Burrowed between jagged rocky peaks and voluptuous mountains, covered in dense, luscious green jungle, is the spectacular city of Rio de Janeiro. Rio is the pulsating heart of Brazil, with an irresistible culture of music, parties, and sun seeking. By day and night it will lure you in and leave you begging for more. Our sojourn in the city coincided with the end of the Carnaval festivities, despite the legendary parade being over the streets were still full of revellers persisting on making the party live on. We came to Rio, like all backpackers, ready to embrace the sun and the Brazilian way of having fun in what is one of the world’s most magnetic cities.
As a land locked country Paraguay certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of water. Lying to the north-east of the country, and shared with Brazil, is the world’s largest wetland, the Pantanal. Dissecting Paraguay in half is the immense Paraguay River, the great drainage system of the Pantanal which empties its waters thousands of kilometres away in the Atlantic Ocean. The Rio Paragauy is the lifeblood of this isolated region of northern Paraguay, acting as the primary source of transportation for people, animals, food and goods to the communities spread along the river banks. To experience this alternative way of life we jumped onboard an old, very slow, rickety river boat called the ‘Aquidaban’, the only commercial trade and passenger boat which traverses these remote waters, to visit a small community called Fuerte Olimpo. The days ahead would require patience and a cool head in an otherwise steaming hot environment – a challenge of our resolve to travel like locals.
The biggest, most colourful party on the planet, would have to be the world renowned Rio Carnaval in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. What many people don’t realise is that this month long festival is in fact celebrated throughout South America in varying forms of colour, music, parades, and racy costumes. Rio may know how to do it best, but the tiny city of Encarnacion in Paraguay certainly gives it a good shot. We knew we weren’t going to make it to Rio in time and discovered there was a smaller version of the event in Paraguay, which is identical in every way only with 5% of the immense crowds that swamp Rio, and at 5% of the price – this smaller event seemed far more appealing. The Carnaval, for Treeny in particular, was one event in South America we couldn’t miss, we were excited to be heading to Encarnacion without the masses to experience the event somewhere a little different.