group left the US on January 3rd from Miami International Airport
. We arrived in Rio de Janeiro and checked in at the Everest Rio
Hotel on January 4 th . The hotel was located in the neighborhood
the next beach down from Copacabana, and it was our home for the
next 8 days.
arriving in Ipanema the group took a walking tour along the beach
and into the streets of Ipanema and Copacabana. Portuguese lessons
started on our second and lasted for five days. Our Portuguese teacher,
Cleiton Almeida, was very helpful and taught us the basic words
that we would need to know in order to get around the city. On the
tour of Rio de Janeiro the group visited the Brazilian national
soccer stadium, Maracana. After exploring the stadium we went to
Santa Teresa neighborhood where we enjoyed riding on an antique
rail car. The following day Cleiton took the group on a walking
tour of the downtown. The group was separated into two and shopped
at the crowded Sahara market before taking a tour of an ancient
church and the first library in Rio .
January 7th the group visited Cristo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer
statue, and was able to see beautiful views of Rio de Janeiro from
different vantage points atop the Corcovado Mountain .
group toured two of the better-established favelas of
Rio , the Brazilian equivalent of an American shantytown or slum,
with the tour guides Luiz and Marina Schulze. The group was amazed
to find the favelas safe and the people nice and accommodating to
the visitors. At night the group danced with the locals at another
favela, at the Mangueira Samba School .
January 10th students were given the task to organize daytrips in
or around Rio de Janeiro in small groups. The groups had researched
and independently planned these trips. Buzios, a small village on
the water north of the main city, was enjoyed by one of the groups
while another group went “island hopping” to visit the small undisturbed
isles located south off the city. The last day in Rio, after a morning
group meeting, was free of activities in order to prepare for the
long trip to Manaus .
second destination in Brazil was Manaus and the Amazon jungle. Upon
arrival we took a bus tour of the city of Manaus , which included
a stop at the famous opera house. After staying for one night in
the Hotel Tropical Manaus we embarked on a three hour boat ride
in order to get to our next destination: the Ariaù Amazon
Towers jungle lodge.
This resort was located in a secluded area, surrounded by lush forests
and wild animals. After settling in, our group visited a family
living in the Amazon
and was shown their way of life. We also had the opportunity to
explore the Amazon by taking a jungle tour, with our guide Michelle,
and going on several excursions on a motorized-canoe down the Rio
Ariaù, a tributary of Rio Negro . Some memorable activities
included caiman spotting and piranha fishing. After three nights
at the Ariaù Amazon Towers , the group set off on a two-day
boat adventure on the Rio Negro .
group's first stop on our boat trip was at the village of out guide,
Here we were able to interact with the local
Brazilians by challenging them to a soccer game. That night we enjoyed
a beach party where we ate a delicious barbeque dinner before dancing
the night away. The next day the group stopped at an area with small
waterfalls where we were able to swim. Once we got back onto the
boat a passing storm delayed our departure for several hours. The
group spent time playing cards, reading, and catching up on sleep.
At the end of the boat excursion we came to
the “meeting of the waters”, the location where the Rio Negro and
the Amazon River join and flow side by side without mixing. After
a great stay in Manaus and the Amazon it was time to move on to
arrived in Salvador on January 18th and stayed at the Hotel Tropical
Bahia. We began our visit with a city tour of Salvador hosted by
our tour guide Marcos Reis. Following the visit to an old fort and
we saw several men performing a martial arts dance called capoeira,
we were taken to the historic old town. There shops, small venders,
and colorful buildings line the streets. The group also went to
the large market, which housed two stories
of small shops where one could buy anything from clothing and jewelry
to furniture and paintings. At night we attended an interesting
religious ritual called “candomble” that celebrated the initiation
of a young woman into the religion. The following day was left for
self-exploring the city in groups.
the last full day in Salvador another guide, Danilo Cerqueria, took
us to the Praia do Forte. We visited the ruins of an old castle
after which we traveled to Projecto Tamar. This project was established
to help save the endangered sea turtles of Brazil . At night we
dined at different delicious restaurants and explored the nightlife
of Salvador . After several days in Salvador our group left for
the final destination: Iguaçu Falls .
January 22nd the group arrived at Foz do Iguaçu. Iguaçu
Falls are on the border of Brazil and Argentina and are comprised
of up to 300 individual waterfalls at a time (depending on the water
level). Although the group arrived during the dry season
the falls did not disappoint as we were able to enjoy magnificent
views from the Brazilian side on the first day and equally breathtaking
views from Argentina the next. While in Iguaçu the group
also took part in a technical tour of Itaipu Binacional, a hydroelectric
dam that powers 90 percent of Paraguay's electricity needs and a
large portion of Brazil's electric power as well. The group
capped the trip with a group dinner at the Emporio da Gula churrascaria,
an all-you-can-eat Brazilian barbeque restaurant.
last morning the group was once again given the opportunity to explore.
While a number of students went white water rafted down the Iguaçu
River, others took part in a ropes course through the forests surrounding
the falls. After the adventurous morning we bid farewell to Iguaçu
and began the journey back home to North America.
Monica Van Dongen