Rio to Santiago via Patagonia

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Oct 16th, 2012, 02:27 PM
  #1
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Rio to Santiago via Patagonia

As I posted on my planning thread (http://www.fodors.com/community/sout...-week-trip.cfm ) I'm a mid sixties, solo, female traveler, headed to South America for the first time. I took early retirement so I could travel, but I've been concentrating on Europe and Asia. Now that I'm seriously thinking of moving back to Europe from the US, it's high time I headed south - while I'm still on this side of the Atlantic.

I'm starting in Rio, and then flying south to Patagonia via Iguazu, Montevideo, Colonia and Buenos Aires. I'll work my way back north by boat and bus, criss-crossing the Andes, to finish in Santiago. I'll be posting here, and also blogging, so if you'd like photos with the text, go here#160;http://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com/

Right now I'm in transit, hanging out in the Admirals Club in Miami airport. My inbound flight pushed back ten minutes late because it took so long to board, and my outbound flight is just as full. I don't remember now why I wound up with an eight hour layover - probably trying for cheaper tickets - but it justified a day pass for the club.

I rarely get any sleep in economy class, especially with a completely full flight, so I may not be too energetic tomorrow. I'm staying in an apartment building five blocks in from Copacabana Beach, and hope I'll be up to walking down to Ipanema and Leblon.
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Oct 16th, 2012, 02:53 PM
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Hanging out with you! Looking forward to more!
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Oct 16th, 2012, 05:44 PM
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Buen viaje!
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Oct 16th, 2012, 06:00 PM
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Sounds like a great trip...looking forward to reading about it.
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Oct 16th, 2012, 06:24 PM
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Wow! To be walking on the wave-tiled sidewalk, looking at the sand sculptures, and the mountains rising out of the sea....tomorrow morning. Lucky you. Enjoy. It's a wonderful city. Too bad you won't be seeing more of this gorgeous country and its true treasure, its warm people. Rio is only the tiniest start to exploring Brazil.
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Oct 16th, 2012, 06:34 PM
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Yes, I know I'm seriously shortchanging Brazil, but even on an eight week trip, I have to cut things.
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Oct 16th, 2012, 11:40 PM
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Have a fantastic trip Thurdaysd. Looking forward to reading a lot more about it.
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Oct 17th, 2012, 07:53 PM
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Oct 16-17, 2012: An I Hate To Fly Day

Anyone who travels as much as I've been doing has some bad days. Even some really bad days. Seems to me those days often involve flights. When people ask me why my trips are so long, I usually reply that I find flying such a pain these days I need to get in a lot of travel per flight. I hope the next eight weeks will make up for the twenty-seven hours it took to get from my house to my hotel.

Things started out well. I don't remember now why I signed up for an eight hour layover in Miami, but I imagine the alternatives were either worse or noticeably more expensive. Having done so, I decided to spend some of the savings on a day pass for the Admirals Club, and I waited for my RDU-MIA flight in lonely state. That flight, although packed, was only slightly late, and I was in no hurry. Terminal D at MIA has two Admirals Clubs and I visited both. I can advise future travelers to go for the one at gate D30 - it's bigger and roomier, and therefore quieter, than the one at gate D15.

Although I took full advantage of the Admirals Club's comfortable chairs, so-so food and wine, and free wi-fi (I could have listened to the Presidential debate but I chose a podcast on South America instead), I was more than ready to board my 11:20 flight when I went down to the gate. Only there was no plane.

We finally boarded maybe an hour late. Then we sat at the gate waiting for the service log to be delivered and for a mechanic to fix a problem with an overhead compartment (he got a round of applause when he handled the problem in less than a minute). As we approached the take-off point it looked like we would leave "just" two hours late. No such luck. 

The captain announced that he had an indicator light on. We would have to return to the gate and call in another mechanic. Now I wasn't happy about the further delay, but I was flabbergasted by the behavior of some of my fellow passengers. A whole group retrieved their (large) carryons and headed for the front of the plane. I'm not sure how they expected to disembark without a jetway, but they were stopped by an announcement that they might have to wait days for another flight, and there would be no hotel vouchers. I was indebted to my seat mate for that information, as the announcement was only in Portuguese (this made more sense later, at Brazilian immigration, when almost the entire flight turned out to be citizens).

We eventually took off three hours and fifteen minutes late, at 2:35 Miami time. We ate dinner at 3:30 am. I surprised myself by getting some actual sleep, although in fits and starts, and we made up some of the time, landing just a couple of hours late. I suppose that any time I arrive in the correct city, on the correct day, along with my checked bag, I should be pleased, but I was too tired.

Then, before locating the bus to town, I had to go on a treasure hunt. One would think that in an international airport, the ATMs would be on the arrivals level. Perhaps the bureaux de change had something to say about that. There was no one at the Tourist Information desk, and no ATMs. There were none on the departure level, although there was a helpful person at a T.I. desk. I finally found a line of ATMs belonging to three different banks next to the food court on the top level. The HSBC one didn't work. The Santander one didn't work. Happily, the third one I tried did work, with both my Capital One and Credit Union cards, and disgorged enough cash to pay my hotel bill. Persistence pays.

Although I've been writing "my hotel", the Edificio Jucati is really an apartment building. Although my apartment is spartan almost to the point of bleak, it includes a fridge, a stove, a TV, a telephone, AC, and free wifi, plus the first shower I've encountered with a remote control! It's also rather more of a trek from Av. Atlantica than I had thought from the maps. Maybe I'll spring for a taxi on Sunday when I go back to the airport.

After I finally checked in at 14:30 local time, the first thing I did was shower. Then I had to wait around, twice, for someone to come fix my safe. By the time I headed out in search of lunch and the beach, eating was urgent and my mood could have been better.
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Oct 18th, 2012, 04:16 AM
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Note: If you used an ATM at the airport in Rio, please check your statements carefully from this time forward. There have been many problems reported online with cloning on those machines.
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Oct 18th, 2012, 09:35 AM
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Not a great start but things can only get better. The behaviour of some airline passenger never fails to both amaze and disappoint me!
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Oct 18th, 2012, 03:01 PM
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Vida - you know, between the reports of scams, and the reports of muggings, it does seem that Rio has a lot of work to do before 2016!

That said, American guide books sound a lot more paranoid than the British Foregon Office. Maybe things have improved since they were published. My hotel said that it was OK for me to walk back at night now, but it wouldn't have been three years ago. So far I have felt fine, but my regular travel clothes are "dress down" and I am in hyper vigilant mode, with an arm or a leg through the strap of my bag in cafes and restaurants.

BTW, the books said you should carry your stuff in a plastic shopping bag, and that back packs marked you as a tourist. Not my experience. There seem to be plenty of people with back packs - admittedly younger than I am, but most people are younger than I am - and the only people with shopping bags seem to have been shopping. Maybe it's different ON the beach, I'm just looking at it.
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Oct 18th, 2012, 03:16 PM
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And, FYI on a different subject, I got an email from AA crediting me with 3,000 FF miles for the "inconvenience".
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Oct 18th, 2012, 05:14 PM
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And you're off! Congratulations. Things can only get better. Will be on your trail. Happy travels.
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Oct 18th, 2012, 07:37 PM
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I'm following along, thursdays!
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Oct 19th, 2012, 06:03 AM
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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-19989037
6 serendipitous minutes of Michael Palin in Brazil!
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Oct 19th, 2012, 08:10 AM
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You might notice that a great many people with backpacks wear them in front, to keep a better eye on them.
Brazilians do things or carry/use things that, even with the recently much touted improvement in crime against tourists in Rio, I would never recommend a newbie tourist try, since they don't have the same developed radar for trouble that a Brazilian does. Every tourist who posts that s/he felt "perfectly safe" in Rio, to me just means they never saw coming the trouble they narrowly averted.
Some advice in the books, such as carrying a camera in a plastic supermarket bag, or to "dress like the locals" are simply going too far to make a point, though, even if the point is valid. However, if plastic is a bit much, that doesn't mean a fancy camera bag won't attract unwanted attention, and that a more modest small backpack carried in front or secured under your arm isn't a better idea.
I don't think much will change before the tourist influx for the games.
Do continue to have a good time, thursdaysd, and continue to post.
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Oct 19th, 2012, 11:44 AM
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Have now survived the metro with a back pack, but for sure worn in front. Weather has been odd - cool and cloudy Wed and today (naturally the day I had booked a tour up Corcovado!) but really hot and sunny yesterday (I headed to the Jardim Botanico for shade). Tomorrow I have booked a tour to Petropolis and I fly to Igauzu Sunday. Will try to get something written this afternoon or tomorrow.

If the safety situation doesn't improve before the games I would think there will be a lot of upset people.
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Oct 19th, 2012, 06:05 PM
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Oct 17-18, 2012: A First Taste of Rio

When I left the Edificio Jucati, in search of a very late lunch, I was too focussed to properly appreciate the park in front of the building. Later, I would notice the black and white wave mosaic on the circling pavement, just like those in Lisbon, albeit dustier and less even, the game court, the children's playground, the chess tables (more used for card games) and the big concrete fountain. I would see other, similar, parks scattered round Copacabana.

Instead, I located the three places recommended by the young woman who had checked me in. One sandwich/hamburger joint and two small buffet places. I am no fan of buffets, but starvation was setting in. Even though Copacabana is surely prime tourist territory, the cafe I picked seemed more of a local place. Unlike the all-you-can-eat buffets helping fuel the obesity epidemic in the US, here I paid by weight. Although the food was  merely edible, it was remarkably cheap. Afterwards I walked down to the beach.

As I have written before, I am not a beach person. I no longer want to sun bathe, but nor do I want to slather on sunscreen. I prefer to swim in a pool, and I hate getting sand everywhere. Happily, Rio's beaches come with promenades - more black and white mosaics - and I could watch the waves and the action without hitting the sand. Actually, there wasn't much action. On a cool, overcast afternoon I saw more dog-walkers than bikini-wearers.

Eventually I picked a kiosk, one with a bigger buffer against traffic noise than some, and ordered a caipirinha. Now I rarely drink cocktails, being a confirmed wine aficionado, but I was surprised to really enjoy this one. I would learn that not all caipirinhas are created equal. The first, at Praia Skol, was great. The second, at Praia Skol 360, was too strong. The third, which I am drinking as I write this, at the J. W. Marriott, is too weak, despite costing about twice as much. (It's even cooler, and windier, this afternoon: I opted to enjoy the drink, and the view, indoors.)

Given the weather the day I arrived, I was surprised to wake up to brilliant sunshine. Brilliant, HOT, sunshine - I could feel the heat through the window. Of course, I should have headed up Corcovado, but access seemed a bit involved and I signed up for a tour the next day. In hopes of shade I set off instead for the Jardim Botanico. I took the metro - clean and easy - two stops to Botafogo, where I switched to "above ground metro bus" (with AC, unlike the regular city buses).

I am fond of botanical gardens, despite having a black, not green, thumb and this one did not disappoint (although the one I saw in Kandy last year was even better, and I have yet to find one to equal Kew) but it didn't take long before I had to break out the umbrella/sunshade. I admired the signature palm avenues, the lakes, the bamboo (always love bamboo) but it seemed too early in the year for orchids and roses.

I had met a helpful local lady outside the garden, and after walking me to the nearest entrance, she recommended a place called Bibi for lunch - very healthy food, she said. So, after taking a look at the pretty Lagao Rodrigo de Freitas, I followed her directions, only to find Bibi to be both very full, and open to the decidedly hot weather. I passed, and eventually tracked down a Frommer's recommendation: the Atelier Culinario, inside a bookshop. The night before I had been disappointed by another Frommer's pick, Arab (the fairly new Babylon, in Raleigh, does infinitely better Middle Eastern food) and again, the food was nothing special, although the ambience was fine and the AC divine. (OK, so I should stick to Fodors!)

Then I did the metro and bus combo in reverse to take a look at Ipanema. Everything I had read said that Ipanema was more upmarket than Copacabana, but I really didn't find it so, aside from a number of newish apartment blocks, barricaded behind metal fences. I visited the Museu Amsterdam Sauer, inside a jewelry shop, as I always enjoy looking at gems and minerals, and had a nice chat with the sales lady (after she realized I wasn't buying).

This night was churrascaria - more than you can eat meat - night, and I abandoned Frommers to follow my hotel's recommendation of Carretao. The result was cheaper, and much better, than Arab. The beef and sausages were excellent. and I discovered a taste for manioc. I even found sushi on the salad bar.

Safety note: After reading the paranoid American guidebooks (the British Foreign Office website was less alarmist), I set out the first day with just a small shoulder bag, with the strap worn across my body. The next morning I went back to my usual small(ish) backpack - I needed my umbrella/sunshade, a water bottle, my camera, one if not two guidebooks, a map, an energy bar.... That lot just won't fit in a small handbag! I did wear it in front on the metro, but I've done that on a number of metros.
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Oct 19th, 2012, 06:42 PM
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"Corcovado, but access seemed a bit involved"
No, it's not. No big deal at all. Cancel the tour.
Take a taxi to the base station in Cosme Velho (neighborhood--All taxi drivers know where to take you if you say Corcovado), but I suppose you could take the local bus (ask for the bus number at hotel). Then at the base station ticket booth you buy a ticket to take the train up the mountain. A samba band boards part way up and serenades you. When you get off, you can see how to make yur way up the escalator to the multi-level platform at the base of the statue. MAke sure to have someone take your picture below the Cristo with your arms outspread as his are.
The alternative is that you can go by road (taxi, tour van) to a parking lot most of the way up the mountain where you switch to the official van (the only vehicle allowed) to the top. But then you miss the train trip which I thought was a lot of fun.
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Oct 19th, 2012, 06:59 PM
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I did the tour today (19th), it included a look at the outside of the new football stadium, ditto Samba Dome, a stop at the modern cathedral, and would have taken me on to the sugar loaf except I got off at Cinelandia. I don't think of taxis for that sort of distance unless I have luggage.

Maybe the timeline wasn't clear. I arrived on the 17th (dinner at Arab), I visited the Jardim Botanico on the 18th (dinner at Carretao), and I wrote the post on the 19th while at the Marriott. Details on the 19th to come.
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