Jackie Chiles' travel blog

A little travel diary

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Mexico City 

Mexico City is huge. Traffic is unbelievable. Well, it was a Friday afternoon, and they were going to have four days off because of their upcoming Independence Day on September 15th, but still...hardly ever seen traffic like that. The city is full of life, hustle and bustle. Although I only had one day and barely managed to even do a typical tourist city tour, I came away quite impressed with this city. Mexico has such a rich culture and history. Another place I would like to come back to with more time at some point in the future.

posted by Jackie  # 10:48 AM

Rio de Janeiro 

Bad luck with the weather in Rio - first it was cloudy, then it started raining cats and dogs. I still had fun in that city, though. Just a pity that in the place with possibly the most scenic views in the world, I did not get to fully enjoy the views because of the weather. Would like to come back to this city with more time - perhaps during the Carnival, with some friends - that could be fun!

Here are some pictures:

posted by Jackie  # 10:46 AM

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Iguassu Falls 

For a change of pace, no beach this time in the photo gallery. Not even sun, actually. It was cloudy and then rainy in Iguassu Falls. But it was a very, very impressive spot to visit. I had seen the Niagara Falls before, but the Iguassu Falls have something more untouched to them. The area around the streets leading to the Falls is not too nice, though - I heard it actually is or used to be an Al-Quaeda hideout. There was some Arab Club or something that I could see, but I do not know if they are affiliated with Al Quaeda, so no false assumptions here. Anyway, I thought it was cool to meet a taxi driver whose ancestors came from the region where I grew up (the guy had a German name, but did not speak much German - 4th generation since his family immigrated to the Rio Sul area in Brazil).

The falls were just amazing, even though they did not carry as much water as usual, it had been a dry winter (yeah, it's still winter there, although it was around 30 degrees Celsius). Mr. Zimmer, the driver, told me that it sometimes gets down to 0 degrees during the winter, though.

It was also interesting to take a tour through the subtropical forests which are obviously not the same as the tropical rainforests in the Amazonas region, but it kind of gives an idea...which is nice since I did not visit the Amazonas region this time (not enough time to get all the vaccinations and stuff).

Well, I only had one night in Iguassu Falls, which means two half days, but I took a lot of pictures. If you would like to see more of the Falls, check out the movie "The Mission" with Robert de Niro in it, the plot is situated in the Iguassu Falls area and there are many breathtaking views of the falls in the film.

For now, just click on the picture below, though, to see some pictures.

I'm glad I am finally done updating the site now (after some of you guys complained that I had not updated it in a while!), so now that I have done that (and after commenting and uploading about 300 new pictures), please use the feedback link to give me some comments on the pictures...thanks :-) Later y'all, I'm heading to see Rio now!

posted by Jackie  # 6:21 PM

Fortaleza and Cumbuco 

In Fortaleza, I realized again how small the world is.

I stayed at a hotel in "Praia de Cumbuco" ("Hotel Paradise", I got the address from this website), pretty much at the end of the world. So my surfing teacher told me to come to Fortaleza (bigger city, about 2 mio. people) in the evening to have a drink and go to a discotheque with some friends. I did that and at about 2:45 a.m., i looked around in that place and thought, damn, who is that guy over there, I know this guy - and it is Francisco, a Portuguese guy from my MBA class. We talked for a little while, he told me he has business in Fortaleza and comes there every month. I just thought it was unbelievable to meet one of 80 people at some discotheque in Brazil when there are about 6 billion people in the world...

The hotel I was staying at was ok (probably looks better in the pictures, the rooms were not that great), I would probably give it 3 stars, which is not bad for a hotel that costs about 35 Euro per night for a single room. It has a nice little pool with a swim-up bar, offers (therapeutic!) massages (by a pretty girl, not by some hairy guy, like it would have happened to me in the Hilton Caracas had I not decided to not take the hotel up on the offer of the free massage included in the room rate...) for about 5 Euro. You can also get a Caipirinha for about 90 cents and a large freshly squeezed orange juice for 80 cents. Praia de Cumbuco is only good for a strict "beach only" vacation though, Cumbuco itself is very, very poor and totally dead at night. Oh, one thing about the hotel I forgot to mention...it was full of Dutch people. Make that two stars, not three (hi Raoul, my Dutch friend :-D).

I did not quite manage to master kitesurfing, but it was fun trying. At least I got the basic ideas...with a few more days practice, I think I could have spent some more time actually surfing on the board instead of being helplessly dragged around without the board by this kite...it was not the teacher's fault, though. Daniel (good name) was very patient and a very good teacher.

Fortaleza is probably the first place on my round-the-world trip that I am not that eager to come back to very soon (in spite of the very impressive endless beaches and the friendliness of the people I met), and it is not just because I was stung by so many moskitos there that I stopped counting. It is not a bad city, but I was just more impressed by some of the other places I visited. I guess I am a bit spoiled by now (especially after just coming from Fernando de Noronha). But I only came here anyway to get a taste of kitesurfing, which I did, so that's fine.

Click on the picture below to see the Fortaleza photo gallery...and please use the comment button or send me some e-mails...I love to hear from you guys (and girls, of course!!! - I can see that you look at the site by looking at my website visitor logs ;-)). I'll see if I can add a guestbook function later, so that other people can view your comments.

posted by Jackie  # 6:20 PM

Fernando de Noronha 

Wow, what an island. As you will see, I took about a million pictures, simply because it was so beautiful. I was already highly impressed with Los Roques (Venezuela), but here, I stayed longer (a few days), so I had more time to enjoy the place, plus, it was more fun because I met some nice people right away (Simone the super-nice and crazy Brazilian girl and Manuel the friendly, calm guy from Switzerland who actually managed to learn one of these Brazilian dances (thanks to Simone) and had girls queue to dance with him!) to explore it with. Fernando de Noronha is really untouched - there is no ATM on the island, and although there is a bank, you cannot exchange foreign currency. Very few people speak anything other than Portuguese (actually, that seems to be true for most of Brazil). People are really friendly and trustful. One example of the spirit is that if you are walking alongside one of the little roads there, people will often stop with their little buggies and offer you to hop on (which I was thankful for once when I had to walk up a pretty steep hill). Actually, I really wish I could have stayed longer, but I really wanted to learn some kitesurfing or at least give it my best shot (well, four days near Fortaleza will be my best shot...it will take quite an intensive course to even glide 10 meters without strangling myself with the cords that hold the kite...)

Thanks so much to Mauricio and Rafael from my MBA program for recommending this island to me!

Funny little observation I made was that the Brazilian local radio station for Fernando de Noronha actually played songs by German artists quite frequently - something that would never happen in the US...while I was sitting in the Pousada's office using their computer to access the Internet, the radio was on, and to my surprise, within one hour, I heard one song each by Herbert Grönemeyer and Marius Müller-Westernhagen.

One strange episode that happened after my flight from Fernando de Noronha to Recife landed was that there was a German couple on the plane...I talked a little bit to the lady while her husband was sorting something out in the front with the flight attendants (who were very friendly), I think it was about their connecting flight. Suddenly the guy came back screaming "Claudia (or whatever her name was), give me the boarding passes...NOW. WHAT A DAMN CHAOS HERE" and went on bitching about something and screaming at his wife in German. I think he was worried that their baggage could not be transfered to their connecting flight or so. Anyway, I just felt a bit sorry for the nice lady and a bit embarrassed that this German guy was causing such a scene. Damn those Germans ;-).

Anyway, one of the greatest things in Fernando de Noronha was the diving excursion I took. I also took some pictures of the various fish I saw there (with an underwater camera), but that film is not developed yet. However, they also filmed me and made a little 15-min. movie out of that that they burned on a DVD. I included some still images from that DVD in the photo gallery you can see by clicking on the picture below (there are a handful pictures of Rio and Recife in the Fernando de Noronha photo gallery, as I had to transfer in both cities to get from Buenos Aires to Fernando de Noronha).

P.S.: I have in the meantime also figured out the name of that actor dude we met on the island, his name is Rodrigo Santoro, apparently he had a small role in Charlie's Angels 2. I see that guy on TV all the time here in Brazil. He was the evil surfer in Charlie's Angels 2, I just did a little Internet research.

I have now added a function for you to send me comments/feedback directly from this site. I added the link ("FEEDBACK TO SJC") behind each post (the link is at the end of each entry, behind "posted by Jackie Chiles at 10:30 p.m.". Just click on the link to send me a comment, they are highly appreciated. As another side note, can someone tell me how to include a list of links on this blogspot thing here - I have seen it in many other blogs, but am too dumb to do it. I would like to include some links to the respective places which I used to get information and to reserve hotels etc. - if someone has figured it out, please let me know - thanks.

Click on the picture to see the photos from this amazing island...

posted by Jackie  # 6:19 PM


In Buenos Aires, I went to the Varig office and got a Brazil airpass for only $ 411, which includes the following flights: Rio de Janeiro - (Recife) - Fernando de Noronha - (Recife) - Fortaleza - (Sao Paulo) - Iguazu - (Sao Paulo) - Rio de Janeiro. So that's really 8 flights, with four destinations (the rest are just transfers) and I think it's a great deal to see the "Best of Brazil" (or at least the things I wanted to see/do first) in a relatively short time - in Fernando de Noronha, I just want to admire the beauty of the island and perhaps do some diving. In Cumbuco near Fortaleza (for some reason, I always want to call it "Cucumbo", I keep saying it wrong), my main goal is to at least get a very very basic grasp of how kitesurfing works (because it looks so cool and so much fun when people who know how to do it are at it). In Iguacu (Brazilian spelling, with a little thingy below the "c" that I cannot find on my keyboard)/Iguazu (this is the Argentine spelling), I want to see the falls - the wife of some U.S. president had said "poor Niagara" after she saw these falls. They are wider than the Niagara falls and taller than the Victoria falls (or vice versa, I cannot remember, anyway, they must be pretty impressive, that's also what a German lady told me that I met on the plane back from Fernando de Noronha to Recife). Finally, I want to visit some of the main sights of Rio. A lot to do in barely two weeks, but I will have to get back to Chicago...

The image (not clickable) of the Varig route map below I took and modified shows the four destinations I want to visit in Brazil.

posted by Jackie  # 6:16 PM

Caracas and Los Roques 

Yesterday, I did a city tour with a tourist guide organized by the Concierge of the hotel - good tourist guide - Alfonso - took me a bit around town, sang out loud to AC/DC and kept bitching about traffic in Caracas. In the evening, I went to an area called Las Mercedes where they have a few bars and pubs to have a snack. Today, went to Los Roques. As close to paradise as it gets. I don't think the pictures do it justice - the water is usually clearer, but it was really windy - also, the sun doesn't come out as much as it should in the pictures. Did some snorkeling on Los Roques - that place is ruled by Italians (I'd say about 80 %). Met people from Napoli, Bari, Bologna, and one guy from Barcelona (seems like I meet people from Barcelona everywhere (before in Cuba)). Scary flights in small planes. Alfonso took us to the airport and picked us up afterwards, too. Unfortunately, the people who were supposed to come back with me were not on my plane, so we had to wait for them for two hours which prompted Alfonso to curse out everything and everyone...poor guy.

I need to come back to Venezuela - Canaima/Angel Falls, Choroni, etc., etc., this country has a lot more to offer than Caracas, which is basically just another big town in my opinion (not very safe). Anyway, tomorrow night, I'll move on to Buenos Aires, unless Lufthansa keeps messing up things with my ticket as they have been doing for weeks now.

As usual, click on the picture to see the photo galleries.

posted by Jackie  # 6:14 PM


Here are my pictures from Cuba, with some comments.

posted by Jackie  # 6:12 PM

Welcome to my little travel diary 

This is a site to keep some notes of my round-the-world trip.

Since not only my digital camera was stolen in Barcelona, but later also my Sony Ericsson P800 phone, there are no pictures from Prague, Munich, Zuerich, Budapest, Vienna, or Venice, which were the first parts of my trip.

If I ever send in the little throw-away camera to get the pictures developed I took in Cairo and Barcelona, I might post them later.

I am doing this trip since I am taking a break between two jobs - using mostly a Star Alliance RTW ticket I purchased in Cairo, plus some sidetrips on award tickets (paid with frequent flyer miles) and a few short commuter flights (like Hawaii inter-island). If I had enough time and no other constraints, I would probably extend this trip and also include the Easter Islands, Galapagos and Macchu Picchu, but it looks like I will reserve that for a later trip.

By clicking on the image below, you can see the (almost) complete routing for my trip.

posted by Jackie  # 6:07 PM


09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003  

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