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Trip Report Trip report: Rio, Pantanal, and Salvador

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My husband and I managed to squeeze in visits to Rio, the Pantanal, and Salvador in 11 days. I definitely would have liked to have more time in each location but, unfortunately, our limited vacation time and budgets didn't really allow for this. Below is a brief review of our trip and some recommendations but if you would like to read more about our trip and see photos, visit my blog at bloggingsouls.wordpress.com.

Rio:

I actually found it a bit of a challenge to find well located hotels with double rooms containing private bathrooms within our budget ($100 or less) but I managed to find two--Casa Valeska and Ipanema B&B. Casa Valeska is more centrally located in terms of access to the subway and it has nice rooms save for the fact that ours faced the street which is a noisy street. Ipanema B&B is in a nicer neighborhood but a little less centrally located in terms of subway access. Our room was nice but small, we were greeted with freshly made juice, and breakfast is good and substantial.

I definitely recommend going to Museu Historico Nacional in El Centro and Museu de Arte Contemporanea in Niteroi if you enjoy contemporary art and architecture. If you can get a ride or have access to a car, I also recommend going to Burle Marx Gardens. Museu do Indio is nice but small and Museu de Arte Moderna is nice but I wouldn't go out of my way to go there.

Pantanal:

We booked our Pantanal trip along with a day trip to Chapada dos Guimaraes with Pantanal Nature. We weren't impressed with the locations we were taken to at the Chapada or with our hotel in Cuiaba (a hotel with a very sweet hostess but probably one of our least favorite hotel rooms and, believe me, our standards aren't high!) Save for my husband's horseback riding accident, we enjoyed our experience in the Pantanal--it's definitely an ideal location to see wildlife. I thought our guide with Pantanal Nature was good but I was disappointed we stayed within the confines of Pousada Rio Claro. We saw a fair amount of wildlife within its grounds but I suspected we could have seen more had we gone to other places. Before we went I was really worried about two things--the heat and the mosquitoes, the latter of which I had read many accounts of. I sprayed my clothes with Permethrin and applied repellent every time we went out and I was actually fine (I actually got very few mosquito bites while we were there though keep in mind we were there during the dry season). My husband, on the other hand, seemed to be a mosquito magnet but the one time he got really bitten up he used a different repellent than me and he didn't use the Permethrin. My concerns about the heat were not unwarranted--it was very hot in the Pantanal--little wonder that we had hikes that started at 5am because by 8 it would already be pretty hot!

Salvador:

We stayed at Barra Guest Hostel--the prices are very reasonable, staff is very helpful, the breakfasts are great, there's two computers with free internet access, free caipirinhas at 7, and activities posted on a chalkboard. We stayed in the double room which was nice only we suspect my husband was bitten by bed bugs (the owner informed me after I contacted him about this that the guests who stayed in our room after us did not get bitten so it's possible we were mistaken). The hostel is located about a ten minute walk away from the beach which is nice but the neighborhood also reminded us of Panama City in terms of not being pedestrian friendly (sections of narrow sidewalk and very aggressive drivers!) I would also say avoid eating in the neighborhood if you're a foodie as the food we ate in the area was disappointing. The owner of the hostel gave us the name of a local guide, Marcus, who we ended up going out with twice to Pelourinho with. Marcus is super nice and his rates are extremely reasonable so I definitely recommend contacting him if you need a guide (send me a message if you want his e-mail address). Also, I really wanted to go on a birdwatching trip while we were in Salvador--it took some effort to find a local bird guide so if anyone is looking for one in Salvador, you can contact Eduardo at eumitt@hotmail.com--he speaks very little English but he brought a friend along to translate and we were also able to communicate in Spanish. I recommend checking out the numerous museums (many of which are free) in Pelourinho as well as the Modern Art Museum of Bahia (try to go there around sunset!)

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