South America proves to be everything and more than what Shirin Mehta was hoping for as she visits Peru under the protective umbrella of a premium tour by Globus
Brazil, Argentina, Peru – to visit South America had been a long-cherished dream. However, I heard too many stories of snatched handbags and gold chains and disappearing suitcases!! These seemed to turn my wish into an impending nightmare. A friend at a Mumbai travel agency, hearing my moan, came up with a plan that took care of my fears. “Go with Globus tours!” exclaimed Meher Framjee of Holidays@Leisure. “Everyone I have sent has loved their South America tours.” And so I discovered myself with my husband! On a long flight to Brazil from Mumbai on my first-ever escorted tour, despite initial reservations.
So, here we are, all set to experience the ‘Spirit of South America’, a 15-day journey of discovery of three countries – Brazil, Argentina & Peru!
At Rio de Janeiro’s Sheraton Hotel, at the welcome meet called by tour director Fernando Bordallo who brings 31 years of experience to the field. Incidentally, our travel companions were from all over the world. From the US & Canada to the Philippines and beyond. We would learn so much of their lives and families over shared meals and bus rides. These were adding a completely new dimension to our travels. Formalities and introductions over, with no time to waste, we jump onto our comfortable ultra modern coach to encounter our first country and city on this adventure!
Rio De Janeiro – What a City!
Brazil’s capital city had conjured up images of skimpy bathing suits on glorious beaches, the samba, bossa nova, football and the spectacle of ‘Carnaval’ in all its tinseled glory. All this under the outstretched arms of Christ the Redeemer, that iconic statue atop Corcovado Mountain. I recalled this from haunting postcard images of yore and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Today, however, we depart for Sugarloaf Mountain, shaped like a French baguette rising out of the water. A cable car ride in two stages takes us to the very top. We are spellbound by the magnificent views of sandy stretches, lagoons, mountains, giant rocks rising out of the sea and forests. Incidentally, I discover that Rio boasts the largest city-surrounded rainforest in the world. All bang in the middle of the urban sprawl! Later, we toast our first evening with a Caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail starring the local spirit cachcça, and have dinner at a beachside restaurant.
Brazil is Beaches And More
However cliched, I wish to wander Rio’s famous southern beaches along the Atlantic coastline, the following day, eschewing an optional tour to Petrópolis, a historical town nearby. We walk down Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. The picturesque promenade was filled with vendors selling bikinis and sunglasses, artists painting and displaying their works for sale, and beach lovers sprawling out on deckchairs under the brilliant sun. A lone surfer crests a wave as local swimmers who dare the chilly water.
We discover the cafe, Bar e Restaurante Garota de Ipanema. To my utter delight, the hit song Garota de Ipanema (Girl from Ipanema) was composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes was playing at the restaurant. We walked past the Fasano hotel’s nondescript exterior. Here, we discovered a crowd of locals hoping to catch a glimpse of Madonna and U2 who are in town for producer Guy Oseary’s wedding (actually renewed vows) to Brazilian model Michelle Alves. The event is to be held later that evening on Corcovado Mountain. Under an umbrella, we toss-up between a Caipirinha and chilled coconut water at a kiosk. As we settle in, we watch the mountains shrouded in clouds, the cyclists, walkers and joggers around us. This is truly the perfect place for people watching! And in the city of carnivals, right now the carnival is in my heart, I realize!
Sightseeing and more
The next two days are a cornucopia of amazing things scheduled by Globus for us in this wonderful city. We take the cog railway through lush forest, to the top of Corcovado. Here, the statue of Christ the Redeemer overwhelms with its immensity. The wind whips at us as we ape the statue’s stretched arms for photographs. “This is not a church,” claims our local guide. “It is a work of art and created by each and every woman in the city, who, after the Sunday church service in her own locality, would add to pieces of the soapstone mosaic that finally made up the whole.” We visit the ugly conical exterior of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian. But then as we enter, we discover within a spectacular atrium embellished with soaring stained glass windows. Later, we drive around the business area with its modern high-rises interspersed with iconic old buildings.
In the evening, we sample a Churrascaria dinner, the famous Brazilian barbecue. The meal starts with tables laden with salads and small bites. And it continues into an of meats on skewers — as much as your stomach desires. We enjoy a samba show with just the teeniest taste of the Carnaval. Outrageous costumes, superb dancing, martial-arts performances, jugglery, acrobatics!! It an amazing experience staged just for us. Rio has lived up to every expectation in an organised and safe manner.
A Wonderful Way To Travel
As we proceed towards our next destination, Argentina, I thanked Meher quietly in my mind for her recommendation to travel on Globus. All I had to do, was choose the one that I wanted from an attractive brochure. Voila! Everything was taken care of – from carefully chosen premium hotels to a range of sightseeing tour and inclusions. This proved to be travel with nary a care in a country with a startlingly high perception of crime. And the best part? There were enough days and meals that we could do on our own, just for that little bit of breathing space!
Text and Photographs by Shirin Mehta