nossa Senhora das Dores (Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows) - This chapel dates back to 1800. It was used mostly by the rich women of society.
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Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora do Remédios (First Church of Our Lady of the Remedies) – This is the largest church in Paraty. It takes up over an entire city block. Its construction began in 1646 when a woman named Maria Jácome de Melo donated the land for the construction of the village of Paraty, however she demanded two conditions: The first was the building of a chapel dedicated to Nossa Senhora dos Remédios and the second was that no one would harm the Indians that lived in the area at that time. The church was completed in 1873.
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7th February
We had a relaxing day today in Paraty. We took a boat trip around the bay. Although it was overcast it was still nice and warm to go swimming and snorkelling. So we headed down to the pier to find a schooner called the Rei Cigano. We set sail and for 5 hours sailed around to various parts of the bay with lovely little beaches. Pulling out of the port we had a lovely view of the church on the waterfront with the clouded mountains in the background.
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We went to the Praia da Lula, Llha da Pescaria, Praia Vermelha and Llha Comprida. Here are some pictures of our day.
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8th February
Nothing much to report today, we spent most of the day returning to Rio de Janiero for our 4 days of Carnivale action.

Posted by shaneandnicola 08:15 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Back to Salta and off to Rio de Janiero

sunny 32 °C
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4th February
Today we headed off at 8.30 to possibly the biggest attraction in Tilcara which is the nearby Pucara de Tilcara, they are partially reconstructed ruins of a pre-Inca civilisation located a few kilometres away on a hill with an impressive view of the valley and the Río Grande. We were a bit disappointed having seen all of the Incan ruins in Peru but they were right about the view.
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We then headed to a little town called Humahuaca. Humahuaca is located north of Tilcara and Purmamarca, in the colourful valley of Quebrada de Humahuaca. There is a colourful hill called the Womans Skirt.
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It is located along the banks of the Rio Grande at 3,000 meters above sea level. In the centre of the village there is an adobe belfry which can be seen from the central plaza with a clock that chimes at 12 pm, after which a small door opens and a figure of Saint Francisco Solano comes out and makes the sign of the cross.
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The centre of the town is an attractively whitewashed Spanish colonial area and the central plaza is also bordered by a lovely small Iglesia de la Candalaria y San Antonio. The altarpiece dates to the late 17th century. Despite its small size, the church is a cathedral.
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We had a wander around this lovely little town and also visited the Monumento de la Independencia that you reach climbing a long flight of steps. The town was a central place for the revolutionary activity that eventually led to the creation of modern Argentina.
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We then headed back to Salta. We took the jungle road back to town. This was a very narrow road and had 516 turns over 60km. It was lovely and green and much cooler. We stopped to listen to the birds and cicadas.
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We arrived back in Salta late afternoon.

5th February
Well we haven’t had time to stop really and we are on the road again. We set our alarm for 4am. We had an early start this morning as we needed to get to the airport for our flight back to Buenos Aires and then on to Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Martin picked us up and took us to the airport where we farewelled him. He was an excellent guide and very friendly and informative. Our baggage was booked all the way through to Rio so that was one less thing to worry about. We had a 2 hour stop over so that wasn’t too bad. We arrived in Rio at 2.40. More stamps in the passport and another new country that can be ticked off the list. We lost an hour due to the time difference. We were quite excited flying into Rio however there was quite a lot of cloud so we did not see much. We made our way to the Porto Bay hotel which is right on the Copacabana Beach. We can see part of the beach from our 17th floor room.
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We dropped our bags and went out for a walk to familiarise ourselves with the area. We had a walk along the beach. It was fairly quiet probably because it was quite overcast, however it was still nice and warm. Upon returning to the hotel we went up to the top floor of the hotel to look at the view. The beach was longer than I thought. Here are pictures of both sides of the beach.
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They also had a bar up there so we both had a cocktail. It’s a hard life.
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We only have tonight here and then we are heading away for 2 nights before we return for the Rio Carnivale.

Posted by shaneandnicola 12:39 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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