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Trip Report South American Mix: Easter Island, Machu Picchu, Rio & the Pantanal

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South American Mix: Easter Island, Machu Picchu, Rio & the Pantanal
September 4th - September 30th 2017

I recently returned from what I thought was going to be my only trip ever to South America hence the crazy tour mix. I wanted to see a couple “bucket list” destinations (Easter Island and Machu Picchu) but what I really was going for was to photograph the jaguars in the Pantanal. I was not disappointed in any of it – except maybe Rio.

A little about me: I've been on a few African Safaris, a polar bear tour to Churchill and a tiger tour to India. I love taking photos of everything nature but I especially love the big cats which is what inspired me to look into the Pantanal. I usually travel solo because, well, I'm solo but also because my friends and family really aren't interested in the types of tours I take or keeping the schedule that I keep while on vacation.

So here's the trip report for my very first time in South America!

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    September 4 – 5th: Flight on Alaska and American from Bellingham-Seattle-Dallas-Santiago. Overnight Santiago on the 5th at Holiday Inn Santiago Airport (right across the street from baggage claim).

    <font color="2b13f0">Easter Island (September 6 – 11th): Photo Link <a href="">(HERE)</a>. Flight on September 6th on LATAM arrived at about 1p on the Island. There is one flight per day in and one out. From beginning to end, Easter Island was fantastic. It was amazing to see the guys (Moai) in person instead of just in photos. I had 5 nights on Easter Island and did a self-drive. I hired a 4x4 (jeep) through Insular Rental. An agent met me at the airport upon arrival and departure and rental was very informal. There is no auto insurance on the island so if you drive be careful to follow the speed limits recommended by the rental car agency - and be aware that the locals do not follow those same speed limits. Driving in town was a little nerve-wracking but the rest of the island was better. All I had to worry about was a horse/cow/rooster/dog roadblock…or getting lost. Speaking of getting lost, I studied maps and had directions to my lodging from the airport. I thought I knew where I was going and had good directions but I quickly realized I was in big trouble – there are NO street signs! Therefore, directions that say, “make a left on” are totally useless. Thank God for google GPS directions or I would have been going in circles forever because where I stayed was quite hard to find…on a dirt road that didn’t even look like a road. I would recommend setting up your GPS directions before you leave the airport (because there is a signal there).

    I got a great deal from Travelocity on a little place that had “cabanas” called Mana Nui Inn. I had a private cabin with a partial ocean view that I enjoyed very much. The cabin had a sink, fridge, kettle to boil water and burners with pots, plates, etc., so that you could cook. The kitchen saved me a lot of money on food while I was there – just did a little grocery shopping (at R&Ds) and all was good. My little cabin also had a washing machine and clothesline, which was great to have since I was on an almost month long trip with just a carry-on! Note about accommodation on Easter Island: accommodation is not 4 or 5 star…I’m sure there are some of those types of places somewhere if you need one…but not many. Where I stayed was family run, clean, and comfortable. No frills but comfortable and with hot water. I loved my little cabin and enjoyed having my own deck with a table and chairs. I would sit out every evening, have a glass of wine, and watch the ocean while reviewing my photos of the day or planning my next day adventure – it was perfect for me.

    I did all the typical tourist things and some things – by accident – that typical tourists probably do not do. A list of my highlights: Rano Raraku, Ahu Tongariki ,Orongo, Anakena Beach, Rano Kau, Ahu Nau Nau, A Kivi, Vinapu, Tara Kai Ua, and many other Moai and other attractions on the roads in between the main sites. Be sure to hit Tongariki for sunrise at least once (I went every day) and Tahai at sunset. I saw some caves from the outside and did not go caving since I was alone (and I’m not really big into caving in any case). I got lost a few times and discovered Moai and other things that I do not think they expected tourists to find because there were no signs or the signs were all in Spanish. Many things to discover on Easter Island for sure! Glad I saw most of this little island in the time I had. The time I spent there was just about the perfect duration to thoroughly explore the island and maybe visit favorite sights more than once (depending on weather – if you saw it in the rain and the sun came out for example). Note on weather: it rained almost every day but was also sunny every day so the weather was very changeable. The temperatures were comfortable for me (around 75 F during the day) so while my cabin did not have air-conditioning, I really didn’t need it. When it rains, the animals go on the roads to drink the water so be careful driving during and after rain. Also, be sure to stop by the post office to mail your post cards and get the unofficial Easter Island stamp in your passport (the stamp is free but it’s nice to give a small tip to the post office workers). Late arrival back to Santiago on the 11th so overnight at the Holiday Inn that evening.

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    Ok - I won't try fancy colors or links anymore since they aren't working for me. Trip continued...

    Machu Picchu (September 12 – 15th): Photo Link: Flight from SCL to Cuscu on Avianca and LATAM at 7am on the 12th. Arrived in Cusco early afternoon and checked into Hotel Unumizu. They offered a free transfer from the airport. I was so exhausted that I didn’t do much except sleep so, in hindsight, I wish I had planned 2 nights in Cusco so that I could have had a day to explore the city. My airport pick-up driver was also my transfer driver to the train station. He was an expert at navigating Cusco traffic and spoke enough English to make conversation. He also had very fair prices for transfers to and from the train (30 PEN to Poroy station). Note: I did start taking Diamox a couple days before arriving in Cusco and had no issues with altitude at all.

    September 13th - Train ride. The train was packed and seats were randomly assigned when the ticket was bought so if you would like a window or would like to sit going forward instead of backward, you probably should try to talk to someone when booking your ride because I think empty seats to swap with are rare. I found that because I booked early, they automatically gave me a window but I was going backward both directions. It was ok but not what I would have preferred. The train ride was beautiful – I only wish there was less garbage tossed into the water, etc. Arrived at Machu Picchu Pueblo (formally Aguas Calientes) and met by a representative from Taypikala Boutique hotel who collected my luggage at the train station so I could get directly on the bus to Machu Picchu. I had a ticket for brunch at Belmond Sanctuary Lodge before a 1pm entry to Machu Picchu so the timing was perfect. The 13th was a beautiful day full of sunshine and while a little on the hot side – I couldn’t have had a better day to see this historic site! If I could have predicted the future and saw how horrible the weather would be on the 14th, I would have stayed as long as I could at Mahcu Picchu on the 13th. However, when I saw how long the line was to catch the bus back down to the town (2 hours) and because I had a ticket for all day on the 14th (bought before the rule change), I decided that I would just take the steps up to the Watchmen’s hut, relax, enjoy the view, and get some of the famous viewpoint photos and then head back for the day. Bad decision on my part but sometimes bad decisions happen. I had an amazing time that day – the view was spectacular and I took my time walking up and back and I stayed up at the view for quite a while. About the steps. First I should say that I am very heavy and not in shape at all. Second, even if you are in good shape, the steps can be treacherous. I heard a guy coming down the trail say, “The Incas were dicks!” I’d have to agree! The steps were stone and dirt, not uniform in width or height and most very high. I was huffing and puffing and took many breaks because it was very hot and exhausting. I went through my water very fast! I made it up and back without incident but that wasn’t true for everyone. Typical of “tourist attractions” in other countries – they aren’t necessarily worried about lawsuits so there are no rails or other safety features to keep you from falling off edges or to stop you from going places you shouldn’t go. In fact, I saw one guy – who was in peak physical shape – almost fall off a ledge. He and his wife were heading down the trail and he tripped on a rock in the path and almost went over – it was very scary because I don’t think he would have survived that fall. On my way back down I saw the park rangers bringing a stretcher up because a girl had fallen off an edge and broke her ankle (I found this out later because she was on my bus heading back down). All that to say – caution is key at Machu Picchu!

    September 14th – got up early to get in line. Tourists with morning tickets literally start lining up for buses at about 4am. I thought my hotel was far away from the buses (at the opposite end of town) but guess what? I went out to get in line at 5a and the line was all the way back to the entrance of my hotel! I literally stood in line for 3 hours…in a very light rain. OK – so let’s talk about rain. I’m from Bellingham, WA north of Seattle. It rains all the time here in the winter. Rain does not scare me or stop me from doing anything. I don’t have a raincoat or anything here – I just get rained on and it doesn’t faze me in the least. I wanted you to understand that so you know how horrible rain can be at Machu Picchu. After a 3 hour wait in the bus line, I arrived at the mountain. It may have only been a light sprinkle in town, but at Machu Picchu, it was a monsoon. Right away I was thinking – this is pretty bad. People were selling rain ponchos and things but, again, I was a rain pro so I didn’t bother with one. I went in the entrance and started my plan of exploring the ruins… I was immediately disappointed by the fact that I couldn’t see anything – clouds covered the entire site and no good view for sure. Thank goodness I walked up to the viewpoint the day before! I literally stayed probably 30 min – walked to a few of the ruins and then packed it in and left. Yes, that is how bad it was. I was completely soaked through in about 5 min. And remember the steps? So slippery when they get wet! I was slipping, sliding, and thought I was going to kill myself trying to walk around in the rain. I could not get my camera out because as soon as I did and tried to take photos, the rain covered the lens. When my camera bag got totally soaked and water was leaking onto the camera, I decided it was time to go. It was so bad that the bar code on my bus ticket was destroyed and wouldn’t scan. They actually tried to deny me my trip back down. The argued with me for at least a half an hour until I finally just walked over to a bus that was bringing people up, waited for everyone to get off and then just got on and sat down and refused to get off. What a mess. The only good news was that I had the rest of the day to enjoy the little town – and I did enjoy it. Had a nice wood fire pizza for lunch at a hole in the wall place and had fun looking at all the crafts. If I had more than a carry-on, I would have been tempted to purchase one of the homemade chess sets…. So I had a leisurely afternoon exploring the town before heading back to my hotel. It rained all day in town that day so I am sure it was extremely miserable at the mountain. If you are planning Machu Picchu, what a difference a day can make! I would recommend spending two days there if you can so you might have more of a chance to see it without bad weather. Even with one day being bad, I was still very happy to see Machu Picchu!

    September 15th – 8:23a train to Ollantaytambo station with an overnight flight to Rio de Janerio leaving at 4:47p on Avianca.

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    Rio de Janerio (September 16-19th): Photo Link: Ah, Rio, what can I say...not my thing at all. I really prefer nature over cities anyway but Rio just hit me the wrong way. Not my kind of city even if I liked cities. Let me explain. I grew up by the beach in NJ so the beach was somewhere we went to swim, walk, have good food and relax. I was wrong in assuming Rio was the same so it is really my misconception of what to expect that caused my strife. And my size didn’t help. I didn’t know this but many there are extremely hateful of fat people.

    September 16th - I arrived at the Windsor Copa at about 9am after a long, overnight flight. I was exhausted and I’m sure I was smelly after no shower and stuck on the cramped airplane for hours…so when they offered to let me check in early for $55, I grabbed it. Slept for a couple hours, got a much-needed shower and then decided it was time to hit the beach. I walked the block or so to Copacabana Beach (I dare you to not get the song stuck in your head) and settled in at a cute beachside bar and grill with my book. I was ready to relax, take in the beach sites, read my book, and have a beer and a good lunch. I was not ready for what really happened. Literally the SECOND I sat down, I was accosted by people trying to sell me crap, people begging, singers coming up and singing to me and wanted money for their time, etc. I ordered my meal thinking that they would go away when the food came – nope. In fact, it got worse. My favorite was the person coming around putting peanuts on all the tables…then he would come back 5 min later asking you to buy peanuts from him. If you said “no”, he took the “samples” back! Lol – wonder how many times those peanuts were reused…and I wonder if he got mad if you ate them? I wonder how many tourists fall for it thinking it’s someone from the bar giving them complementary peanuts? That is almost what it looked like because he walked up to put the peanuts down as soon as someone sat down. So I started eating and had my book literally directly in front of my nose to try and stop people from approaching me – not a chance! I actually had a guy dangle a t-shirt in-between my nose and my book asking me to buy. I was very polite in saying “no” to him and I was shocked when he called me names as he was walking away – derogatory names used for fat people. I was stunned. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been called names all my life but I guess I just wasn’t expecting it while on vacation in Rio – especially for something as simple as saying no to a street vender. I finished my meal quickly (very quickly) and just got the hell out of there as fast as I could (as did most people who sat down – I saw one couple take two sips of their dink and just leave because it was so crazy). On the way back to my hotel, I heard several other people call me names. Again – stunned. I was hurt and shocked and not feeling the love for the city. Boy, it was going to be a long few days in Rio! I made my way to a grocery store and bought some supplies and decided I was too uncomfortable walking around there (and being seen in public in general) so I was just going to eat in and stay in the hotel for the rest of the day. Crazy, right?! But that’s what I did on my first day there.

    September 17th – A new day in Rio! I got up early to prep for a early morning start to an all day tour of the city. I booked with a local guide (Neyla) who was a real find. She spoke amazing English and I found out she had been an exchange student to the US at one point. She showed me around her city and to all the touristy type places. Weight did come up….she started talking about lunch and where I might want to eat (or was I dieting and did I want to skip it?). We talked about it awhile and I decided that being thin and looking perfect must just be part of the culture there. Didn’t make me feel any better. I’m very glad I did the day tour with her and got to see all the famous sights, but I’ll never go back and I can’t recommend it.

    September 18th – Went to the beach in the morning – early – before anyone else got there. Had a nice walk along the beach. The sun hadn’t penetrated the pollution yet so no one was around except me and people with metal detectors. Very nice morning with no people around. Then I camped out at the hotel for the entire rest of the day. Yes, I did. Too bad the room wasn’t nicer. It was actually dark and kind of depressing. Or maybe I was just so depressed at that point that it seemed even darker and more depressing than it really was?

    September 19th – Thank goodness! Leaving Rio! And off to be with the animals who don’t judge you for what you look like. Unfortunately for me, I had a late flight out. Silly me - I thought I’d want more time in Rio so I booked a 6:30pm flight out. I tried to see if I could get an earlier flight out but it would have cost a crazy amount change the ticket. So again, I had almost all day because the transfer driver wasn’t coming until about 3p. I went down to breakfast and stopped at the front desk to see if I could get late check out because checkout time was noon. If they said no, I was fully prepared to sit in the lobby with my stuff for 3 hours. When I got to the front desk, I just started crying and tried to explain that I needed to stay in my room because people were calling me names because of my weight. Haha! And I’m not a crier so obviously I was very stressed over it. The guy at the desk just said, “That does sometimes happen” and then he said I could stay in my room for free until 3pm…that made me feel a little better. I just spent the time packing and counting the minutes until I could be gone from Rio forever. Flight out on GOL to Cuiaba went well and I arrived in Cuiaba at about 10pm and walked to the Slaviero Slim hotel. Very nice front desk staff and not one calling me names – I felt much better!

    The Pantanal! (September 20th – 29th): Photo Link: The tour operator I chose for my Pantanal tour was Gasparetour. I chose a 4 day Eco-Tour + 6 day Jaguar tour combo. The tours were supposed to be small group (up to 6 or 8) but it turned out I was all alone. Pick up from the Slaviero Slim and transfer to the first lodge, Piuval Lodge, was by the tour company owner himself - Igor. Along the way we saw quite a few birds including a couple of beautiful Hyacinth McCaws. Igor handed me off to my guide, Alex, and introduced me to our driver (sorry – I can’t spell his name…I could barely pronounce it). Alex made me feel comfortable right from the start and I knew it was going to be a great trip! Stayed at Piuval a couple nights and saw too many birds to name as well as a giant river otter, lots of caiman, monkeys, a wolf and some of the very cute giant rodents called capybaras. It wasn’t a jaguar area but I guess there are a couple who live there and we saw prints but no jaguar. I enjoyed this lodge and the surrounding area very much.

    September 22-24 – We hit the road and went to Rio Claro Lodge via the famous Transpataneira highway. I think because I was there at the end of dry season that there really wasn’t much wildlife in this area. I didn’t see nearly as much in the area of Rio Claro as I did at the first lodge but I did get to have a couple boat rides that were nice.

    September 24-28th – Jaguar time! I was very ready to see some jaguars. The transfer to the Pantanal Norte Hotel was later in the day so we did not arrive in time to do a boat ride. I should have said that all the jaguar spotting is done by boat so my driver left and Alex and I checked into our rooms at the hotel. It was only about 3pm but, apparently, I was not booked to go out spotting on the first day so jaguars would have to wait. I just looked around the grounds of the hotel and enjoyed meeting the homeless kitty that seemed to adopt me. I found out later his name was Harry. He greeted me when I arrived and he could often be found sitting at my front door on in the chair by my door…some of that was probably because I snuck him food out of the dining hall every meal… The following 4 days were amazing and met all my expectations (and beyond) regarding seeing jaguars! The highlight was seeing one jaguar hunting. I highly recommend spending some time in the Pantanal with these amazing cats!

    September 29th – 30th – Time to head home. With fond memories of jaguars running through my head, I got in the truck to head back to the Cuiaba airport and the USA (it’s about a 5 hour transfer). Unfortunately, it had started raining the night before my transfer and by morning, the road was mud, mud and more mud. I give a lot of credit to my transfer driver because we were doing some serious “off-roading.” There were cars stranded in diches all over and even our 4x4 was having problems…lots of sideways sliding. But we got through with some amazing driving done by the transfer driver. I arrived at Cuiaba and began the long series of flights home (GOL, Avianca, Untied and Alaska in that order). Would not arrive back in Bellingham until 9pm the next evening.

    To sum up, I originally went into this trip thinking it was going to be my one and only trip to South America…now I’d say that I’d be more than happy to go back to the Pantanal some day! Or maybe try the Amazon. I think it would be hard to decide to go to the Amazon without also going to the Pantanal so it might have to be a combination trip. Considering I planned this myself, I was happy with how things turned out. I guess the obvious being that I would have planned just one day in Rio (or none) but the rest of the timing was perfect and enough time to see what I wanted to see. Regarding 4 full days for jaguar tours – I’m glad I planned that because the weather turned toward the end and we didn’t see many cats. Having more time there maximized my chances to see the charming jaguars and was definitely worth it! Hope anyone interested in the Pantanal can get there soon!

    Misc planning tips/advice:

    Planning Airfare: I planned and booked this trip myself and I was a solo traveler (my preferred way to travel for the most part). Because of flight schedules to and from Bellingham WA, I ended up doing it in this order: Easter Island, Machu Picchu, Rio de Janerio, and then the Pantanal. Tips on flights: book as far ahead as you can because you get a huge discount. Look into GOL Airline for excellent fare deals when you book early. And of course LATAM is a great airline and I enjoyed those flights the most. Also check into Avainca for routes between Chile, Peru and Brazil but be aware that Avianca and Avianca Brazil are like two separate companies, which can cause issues for check in. I would recommend leaving yourself at least 2 hours for connections. Even though I only had a carry-on and no checked luggage, I often had to completely exit and go back to check in upon arrival (and then back through security, etc). This happened because 1) either I was flying from one country to another and they didn’t have a connection transfer process or 2) Online check-in didn’t work for me so I had to go to the ticket counter - or sometimes both situations happened! One thing to note about my experience with the South American airlines – they were all very good and on time BUT they don’t notify you with flight changes (even if you’re registered for updates) so watch everything VERY carefully and be prepared for changes. Again, longer connections can help with this.

    Documents and entry tickets:

    Visa: I applied for the Brazil visa online and mailed to the company who was going to stand in line for me to get my visa. Note: Brazil required an IN PERSON appointment to get a visa. I live in Bellingham, WA and the closet embassy was San Francisco so I had to hire an agent to go to the appointment for me. Brazil embassy has a list of companies you need to use on their site. I used G3 Global and was very happy with them. Quick and good communication. I applied almost a year ahead because I heard San Francisco can often be months out in scheduling appointments. The embassy online application system is pretty easy to use so there is no need to really use an agency to double check documents for you – if you ever applied for a visa before from anywhere, you should be fine just hiring them to take your documents to the embassy for you and not paying the extra money for a “double check” of your paperwork. No visa is presently required for Chile or Peru and there were no entry fees or anything that needed to be paid.

    Easter Island NP pass: Have the fee in cash ready for when you land – with pristine bills that are not wrinkled or damaged. Immediately after you get off the plane and before you get your luggage, get in line to get your national park pass. There is a booth before the luggage area at the airport that you should see people queuing in. You will be asked to show your pass at several of the sites so keep it handy at all times.

    Machu Picchu: Train tickets were booked online months ahead. I did Peru Rail Visadome on the way with brunch at the Belmond lodge (I would recommend this – VERY nice brunch!) and then expedition on the way back. I went in through Poroy and out through Ollantaytambo. Odd I know but I had a 4pm flight and the trains to Ollantaytambo were earlier in the morning than trains to Poroy. It’s a pretty long transfer from there to the Airport so give yourself time if you have a same day flight. Machu Picchu entry tickets were also booked months ahead online. Use google translate if you need to – the web site is hard to navigate but worth it. Get them as far ahead as you can to avoid sell-out. Note on new rules: times were strictly enforced if you had the new tickets but no guide was required at this time. Bus tickets to and from the town were also bought online and I would HIGHLY recommend buying before you arrive (Consettur). The line is crazy long and you don’t want to add time to it by trying to buy tickets there. Most everyone I saw had tickets in hand that they had bought online.

    Rio: I hired a private guide for a day tour so she handled all the tickets and appointments. Christ the Redeemer is timed admission.

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    Wow! You sure packed in a lot of travel in one trip! Your experiences on Easter Island is similar to mine, except we explored most of the island on foot and took taxis when needed. I too spent five nights, although I would have enjoyed one or two more. The moais were the reason why we went but we liked the town too.

    I'm glad to hear that you had at least one good day at Machu Picchu. Too bad you didn't have more time in Peru as I thought parts of the Sacred Valley and Cuzco to be equally rewarding. Perhaps some other time.

    Sorry that you had a bad experience in Rio. It's one of my favorite cities, but I'm able to appreciate how you felt.

    The Pantanal... Your description reminds me more of Africa than Brazil. Sounds amazing though. I haven't been but perhaps someday. I also recommend checking out Iguazu Falls the next time you're in Brazil. Totally worth it.

    Thank you for sharing.

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    Thank you! Yes, my big regret was not spending more time in Peru...but next time for sure! And thank you for the suggestion of Iguazu Falls. I would like to add that to the next trip I take there for sure.

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    SambaChula, I know enough to know when people are calling me names - can't post all here because of restrictions but "gorda" with other words in front of it is what I heard. I don't feel like I need to justify my experience to you - it happ need exactly as I described and it is what it is. I don't feel bad toward Brazil - just the people who made me feel so bad about myself (which could happen anywhere).

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    Thank you so much for posting this trip report and providing such detailed and helpful information about logistics! I'm glad that you were able to shake off those rude moments and enjoy the rest of your trip.

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    Here is some video... I didn't take a lot of video but just now got around to looking at it. The first bit is the "road" to my accommodation on Easter Island (2 way road!) and then a little of what driving is like on the island...the 2nd part is the drive down from Machu Picchu on the bus. No, if you are afraid of heights yous shouldn't visit Machu Picchu (or at least close your eyes during the bus ride!):

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    SambaChula, I hear you and I understand that you do not want to admit that Rio is like this now, but I know when I've been called names in a negative way (and as I said - there were other words in front of "gorda" that I cannot post here that made gorda NOT in any way an endearment). I won't address this anymore - it was terrible enough going through it the first time without having someone argue with me about the validity of what happened. Suffice it to say, their tone, their words and their body language were all extremely negative. Again, I'm sure it is not a representation of most of Brazil in any way - I think it was just people around the beach area upset that I wasn't buying and that was the way they chose to address it with me. Unfortunately, I have been bullied all my life for being fat so it hit me hard. Best on your travels to Rio in the future and I hope you never have to experience anything like what I did and you can continue to enjoy the city.

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    tripplanner001, I forgot to mention that where I was in the Pantanal and the time of year I was there made it look exactly like Africa! In fact, if you put them side by side in a photo, I'd dare you to pick which wasn't Africa. I really did feel like I was on an African safari...but no lions (or elephants or rhino).

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    FWIW, I thought you described your unfortunate experience in Rio with admirable grace and without blaming the city. And I don’t think you made too much of it -- if anything, “methinks” the attention your experience received on this thread was because somebody [else] did “protest too much.” I can understand that someone might want to suggest an alternative interpretation, but repeatedly questioning your experience strikes me as yet one further – and quite unnecessary – insult, and I’m sorry you’ve had to go through that when you have done the Fodorite community the kindness of sharing your experiences. Best wishes, CarrieT!

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    CarrieT - please ignore SambaChula. He cannot stand it if someone doesn't share his opinion of Rio - or Cuba for that matter. I didn't have your bad experience in Rio (I was there in 2012) but it did not make my revisit list either. It's really sad the vendors have gotten so pushy - sounds like India!

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    "Honest work" is one thing. Harassment is something else again.

    If Brazil is unable to provide for its citizens to the point that visitors are liable to be robbed at gunpoint, perhaps said visitors should go somewhere else.

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    Interesting that SC chides the OP for discouraging tourists from visiting Rio -- which wasn't my take on her comments AT ALL -- but in elaborating, SC has fully discouraged me from going there.

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    kja, you are correct in that it wasn't my intention to discourage people from Rio - I was only honestly relaying my personal experience for good or bad and perhaps my experience was an anomaly - not for me to say.

    I never intended for someone to be so offended by my experience that they would 1) try and tell me it didn't happen the way it did, 2) accuse me of it just being all in my mind, 3) tell me that I'm privileged and don't understand not having food and 4) make me seem like an insensitive idiot for not "understanding" the culture so much that I dare to eat a cheeseburger on the beach during vacation while others are starving.

    So I do feel the need to defend myself and the lone little cheeseburger I had at the beach - and I shouldn't but I do. First, you have no right to judge me - at least without knowing me. I'm not a liar and I don't exaggerate. I was called nasty names deliberately on the beach in Rio. It's ok to not be happy when I say "no" to buying something, but you don't have to call people nasty names in response.

    Second, if you are suggesting that had I bought ONE thing, everyone would have left me alone, you are grossly mistaken. I was swarmed as soon as I sat down - by people BOTH begging and selling - in an unending stream. Buying one thing wouldn't have helped. So do I deserve to be called names because I do not need anything, don't want anything, can't fit anything in my suitcase, can't by 400 "trinkets" to keep everyone away, and just want to enjoy vacation?

    Third, your assumption that all people from other countries (USA?) are wealthy and can afford to buy things is a misconception. Yes, I may not be starving now but I have gone days without food and other things I need due to lack of funds. I saved over 7 years to take this trip and sacrificed a lot to do it so to be made to feel bad for wanting to enjoy a few hours at the beach is a huge slap in the face for me. Should I feel guilty for traveling? For having a cheeseburger on the beach when I haven't had a vacation in years? I guess I should have just skipped it and handed the money out and left - would have saved me a lot of trouble (and explanation now!). But it wouldn't have fixed the issue on the beach. My cheeseburger money wouldn't help very many families eat.

    In truth, I really wanted to like Rio and that's why I planned so many days there. Everyone has places they enjoy or don't enjoy for different reasons and let's just say - I didn't enjoy Rio and won't be back. Not at all saying that people SHOULDN'T visit or that they might be treated the same. I hope people find happiness there but it was not a happy place for me. And that's all that my post was about - My trip and my experience. It was not intended to cause anyone strife - especially me. I've had enough. Thank you.

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    FWIW, I don't think you needed to defend yourself, CarrieT, although your words may help put your experience in context for others. I thought you did us all a service to share your experience for what it was.

    IMO, the person who came across badly on this thread was SC. I sincerely hope that that was NOT just my opinion.

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    >>I never intended for someone to be so offended by my experience . . .<<

    Just consider the source. SC makes a career of being offended. (hopefully when the new website platform is installed we will have 'Ignore' buttons :) )

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    Just can't stand not having the last word, can you SC (and at tedious length, too)? Please crawl back into your self-righteous hole and stop BULLYING the unfortunate OP, who was kind enough to share a well-written and useful TR with us.

    Buying stuff you don't want from importunate street vendors, just as with giving money to beggars, is not a solution to the problem of poverty. It is not always clear that the person in question even gets to keep the money - many beggars in India are run by a local mafia, and even imported from villages just to work as beggars. Buying/donating just gives an incentive for people to keep bugging tourists/richer locals.

    For most people in the world there are a lot of people who are poorer, and a lot of people who are richer. Stretching a budget to afford a long-awaited trip does not make someone a "self-absorbed, privileged tourist". Not giving to beggars/buying unwanted "stuff" does not mean one is ignoring the conditions. When I travel to India I give to a local charity involved in educating girls, which is a lot more useful, but I would not say so in a TR. And I can afford to do so, which is not true of all travelers, however "privileged" you may think them.

    This unfortunate equine is long deceased. Please quit beating him.

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    Members of this thread:

    For all those who have traveled this amazing world we all know that differences of opinions on each and every destination may arise.. we are all different people with different views, which is what makes our world so interesting and unique.

    This forum is meant to SHARE travel experiences to best help others with their travels. At times it is helpful to "agree to disagree" or IGNORE certain comments and move on. I have had several complaints of people being offended by comments made in this thread and if they continue we will make adjustments accordingly. The OP is simply sharing an experience here so lets allow that to happen.

    I encourage everyone to PLEASE be respectful of eachother..

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    Thank you all. Unfortunately, I no longer feel comfortable sharing travel experiences / trip reports with the community here. I have asked Fodors to remove this thread. So if that is what SC was going for, so shall it be. If Fodors can't do it, I'll just shut my account down completely and hope that accomplishes the goal. It's regretful because I've been a member here so long and have enjoyed reading all your posts and trip reports as I have enjoyed sharing my own experiences. I love to travel and encourage other people to travel but I'm afraid all the joy I found in travel and sharing experiences has been totally obliterated.

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    I would be sorry to see you go, Carrie, and also sorry to see this thread removed (though I'd be happy to see some of the comments deleted). I am going to South America next month, and I got a lot of value from reading your trip report. I hope providing that value to fellow travelers outweighs the negativity brought to the conversation.

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    CarrieT, you should do what seems best to you -- but FWIW, I think Fodor's would lose a valued voice if you decide to leave us. AFAIK, this thread is the first time you and I crossed paths here, but I found your report interesting and helpful and very well written, and would love to see more of your travels. Best wishes, whatever you decide.

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    Carrie - In case you are lurking, I wanted to weigh in about SC's troll-like/bullying behavior. She attacked me and other posters who commented on my Cuba trip report because our family chose to stay in hotels rather than at private guest homes. I am usually unfazed by internet trolls, but I think many of us agree she is a piece of work who posts just to incite and stir things up.

    In the meantime, I wanted to thank you for your fantastic trip report - the kind of honest and textured travel writing we need on this forum. Easter Island and the Pantanal are high on my list and I'm sorry I didn't get to both places during my work travels to Chile. Your report also made me appreciative that I visited Machu Picchu back in the day before the crowds - and that we luckily had sunny skies on the days we were there (we were hit by the insane downpours you describe while on the Salcantay trail.) Hope you consider returning to Fodors as a regular poster.

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    Carrie - fantastic report. I just booked my trip to Machu Picchu today and your narrative and photos have been very helpful. I, too, hope you'll decide to return back to Fodors. You're a truly beautiful and bright lady. Don't let the jerks of the world upset your inner balance. In the greater scheme of things these morons are meaningless.

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