Hello paradise! Ilha Grande literally means “Big Island”; it’s big and beautiful!

Another crazy four-hour bus trip and a close to sunset time boat transfer later, we arrive at this sandy paradise. There are chairs and tables set up for candle-lit dinners with beautiful views of water and boats. The island has no cars or motorcycles, other than a small handful of commercial ones, and is completely covered in quirky little shops and people selling tours.

Waiting to board the boat to the island

Table at a beach restaurant

We got a little lost to our hostel, which was hidden at the top of a hill, along a short winding forest track, over a bridge and up a heap of stairs. The place literally felt like a resort! We got our own little cabin, with a shower big enough to swing a cat around in, a small porch out the front and a quiet view of cats in the gardens. We think the owner here may have been a little fond of cats – in most places we’ve been so far every one has dogs, but we counted at least ten cats here. After settling in and unpacking a little we walked back into the main strip of the island for one of the candle-lit café’s churrasco style dinner. The skewers were huge; we shared a plate between us that came with two skewers, rice, beans and a salad. We caught the last little glimpse of sun going down and settled in for a relaxing night, reflecting on our trip so far.

Our cabin

Beach beers

Food waiting to be cooked

Up early on Tuesday, we decided to walk around to one of the island’s many beaches, “Praia Preta” or as it is in English, Black Beach. Being at least 35 degrees and 98% humidity we definitely need use a lot of sunscreen. Heading back into town we found a restaurant to chill out at and enjoy the view, and the people watching. Brasil has it’s own favourite beer called Antarctica Original, the alcohol in general is pretty cheap generally in Brasil, but these beers in 600ml cost anywhere between R$8-$12 ($3-4.5aud). The soft drinks cost the same if not more, and water isn’t much cheaper, so the obvious choice whilst travelling is to drink beer, right? Dinner was another of the specialty pizzas, this time we remembered not to order one with the cream cheese on it.

Us at the black beach

Love on the beach

This island truly felt like the perfect holiday destination. There are so many touristy shops, offshore excursions and walks to do. We’d both been struggling with the heat a little (and the constant excessive sweating), being in the shade under a giant tree with the breeze was the perfect way to spend the day at Ilha Grande. This is a place that both of us definitely want to come back to and spend more time at!

Walking to the black beach

At the dock

Go see all the photos from Ilha Grande

The wheels on the bus go round and round… or not.

The drivers in Brasil don’t seem to remember that when they are driving a bus, they have passengers on board. Each of our trips so far has been a little rough on the corners and the braking. We caught an executive coach for the four and a half hour trip to Paraty. That meant that we had reclining seats with full leg rests for a few more dollars and at a more convenient time than 8am. The bus was about 25 minutes late, which was to be expected – Brasil runs on it’s own time but all was good, we were on the road.

About two hours into the trip and a quick lunch/servo stop later, we pulled up on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. We’d noticed so far on the bus trips that this wasn’t unusual as people get picked up and dropped off in random places and not just at bus stations. When we stopped, the driver said something, which neither of us understood, but we did manage to catch that we would be waiting for 15 minutes or so. After the 15 minutes or so of waiting in the bus with no air-con, people started hopping off. We caught a fellow passenger’s phone conversation and worked out that the bus had broken down and there was another one coming (which was supposed to be 15 minutes away, but we are working on Brasilian time here). Almost two hours later, sitting on the side of the road, sans toilets and water, the new bus shows up! We’re on the road again, travelling through some cute little beach towns and their traffic jams – at one point it took 45minutes to travel two kilometres adjacent to the beach, because everyone was leaving for the day and crossing the road.

Bus going nowhere

After the eight hours (for the four and a half bus trip) we arrived! HOORAY!! The bus station was walking distance to our hostel, in what seemed like a pretty shady area in the dark but we made it. The roads in Paraty are stone and not smooth at all, they give the village so much character. The buildings are whitewashed and no more than two storeys at most, rimmed with blue guttering. Walking through the main part of town at night was busy and just beautiful; so completely different to anything we’d ever seen. We made our way to a per kilo restaurant for dinner – it is so easy to have a cheap and healthy meal at these kinds of places. There are a few specialty dishes like feijoada (black beans and bacon bones), and farofa (toasted cassava flour), but then there are veggies! You go and load up your plate and then pay for however much it weighs, we’ve been to a couple of these so far and can easily get dinner for both of us for about $15-$20aud. We also stopped in for a few cheap caipirinhas along the way at a little bar on the side of the road – they had strawberry, pineapple and passionfruit ones!

James with a drink

James, Dee and the bar tender

Saturday morning we made our way to the supermarket, together (apparently we didn’t learn the first time!). Fortunately it was time to put our “cooking on a budget” skills to the test as we stayed in one of the few hostels for our trip that didn’t include breakfast. We were finally able to put in our clothes for washing – of course on this trip so far I’ve been fine with clothing and not had too many issues of running out, James on the other hand didn’t seem to bring enough and has kept running out of underwear and shirts – not a great thing when needing to go out for a day!

We spent the rest of Sunday exploring the little shops and sights around the town. After the non-stop walking, food and fun of the last week or so it was nice to have a bit of downtime and no particular plans. Most of the day was spent people watching, having a caipirinha or two and organising a tour to do on Sunday. On our way around we walked to the pier to check out which boat tour we needed to be on the next day, there were at least 100 different sized boats and a 1000 people on this tiny, little pier. We eventually found the right boat and it was completely jam-packed! There was no space at all on it, leading to a little concern that we may have wasted our money for our cruise around the following day. The guy at the pier assured us that it was going to be much, much quieter Sunday and that there was nothing to worry about. The rest of the afternoon was spent looking around in Paraty and the amazing streets and buildings.

Carriage on the cobblestones


Cobblestone road

James and Dee ont he road

Dee with a drink

Drinks at the pizza restaurant

Waking up to a barely dribbling cold shower Sunday morning wasn’t amazing, but who cares? We’re going on a boat! We got our bits and pieces together and headed on down to the pier, what a difference to the day before! We had twenty people on this giant boat (120 the day before), and all of the space we wanted. We were greeted by the photographer/translator, Paula, who explained our trip for the day: a tour around a few beaches in perfect weather. It was beautiful! Sometimes we forget how lucky we are in Australia to have the kinds of snorkelling and beaches we do, especially in the Great Barrier Reef – we are so spoiled! The beaches here are stunning and there is the opportunity for snorkelling but it’s nothing on what we have at home, still pretty gorgeous though. The day was filled with relaxation and sunshine, a nice way to spend Easter. (The link at the bottom of this post has all of the photos from the boat on the day, there are far too many to put in but please go and have a look!).

Looking at the pier

Our boat, the Zephyr

All aboard!

Island off the starboard bow

Dee and James on one of the beaches we visited

James in the water

Beach stop-off

James climbed up a rock

Walking back from the pier, after enjoying every bit of sunshine and paradise offered on the boat, we headed back into town. The stone road we had walked along in the morning was now covered with the incoming tide, giving us a completely different outlook to the morning. We stayed in at the hostel for the evening, having a fairly chilled night playing cards and cooking our own dinner.

High tide flows down the road

No driving at high tide

Monday came time for us to journey onwards to Ilha Grande, it’s so hard to leave this little bit of paradise but there’s always an excuse to come back next time.

Go see all the photos from Paraty

São José dos Campos is a quiet city, with a lot of aeronautical engineering, and the home of one of James’ Red Hat work-mates William

We arrived at the bus terminal in São Jose dos Campos after an hour and a half bus trip where William, Luana and Antonio were waiting. We knew we needed to get bus tickets to Paraty for a few days time, so William helped us buy them which was much easier than stumbling through Portuguese. After a quick taxi trip to the hotel, we went to get some lunch. There was a big buffet, and after filling up James’ plate he realised there was barbecued meats too, so he grabbed some of that. When Dee and Luana went up to get theirs, there were none left – this was a sad time for Dee. You pay per kilo on your plate, so it was cheap!

While we were eating we heard a massive crack of thunder and then it bucketed with rain, we were only a block or so from our hotel but none of us had umbrellas or ponchos (despite having two umbrellas, four ponchos and two raincoats in our packs). After it was obvious the rain wasn’t going to stop long enough for us to wander through the park nearby, William and Luana went home and we planned to meet them later. We went out for a walk once the rain had eased a bit and got a few drinks – the happy hour at the pizza place had two beers for R$6. We got hungry a bit later, so grabbed some Esfhinas as a little beer snack. They’re like mini pizzas with usually only one or two toppings, and sometimes cheese (or this weird cream cheese call catupiry on them). By the time we were ready to meet up for dinner after all the rain, both of us were getting weary, we decided to meet up with William the following day and grabbed a full pizza from the place we were already at; we underestimated the size to price ratio here – it was huge! Half Brasiero and half Portuguesa, so really a mixture of catupiry, meats, onion, olives, egg and cheese.

Rain on the road

James with a beer


Thursday we went for a walk in the morning, trying to find a supermarket. After seeing around 30 pharmacies (including at least four side-by-side), we eventually found a supermarket and grabbed a few snacks. We met up with the guys at Santos Dumont Park, which was named after the early Brazilian plane designer. The park has two public schools in the middle of it as well as a Japanese garden. There were also two different styles of planes in the park, one more modern than the second: a replica of the original plane design. We then headed to a café close by for lunch of meat (porção of meat – chicken, calabrese and steak) and beers. We were introduced to a famous Brazilian sweet called a Brigadero, a combination of chocolate condensed milk stuff – difficult to explain but just delicious. William and Luana took us to a brigaderia to get a few – they come in many different flavours, chocolate, caçaca, coffee and many, many more. A little sugar overload but definitely worth it.

School in the park

Japanese garden

Modern plane

Replica of old plane

In the afternoon we walked to the lookout over a valley to see the sunset. Along the way we had a little fun with the exercise equipment placed by the local council to help people get fit. Although it was a little cloudy to see the entire sunset the view from the lookout was very nice. On the way back into town, because we hadn’t had enough beers, we stopped in at a pub. After having a little bit of a food coma happen we needed some rest, and met up for dinner at a pun-named restaurant “File Miau”, there is a joke that the food served is all cat (this is definitely not the case). The food here was just amazing – espetinhos, which are small skewers cooked over charcoal and brought around to your table to offer you. Because they are taken off when they are ready, they are all perfectly cooked, and we had some of the best coraçon de frango (chicken hearts) we have eaten. After a few beers with the food (do you see a pattern here?) we headed home to your hotel with food babies.

Exercise equipment

James and William

File Miau

View from the lookout

On our last morning in the city, we met back up with William and Luana at Santos Dumont park again, to walk to the local markets. There was so much fruit on offer, a whole row of stalls selling different kinds of bananas! They were buying their fruit and vegetables for the week, and we just grabbed a punnet of strawberries as a snack. I still haven’t figured out paying for things in Brazil – it was R$4 for the strawberries, and I gave him 4, but then got 20c change…




After a walk back to the hotel to grab out bags, we caught a taxi to the bus station and headed down to the Costa Verde and Paraty.

Go see all the photos from São José dos Campos

We’re here!! 32 hours after taking off from Melbourne, to be introduced to everything Brasil has to offer.

São Paulo is big. Really Big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is… The city itself has 12 million people, but the greater metropolitan area has 21 million – around 90% of all of Australia!

We arrived Thursday night into the São Paulo airport, stayed long enough to write a quick message home to let the fambams know we were still alive and then headed to the first stop of our journey in São Paulo. Getting through the airport and customs was pretty quick but the taxi wasn’t – a long way about 75 minutes (and $60) later we arrived at the hotel. It was a bit of a funky looking hotel, with The Hub “food, art, drinks” downstairs, and a hotel staff member in full uniform “DJing”. Our room was pretty nice, and on the 14th floor (of 18) which gave us a nice view of the never-ending buildings of São Paulo.

View from the hotel in the day View from the hotel at night

Ricardo from Red Hat offered to take us out for the evening, which we thought about, but during the taxi ride home we got really tired. So instead we went downstairs for a beer and snack, before bed. At this point we decided it wasn’t a great idea to indulge too much at the hotel, it was $45aud for two 600ml beers and three tapas plates – delicious but expensive for Brasil.

Beers and peanuts Dinner at the hotel

On our first full day in Brasil, we went for a walk around the neighbourhood and grabbed a few things from the shops, including a bottle of Cachaça for AU$3.50. The fruit here is a monstrous size, the avocado was bigger than my hand and $1.50 per kilo. There are all sorts of flavours of everything, including tea for the coffee machine, and a whole section dedicated to lactose free cheese!

Marrakech-style tea pods Chococino caramel pods

Productos sem lactose Giant avocado

For lunch we went to a local “carne de Argentino” place with some of the Red Hat people. The English menu’s translation left some things to be desired, like “Functional Food with Hump” (we figured that “Functional Food” was an express lunch for workers), but the hump bit, after a few attempts and some translation from the Portuguese menu, turned out to be goat shoulder. We were planning on heading out for the evening but due to the political protests going on, we didn’t go to Paulista Avenue as planned, but went a local restaurant ourselves. Speaking almost no Portuguese it was interesting, but we managed to order some deep fried pastries filled with bacon or cheese, and fried chicken with chips! We even managed a few beers in there.

Functional Food Lunch Red Hat people Pasteis

Saturday started fairly quietly, just going to the supermarket for a few items, and then packing to move to our first hostel. The taxi was interesting – we could have dealt with the language barrier, except the taxi driver didn’t know where we wanted to go to, even with the full street address and the route on James’ phone’s map. After 5 minutes of talking to another taxi driver, we finally headed off. The hostel was nice, and we got an “upgrade” from our private room with a shared bathroom, to one with an ensuite, with the caveat that one of the four nights we had to go back to the normal private room. Unfortunately they were also having water problems, so we couldn’t use any water for a few hours, and we needed to do some washing so we had clothes for tomorrow. Stumbling across a small food market in the afternoon we had a quick pitstop for some delicious caipirinhas with ginger and tangerine, so delicious!

Bar at the food market with our caipirinhas James having lunch

We went for a walk on Avenida Paulista in the evening with Ricardo, seeing the many buildings at night. Paulista Avenue is the highest point in São Paulo and there is some amazing architecture there. The TV towers sit on top of the buildings and are brightly decorated with lights; there are at least four shopping centres that we counted, and huge amount of bars. Halfway along the avenue there is a huge jungle style park, filled with so much greenery, a strange but refreshing thing to see in the middle of the concrete jungle. Paulistas (the local people) are so friendly but walking down the street, still recovering from jetlag was very tiring! Avenida Paulista is a couple of kilometres long and our hostel was down some pretty epic hills at one end. Our step count by the end of the day was over 28000.

Demonstrators on Avenida Paulista Dee and James at the end of Paulista Avenue Art on the side of the building

On Sunday the hostel still didn’t have enough water, and we couldn’t do washing because all of the Laundromats were closed. The water situation wasn’t amazing, apparently São Paulo is short on water – the government has turned down the water pressure to fix this. One would think this is a great idea until the water tanks (on the roof of the building) couldn’t be filled because there wasn’t enough water pressure. This resulted in the poor receptionist climbing up on to the roof with a hose to fill the tanks up… When the tanks were filled (and we could eventually have a shower) we were faced with a cold dribble that could vaguely be related to what we know as a shower.

After overcoming the water situation for the day we went for a walk around the city, seeing Avenida Paulista during the day. On Sundays the avenue is closed to traffic (apart from bicycles), there were many markets on, people having a Zumba danceparty in the middle of the street and so much food for sale. We tried a few of the local delicacies including coxinhas: the traditional ones are mashed potato stuffed with pulled flavoured chicken, then deep-fried (the non-traditional ones have different meats in them. So unhealthy but absolutely amazing!). We had our first night cooking in our hostel, after some grocery shopping problems like not understanding the question about whether we wanted a bag or not, then how we wanted to pay. Hand-waving and pointing at things we managed to get ourselves food, although from this experience we’ve both decided that we can no longer grocery shop together, we’re both too indecisive and disagree on the best way to walk around a supermarket!

Cubes outside MASP Zumba class Demonstrators Park Tall thin building

Monday morning we went to drop off some washing, and again struggled with our lack of Portuguese. The first place we went to was very close, and after a few minutes of discussion with the owner, we figured out that they charged R$5 per piece and were more of a dry cleaner than laundry, however he gave us hand-waving directions to indicate there was another place around the corner. Going there, we continued to struggle with Portuguese, trying to explain that some items could not go into the clothes dryer. Eventually, we managed to get at least half of our clothes sorted out and in for cleaning (hooray for being an adult!). It was at this point we were told the price, which was almost half of our daily budget! Around 2.7kg of laundry was going to cost us R$95 (AU$35) – but we needed to do it.After navigating our way through the language barriers and back to our hostel we headed back up to Paulista Avenue to look around some more and meet up to a free food tour we had a flyer for.

The food tour met at MASP (the art gallery), which took us to a number of places for pastels (deep fried pastry with so many fillings: bacon and cheese, beef and cheese, cheese, chicken and cheese, a mixture of cheeses – all of the cheese!), a coxinha, açai and banana, a shot of caçhaca near the park, and then beans, rice and farofa (toasted cassava flour) with a small caipirinha. Our tour group was quite small, with a Brazilian from Manaus, an Argentinean, a Belgium/Japanese lady and three English backpackers, but apparently other days they can get up to 60 people. Along the tour James was advised to stay out of the sun because he was too white and would get burnt, there is not enough sunscreen in Brasil to cover him, although he has started getting a shirt tan! After the tour had finished we stayed and had a quick drink with the other guests then walked to Liberdade, the “little Japan” of São Paulo, for a look around. Liberdade is a strangely similar mix of Sunnybank and Chinatown in Brisbane. São Paulo has the largest population of Japanese people outside of Japan, which we found really interesting. In the Second World War, many of the Japanese came over to Brasil as refugees, when they arrived they settled in the later named area of Liberdade, which literally translates to Liberty.

Pasteis on the food tour Beans and caipirinha on food tour Food tour group

Whilst gallivanting around São Paulo we knew we needed to catch a bus a few days later to São José dos Campos to meet up with William (from Red Hat and his wife Luana), then onto Paraty, we tried to buy tickets online. Unfortunately to do so, some of the bus companies require that you enter a Brasilian phone number to get an SMS with the confirmation code. Secure booking systems work amazingly, they’re not so great when you’ve got international phone numbers. William very helpfully let us use his number so we could book. The one to Paraty was even more trouble, with the site requiring you to enter your CPF (Brasilian national ID number) matching your credit card, and obviously foreigners don’t have one, so non-Brazilians cannot but bus tickets from some companies online. Hooray!

The next day; Tuesday?? We’re losing track of days! we visited MASP in the morning, which is small but has a lot of amazing art works, some very old (Some painted around 1200 AD). The history in this place is incredible, there are some famous artists’ paintings in here as well as some of the more traditional Brazilian art. The gallery was set out in chronological order with each of the pieces displayed behind glass. The preservation of the art was just amazing; this is, again, one of the places that our photos really don’t do the experience any justice.

Art at MASP Art at MASP

Art at MASP Art at MASP

Afterwards we went to Ibirupuera Park, the largest in São Paulo, and visited the MuseoAfroBrasil to learn a bit about the history of African heritage in Brasil. We managed to squeeze in a picture of parliament on the way to the park – we are up to 4 so far. Ibirupuera Park is huge! The park holds the Conservatorium of music, museums, art galleries and has a gigantic lake in the middle of it. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to see all of the sites there; however, we stumbled across a percussion band practicing just on the outer edge, which was pretty cool.

Dee and James in front of the SP state parliament

Photo from Nepal at MuseoAfroBrasil Photo from Nepal at MuseoAfroBrasil

Conservatorium at Ibirupuera park Band practising

That evening we met up again with Ricardo and caught the subway to see his Capoiera group. Capoiera is dance-style fighting, when the Africans were enslaved here they developed the dance-style fighting because they weren’t allowed to fight. It was such a privilege to be invited to the Capoiera school and see it in action. São Paulo is very famous for pizza apparently, we decided that it was time to try some, we had half a Carne Seca (dried beef) and half what I think was called Baiada. For some reason the Brazilians like to put cream cheese on their pizzas, it’s not like Philadelphia Cream Cheese but a little closer to the “cheese” in a can that the Americans have. I can’t say that this was amazing on the pizza because of the quantity on it, but it was definitely interesting.

James and Ricardo at dinner

Capoeira Capoeira

On our last day, we caught the subway to Tiete where the longer distance bus station. The subways are so quick and can get very, very full! In saying that, the public transport in Brasil is quite cheap, regardless of where you’re going it is the same price (equivalent to around $1.50AUD). We were smart and left ourselves enough time for things to go wrong in the bus station, which they didn’t really but the language barrier has been a struggle at times. Because we were organised and bought our tickets earlier in the week we only needed to go to a machine in the station to get them printed – a fantastic option for us. We couldn’t find the machine. We ended up at the bus company’s counter, and had trouble with the Portuguese once again. There are so many similar words between Portuguese and Spanish that we should be able to get the idea of what is being said; however the pace that it is being said makes it all sound like one word with lots of inflections. Luckily we had someone behind us in the line at the counter who asked, “do you speak English?” and could translate for us. After sugarcane juice for James and a coke for Dee, we headed off to the next city and the Costa Verde.

Go see all the photos from São Paulo

Back into the business lounge (Air NZ this time) we go… Travelling is so hard when you’re faced with free food and alcohol, and no screaming children!

Express path immigration cards

Midnight rolls around and here we are sitting in business class. Flatbed central, our own TV’s, very high quality noise cancelling headphones, a little vanity pack with some sexy pyjamas, and a glass of champagne. Oh, I forgot to mention the three-course meal included as well. This really is the life. The first of our fights is to Abu Dhabi, where we have a short stopover before our next leg to Sao Paulo.

Bags going away In business!

Most of this flight was spent sleeping. We were treated to a marvellous dinner at who knows what hour, and could order pretty much any food we wanted at any stage during the flight. Going back to economy seats is going to be pretty tough!

Our seats Dee's salmon

We arrived into Abu Dhabi, again, finding the business lounge and helping ourselves to champagne breakfast. We only had a very brief stopover here and a quick shower before leaving for the second of our fifteen-hour flights. Although business class is very extravagant the flying was pretty tiring.

The menu Biryani

Our second flight was delayed a little whilst in the air but not to worry, there is always another glass of champagne to help pass the time. We were treated to another amazing meal (we took photos of most of the food), both of us watched movies in comfort and were able to completely relax before hitting the big smoke of Sao Paulo. Altogether we spent 30 hours in the air, 5 hours in three different airports, heading into a fourteen-hour time change. Definitely time for some sleep!

Dee on the plane James on the plane

Go see all the photos of our flight from Melbourne to São Paulo