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I bless the rains

Down in Aaaaa-frica


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Sam

We've caught one of our four flights, and now we're in Addis Ababa - our first time in Africa! We're here for five hours.

Mostly I just wanted to publish a blog entry from Ethiopia.

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Note: actually uploading this from Bangkok because we had no wifi in Addis Ababa.

Posted by samoline 22:27 Archived in Ethiopia Comments (2)

Sampa goes on holidays

Our final days in South America are are marred by most things being closed

overcast 26 °C
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In a city with nearly 20 million people and more than 100 museums, you'd think a few would be open on New Year's Day, when everybody is on holidays and looking for things to do. But apparently not.

We wandered around the Liberdade area, São Paulo's Chinatown, and managed to find one open restaurant where we had a delicious lunch.

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Museum of Japanese Immigration (closed)

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And then we caught the metro to Vila Madalena, where numerous eateries and bars make for a lively street scene. Which we had to use our imagination to see, because 90% of places were closed and everyone seemed to be inside.

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The bustling streets of Vila Madalena

We had dinner at the same pizzeria as the other night (limited options again), eating our body weights in mozzarella.

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The 2nd was a bit more exciting. We went back to the Praça da República, which normally has a big market on Saturdays. Obviously most storeowners were still away, because there weren't many there.

The top floor of the 46 storey Edificio Italia was also closed. We got a half-decent view of the sprawling metropolis from level 37.

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São Paulo stretched out below

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A building in urgent need of repair

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Spotted on one of our walks

We tried and failed to get another Portuguese tart (the place was closed: shock, horror) but the state art gallery was open! Hoorah! And it was pretty good too, showcasing Brazilian art for the last 300-odd years. The building itself was the best part - a huge old brick construction that has been renovated with a glass roof, letting light penetrate the whole space.

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Then over to another art gallery, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (or MASP for short). Maybe because it had been closed for the last two days, we had to queue for 55 minutes to get in. We spent 50 minutes inside, meaning our queueing-to-viewing ratio wasn't that great. But what we saw was pretty good. The highlight was a selection of works from their collection, which spanned the 4th Century BC to 2008, arranged in chronological order.

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Wikipedia's photo of the outside (we forgot to take one)

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The main collection

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Part of a fashion exhibit

And now we're leaving South America! In about seven hours we'll begin our multi-part flight marathon, culminating in a couple of days in Singapore before we head home. Stay tuned for more miscellaneous posts.

Posted by samoline 14:32 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

NYE in SP

Farewelling 2015 in the largest city this side of the equator

overcast 28 °C
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Sam

Happy New Year everyone! We're in the metropolis of São Paulo, enjoying the much cooler weather.

It was a surprisingly long trip from Paraty - less than four hours according to Google Maps, but it took us nearly eight. The extremely efficient metro took us to our Airbnb place in one of the city's posher neighbourhoods. The host is on holiday but in regular contact, but the upshot is that for AU$45 a night, we have our own apartment in one of the most expensive cities on the continent.

We acclimatised by going to a pizzeria for dinner, served by authentic-looking Italian waiters. About 30% of 'Paulistas' (people from São Paulo) have Italian ancestry, meaning that the state of São Paulo has more people with Italian ancestry than any region of Italy itself. End result: delicious pizza.

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The next day we went on a walking tour of the city centre. It's a bit rough-and-ready in parts, courtesy of the city's massive divide between rich and poor, but there's some architectural gems to be found. Like the Municipal Theatre, which is so loved that the pedestrian lights on the intersection in front of it are not green and red walking men.

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There are some other highlights below:

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The College of Law

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The Sé Cathedral, which is HUGE

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An Art Deco bank building

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A small, colourful church, built by and for slaves

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Mural above the appropriately named Praça das Artes

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Not really an architectural highlight, but amusing nonetheless

We accidentally went into a small and surprisingly interesting museum about the history of the country's second-biggest bank, which was a floor of their office building left as it was in the 1930s. And then we had a delicious Portuguese tart at a very crowded cafe. Best in Brazil.

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You can even see the chefs make them!

Over to the Museu do Futebol, at one of the city's many stadiums.

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The marvellous exterior wasn't really matched by the interior

It was mostly in Portuguese, but we got a taste of Brazil's undying love for the game. (It's relatively recent though - a bit over 100 years ago, rowing was the most popular sport, apparently.)

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The game of the people

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A typically understated tribute to the game's Brazilian greats in their Hall of Fame. It doesn't make that much sense

We had dinner that night at a Japanese place. The Japanese are another large group of immigrants here, having moved over in the early 20th Century. There are now roughly 1.6 million Brazilians with Japanese heritage today, about half of whom live in São Paulo.

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On New Year's Eve we assumed that most things would be open - it was a Thursday, and not a public holiday. But we were oh so wrong - the four museums we attempted to go to were all closed. So we spent a bit of time wandering around sunny Ibirapuera Park, the city's biggest and best:

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A theatre in the park

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The Biological Institute at the nearby university

We had a rest, and went out again in the evening to Paulista Avenue, just a couple of blocks from our place. It's the city's main thoroughfare, and where the biggest party happens on December 31.

It was a night of singing, dancing, people watching, and passive smoking. And trying not to knock over the person in front of you as you were pushed for the 43rd time. The bands were great, though, and the energy levels were very high.

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At midnight they released confetti from the roof of a nearby building. You may be able to see fireworks at the bottom of this picture but they were pretty ordinary

The crowd gets into it - most people seemed to know every word to every song

Posted by samoline 03:29 Archived in Brazil Comments (4)

Party in Paraty

Not really, just sightseeing

sunny 34 °C
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Caroline

After a relaxed Christmas on Ilha Grande, we caught a boat back to the mainland and a bus several hours down the coast to Paraty, a small colonial port. Pretty cobblestoned streets paired with beautiful beaches makes this a popular tourist destinations for Brazilians from nearby São Paolo and Rio.

We spent our first day exploring the town. The historic centre is fairly compact and cars are banned, making it very pedestrian friendly as long as you don't trip on the cobblestones. We checked out a few churches and the 'Casa da cultura' and found we were pretty much done.

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Next we walked up to the old fort. There's not much of the fort left, but some great views, as well as a perplexing sign:

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it is actually translated correctly as far as we can tell, except for the spelling mistakes of course

We finished the day on Praia da Jabaquara, a beach with very shallow and incredibly warm water - it was like a spa! Unfortunately we forgot to take any photos.

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Today we joined a cruise to a few different beaches and snorkelling spots near Paraty. Apart from two other Australians the crowd of maybe 100 was entirely Brazilian. The beaches were pretty and secluded... but then we turned up, as well as ten other similar-sized boats and maybe thirty smaller ones. It was more like a massive Brazillian beach party after that.

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Geronimo!

The water at the snorkelling spots was so clear, but unfortunately there weren't really many fish to see. We've been ruined by the Galapagos!

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Tomorrow we're off to São Paolo, our last stop in South America.

Posted by samoline 14:03 Archived in Brazil Comments (3)

A white (sand) Christmas

On the island paradise of Ilha Grande. Although if we were designing paradise, we’d probably make it a few degrees cooler

sunny 36 °C
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Sam

After a busy few days in Rio, we were ready to relax for a bit. Apparently taking half a year off isn’t relaxing enough. So one van ride and one boat ride later, we were at Vila do Abraão, the main settlement of Ilha Grande (big island).

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Pulling away from the mainland

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And into Vila do Abraão

There are three cars allowed on the island: the police car, the fire engine, and the garbage truck, so it’s pretty relaxed.

Our digs were a long slog up a steep hill, and it was very hot and very humid, so once unpacked we cooled down in the sea.

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In the evening, the beachfront restaurants set up their tables on the beach. We took the cheaper option and had dinner at home before sitting down on the pier.

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The next day we took a hike across the island, through the thick woods. The shade was welcome, but the lack of a sea breeze, and a few steep climbs meant there was no relief from the sweat.

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Looking out on the mainland from the top of a hill

We stopped for lunch at this beach:
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And went for a swim at this one:
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But our final destination was Praia Lopes Mendes, which the Lonely Planet said is “considered by some as the most beautiful beach in Brazil”. Big call, but justified, we think, based on our extremely limited experience. There’s endless white squeaky sand, enough shade, not much of a crowd, shallow water, and long, rolling waves. In fact, it was perfect for beach cricket, which was a bit tragic given the lack of cricket here.

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We walked to the other side of the bay to catch the boat back to Abraão, and called it a night.

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On Christmas Day/Boxing Day Eve, we explored the area around Abraão. We had Christmas lunch at one of the town’s many ‘self-serve’ restaurants, which are like buffets, but they weigh your plate as you leave and then charge you according to how much you’ve taken.

The town’s beach itself isn’t that great for swimming because of the surplus of boats.

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But there’s a circuit to the west that takes in some good views, a beautiful waterhole, and an old aqueduct.

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And just a bit further along is another beach, much more pleasant for taking a dip.

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A massive cruise ship just off the coast hung around all day

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We had one more morning before our boat left, so we picked another beach near Abraão and went for a final swim.

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Praia da Julia

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Lugging our bags down the hill

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Even the dogs need to cool down

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Leaving the island

Back to the mainland now, to our penultimate destination in South America.

Posted by samoline 15:17 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

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