Sunday, December 25, 2011

When My Baby Smiles at Me I Go To ...



20 to 28 December, 2011 – Rio de Janeiro (Brasil)

Did you here about the uproar, the commotion in São Paolo airport, caused by an Australian fellow? Surely, it was so dramatic, it must have made the news! It seems that he had a tomato in his bag. Oh, he did declare it. Left overs from a picnic. Fearful of losing the lot on arrival, he ate the salami and cheese, but the lesser valued tomato was not worth consuming. However, not wanting to waste it, the said tomato made it on the declaration rather than the bin. "No, no, no!" exclaimed the custom's officer. Dramatically, he carried it, outstretched, as if it was biohazard waste. "You cannot bring in a tomato!" This was exclaimed so loudly that almost everyone in the customs hall turned to see what was going on. "No tomatoes allowed!", he re-iterated. Surely this international scandal was on the Australian news?

As to our Rio accommodation, it's not a story worth sharing, but the end result is. We had booked an apartment in Rio to share with Lisa and Andrew, as well as Kristy who ended up being on the same flight out of Paraguay. Due to a number of circumstances, and after a bit of negotiation, we upgraded to the penthouse. There was a lot more than the beautiful view. Spa, balcony, barbecue, rooftop terrace, and a sauna, which none of us had any intention of using, given Rio's climate. The main view included nearby Pao de Acucar, with its distinctive shape and cable cars to the top, and all the way to the other side of the huge bay, with mountains in the distance. We could watch the cruise ships sail out of Rio, and the planes making their final turn and approach to land at Rio's second airport. From the rooftop, the view was even wider, including the yacht club and beach, and even the statue of Christ the Redeemer looking down, (although you did need to stand and look the other direction to include that in the vista). The way it all happened, there was little doubt about us feeling very blessed.

Lisa and Andrew have been living in nearby (well, sort of) Belo Horizonte. They have been doing mission work, and volunteer to work in areas of children at risk. Brazil has a significant problem with child exploitation and this is a challenging and intense calling for them. Them joining us in Rio was a way to have a small break from it all, as well as a chance for us all to spend Christmas with people from home.

Rio weather is supposed to be quite variable at this time, with a fair amount of rainfall. So, when we awoke to clear skies, we decided that our first day should include ascending Mount Sugarloaf, or more correctly, Pao de Acucar. After all, we see it every time we look out from our penthouse ;)


View Over Rio from Pao de Acucar
View Over Rio from Pao de Acucar
After two cable cars - sunset approaching.


Big Jesus Watching Over Rio
Big Jesus Watching Over Rio

Sunset
Sunset

Sunset Over Rio
Sunset Over Rio
Using sunglasses as a makeshift filter during sunset, from Pao de Acucar.


The next day, we hit centro. A wander through the main squares and streets of "downtown" Rio.

Catedral Metropolitana
Catedral Metropolitana
Stained glass in Rio's Catedral Metropolitana.


St Francis
St Francis
Silhouette in Catedral Metropolitana.


Sunlight Through the Dome
Sunlight Through the Dome
Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Candelaria, Rio de Janeiro.


Art Nouveau Afternoon Tea
Art Nouveau Afternoon Tea
Confeitaria Colombo, Rio.


On our third day straight of beautiful weather, we went up to visit Christ the Redeemer, Cristo Redentor, or Big Jesus as we started calling him. "How can I get to Christ the Redeemer?" someone asked on an internet page. One reply, "Do you mean the STATUE of Christ the Redeemer, or Christ the Redeemer. I can tell you either, but one answer may make you uncomfortable."

Riding the Cog Railway
Riding the Cog Railway
Ascending to Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro.


Jesus Close-up
Jesus Close-up
Christ the Redeemer, watching over all of Rio.


Cristo Redentor, and Us
Cristo Redentor, and Us
It was a long wait to get a photo with so few others in it.


Things got nasty on the way back to town. Preparing to get off a crowded bus, we all had to squeeze through. After begrudgingly letting the other 4 past, one older guy decided he was going to make some sort of point. He refused to squeeze in that last bit to allow me past - in fact, I think he was pushing out. He pointed at some others to make room, but they were all doing their best to make a path through. I requested that he make space so I could pass, but he started yelling something in Portuguese, but included the word Brazil a few times. I finally just ploughed past him, to ensure I didn't miss the stop. Later, we made up our own interpretations. "When you come to Brazil, learn to use the bus." "Busses in Brazil should not allow foreigners on board." "When you sit on a bus in Brazil, you have to stay on till the end of the line." Certainly one of the few times ever we have encountered someone who will actively try and be nasty or rude.


Lisa and Andrew Introduced Us to Frozen Acai
Lisa and Andrew Introduced Us to Frozen Acai
It's sort-of like a slurpee, and it's a great way to cool off after pounding the streets in high 30's. Almost every snack bar sells it.


Preferential Seating for "Obesos"....
Preferential Seating for "Obesos"....
"Sorry, you can't sit here, you're just fat, not obese!"


An encounter with crime on our trip to the beach. The girls decided to swim at a different part of the beach, leaving Andrew and I to keep an eye on our things. Kristy kept an eye on her towel, which she had folded on the sand. With good reason, as it turned out. They had not been in the water long when a man walked up to the towel, looked around, and he proceeded to purloin said towel. He then went to a beach chair, draped it over, and then lay on it. By now, Kristy was charging up the beach. She confronted him with an accusation about the towel being hers. He mumbled an apology, and sheepishly handed it over. The nerve!

Rio Sunset
Rio Sunset
We watched sunset from Ponto do Arpoador.


Lisa and Andrew
Lisa and Andrew
At Devil's Beach, Praia do Diabo.


Santa Takes the Metro
Santa Takes the Metro
Christmas Eve, after spending a day on the beach, we encountered Santa taking the Metro. We still think that donning such an outfit is just so he can go up to random women and give them a hug.


Did you know that Rio is famous for its giant floating Christmas tree? The "lighting of the tree" ceremony even makes the Australian news (as opposed to tomato carrying visitors).

Cute Brazilian Nativity
Cute Brazilian Nativity
Donkey drinking from a coconut, with sunscreen, and an "ola". Even the gifts of the wise men have been interpreted slightly.


Giant Floating Christmas Tree
Giant Floating Christmas Tree
Lago Rodrigo de Freitas, Rio de Janeiro.


Christmas day was beautiful. It was so special to share an overseas Christmas with friends from home. Sometimes, Christmas on the road can feel a bit flat. But not this year! We didn't even leave the apartment!

Two Men, a Barbecue, and a Fish
Two Men, a Barbecue, and a Fish
Sounds like a great name for a new sitcom, hey. For Christmas lunch, we fired up the barbecue. Hot coals, and sea salt. The fish was beautiful.


A Magnificent Christmas Feast
A Magnificent Christmas Feast
Barbecued fish, chicken, steak, and prawns, potatoes, pumpkin, beans, carrots, snowpeas, and a great dish Kristy whipped up with tomato and onion and breadcrumbs. I still may have missed something? Merry Christmas.


Working Off Our Christmas Meal
Working Off Our Christmas Meal
A workout in the spa after lunch, with coffee and cake.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Picking up Kristy in Paraguay, and Border Problems



16 to 20 December, 2011 – Asunción (Paraguay), Ciudad del Este (Paraguay), Foz do Iguaçu (Brasil), and Puerto Iguassu (Argentina)

Kristy, from our church, is currently living in Asunción, Paraguay. She was waiting for us at the airport, and it was like we had only seen each other a week ago, not seven months. We met the nuns she is staying with, and headed for a dinner being put on by the nun's church. A great start to our Paraguayan interlude.

Lots a Meat for Jo and Kristy
Lots a Meat for Jo and Kristy
Kristy came to the airport to pick us up. Back to her house, and then out for a meaty dinner.

BTW, this meat was for more people than just the three of us....


The next day, Kristy's wonderful Nigerian friend, Emanuel, took us out for one heck of a slap up lunch. He ate nothing but meat, while we added a small amount of vegetables and salads to our predominantly meat intake.

The rest of the day and evening, we spent wandering the streets of Asunción, finishing with drinks in a downtown bar.

Arches in Downtown Asunción
Arches in Downtown Asunción
The building is now one of Asunción's museums.


We bussed our way across Paraguay, to Ciudad del Este. Sunday afternoon. Very little local transport, but after a while, a bus came to take us in to Brazil. Before we knew it, we were over the border. We didn't stop. No exit stamps from Paraguay, no entry stamps to Brazil. Would this turn in to a problem? Probably not. People wander across the border all the time. No imigration, no customs, just masses of people coming and going. This must happen all the time. We'll sort it out later, in any case.

We ended up at a picturesque hostel in Brazil. From here, we made an early start to the falls. First the Brazilian side, then the Argentinian side. We went with a boat under the falls, and appreciated many different angles. The day turned out not to be as rushed as we thought it might, trying to see both sides in one day. The hour time difference between the two countries helped.

Looking into the Devil's Throat, with a Cloud Forming
Looking into the Devil's Throat, with a Cloud Forming
El Garganta del Diablo, the Devil's Throat. The most intense and thunderous parts of Iguassu Falls, with a cloud forming above. View from the Brazilian side of the falls.


Another View of the Devil's Throat
Another View of the Devil's Throat
Maybe, just maybe, this photo gives some idea of the power and magnificence of Iguassu's main falls.


Jo, Kristy, and I
Jo, Kristy, and I
A happy photo in front of Iguassu.


At the Rim, Brazilian Side of Iguassu
At the Rim, Brazilian Side of Iguassu

Lizard Pretending to Fly
Lizard Pretending to Fly
No idea what this lizard was thinking about as he held his feet out in a strange way. He also seems to be in the process of growing a new tail - maybe the survivor of a close encounter with a predator.


Some Minor Falls of Iguassu
Some Minor Falls of Iguassu
From the Argentinian side, some of the minor falls.



A Short Video Going Under the Falls
A boat into the heart of one of Iguassu's falls.


Rainbow at Iguassu
Rainbow at Iguassu
We saw so many rainbows, single and double. All that sun and spray.


Looking Out of the Devil's Throat
Looking Out of the Devil's Throat
Standing at the rim, Argentinian side of Iguassu Falls. Looking out of El Garganta del Diablo.


Us and Water
Us and Water
About to be kicked out of the park, we had time for a final snap for the day. Iguassu thundering behind.


And after all of this, we headed back to Paraguay, to catch our flight from Ciudad de Este. Oops. Now, apparently, it matters that we did not stamp out when we left. "The bus did not stop", we explained to the officer. "No, it does not stop" he replied in an accusing voice, implying that a) we should have known, and b) known what to do about it. "Yes, it did not stop - oh and you have another problem - you only have a single entry visa for Paraguay - and this is a second entry". Well, that is our problem, admittedly, but if the Argentinians hadn't stamped us in and out, nobody would have known we were out of the country for three days. "You have to pay a fine" he explained, showing us the schedule of fines. But then, the options - "either now, or at the airport when you leave - either way, you will have to pay". It took us no time to decide that we would take our chances at the airport with another officer - we certainly could not be worse off.

So, at the airport, while queued, praying, trying to work out if there was better strategy in going through earlier or later, we realised we had no option but to trust God that it would all go smoothly. The officer looked at our passports for around 30 seconds, stamped our pages, and we were through - the three of us. Almost like he was blinded to the Argentinian stamps that highlighted our exit...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

On the Way to a New Adventure



9 to 12 December, 2011 – Auckland (New Zealand), Los Angeles (USA)

So, we found this cheap fare to get us across the Pacific, from Auckland to L.A. So, all we have to do is tag on a Melbourne-Auckland flight, and from L.A, some flights through the key places we want to get to in South America... So the total price is still not bad, but we have something like 16 flights on our itinerary, now.

So, friends and family catch ups are in order. Can't afford to have our connections too tight, now, just in case.

So, first to Auckland.

A Flower Along the Path
A Flower Along the Path
Just by the path, along the cliff top, Auckland.


Icecream with Amy and Karyn
Icecream with Amy and Karyn
Karyn is Jo's cousin - they have not seen each other in about 30 years. Amy is Karyn's daughter.


Auckland - With Shirley, Tibi, Thomas, and Milo
Auckland - With Shirley, Tibi, Thomas, and Milo
Great to catch up with friend, formerly of Melbourne.


And then, it was on to Los Angeles. Very good friend, Adam, who we have now met up with on five different ocassions.

Sunset at Crystal Cove
Sunset at Crystal Cove

Clark Griswold - Eat Your Heart Out
Clark Griswold - Eat Your Heart Out
No, this is not Adam's house, but is not far from where he lives. This house is in a street where all but 2 or 3 have gone close to this crazy with Christmas decorations.


Breakfast Burritos With Adam
Breakfast Burritos With Adam
It was raining. So breakfast burritos at the beach was turned in to breakfast burritos "eat-in".


Bottled Sunshine
Bottled Sunshine
Now we know why the weather has been so crap in Melbourne recently - the Americans have come and stolen our sunshine for their shampoo!


Jo with her Final LA Meal
Jo with her Final LA Meal
Chilli cheese fries!