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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

Bring on the Buffet

BRAZIL | Friday, 12 February 2010 | Views [3460] | Comments [3]

Toucan play that game!

Toucan play that game!

It was our first night bus journey in Sud d’America and the standards were set high with plush seats, lots of leg room, a toilet big enough to swing a tiger in, generally much more elegant than the average bus we have travelled in. After hundreds of journeys across Asia watching the locals get motion sickness and laughing at their weak stomachs, it was time for Brazil to get it’s revenge. The extra comfort and high speed was a shock to the system and I had a terrible journey and longed for the driver to slow down to under the 40km /hour we were used to in Asia.

After 8 hours we arrived early in the morning, so we caught up on some sleep before exploring the town of...

Ouro Preto

The province of Minas Gerais is scattered with colonial towns, with Ouro Preto being the most significant, due to its famous history as a gold mining centre (Ouro Preto translating as Black Gold), and for the important role it played in the Independence movement and finally for it’s torturously steep cobblestone streets.

The town has no 20th century buildings so is unbelievably quaint, with the centre piece being Tiradentes Square.

The highlights are the churches designed by the architect Aleijadinho, who sculptured the facades in his unique Baroque and Rococo styles.

The hilly lanes and roads give your legs a good work out leaving you needing refreshment more often than usual, so we opted for a local brew that turns out to be one of the best beers I have ever tasted...girls it tastes just like chocolate!

From the old fashioned delights of Ouro we caught another overnight bus to the Urban jungle that is...

Sao Paulo

The journey took us through countryside and all the towns we drove through seemed to have a Christ Redeemer statue lit up and looming from a hillside...maybe Hio is not so original after all.

Sao Paulo is the largest city in Brazil with over 12 million residents, and of course the worst crime rate in the country. There are reports of muggings abundant in a city where it has been made legal to drive through red traffic lights at night due to the number of car jackings that occur. A place where the rich fly in and out of the city to work, shopping centres and restaurants, by helicopter to avoid being kidnapped! So why did we choose to come here? Well the thanks goes to my Brother, a huge Formula 1 fan, who put in a request that we visit somewhere in Brazil associated with Sao Paulo’s favourite son, the late, great Ayrton Senna. After a bit of research and translation of numerous Portuguese websites , it seemed the only ‘attraction’ was to visit his grave. So we located the cemetery in the suburb of Morumbi and caught a train over there.

Sao Paulo’s metro and train system is great. You pay one entrance fee of R$2.55 to get on and can then get off wherever you like, no matter how far away. At the station we met a man (who spoke English, yeah!) who was intrigued why two obvious ‘out of towners’ where sightseeing in Morumbi. When we told him our plan to visit Ayrton Senna’s grave he was overjoyed stating how he was ‘simply the best’ F1 driver ever and proceeded to discuss the F1 season with us. He then helped us get a taxi to the cemetery and back, instructing the driver to show us exactly where the grave was. The taxi driver was very happy to do this and gave us lots of thumbs up at the mention of Ayrton Senna’s name. So, here you go Jim...

Morumbi turned out to be a very safe and affluent area with grand condominiums towering over the parks and the local shopping centre full of expensive stores and business types enjoying a sophisticated lunch, we obviously felt right at home!

Downtown Sampa (Sao Paulo’s nickname) is a sprawling metropolis, a huge hodgepodge mix of tall buildings, with the odd historic building and leafy park scattered around. We took a ride up the art-deco Banespa tower to get a view of the land and the helipads and choppers circling above like a pack of vultures.

We did little else in the city, due to thunderstorms each day, so we created a Brazilian Beer Festival for ourselves, to celebrate the fact that we only saw the best of Sampa. There’s a great vibe to the city and maybe it’s not so scary after all.

Foz do Iguacu

Waiting around all day to catch a 17 hour overnight bus ride is never fun, but thankfully when the bus arrived it was only half full, or half empty, so everyone got two seats to themselves, which meant we could spread out to sleep properly!

As it turns out it was a good job we got some sleep, as we got none the next night at our hotel. We were given a huge room with four beds in and just before midnight, about to go to sleep, I spied a bed bug crawling out from a pillow on one of the beds. Oh why oh why do I have to spot them? As soon as I see them I can not sleep knowing that they could start crawling all over and biting me. By 4am I had found over 20 of the buggers on 3 of the beds and in the bathroom. It was gross, and when you squish them to keep them as proof for the hotel owner, they smell really bad. Oh, the joys of backpacking! The hotel owner was very apologetic and found us a new room that turned out to be bug free, and the owner even fumigated our backpacks along with the room to make sure none had got on our bags, how kind.

Foz is a frontier town which borders Paraguay and Argentina, with two major rivers converging here. What happens when rivers collide? A spectacular amount of waterfalls are formed, otherwise known as the Iguazu Falls. But rather than rushing to see them we decided to visit the ‘environmentally friendly’ Itaipu Dam located up stream.

The hydroelectric dam is the world's largest and is run equally by Brazil and Paraquay and supplies clean electricity to both countries, 20% of Brazil’s total use and 90% of Paraguay’s.

The tour began dubiously when were played a propaganda film that was spoken in Portugeuse and subtitled in Spanish, so we could only enjoy the pretty pictures. The continuing excitement of the tour climaxed when a huge tropical storm came through and soaked everyone to the bone. After drying off we headed back to town by local bus only to find out the bus shelters were built to provide protection from sun rather than the rain, when gale force winds (almost) blew another tropical storm in sideways at us leaving us soaking wet and very cold once more.

The next day we headed over to the Cataratas (that’s Waterfalls in Portuguese & Spanish) The name Iguazu means ‘Great Waters’ and they are indeed, if not a little awesome too. They are surrounded by a beautiful natural reserve area, with wild birds, animals and butterflies. A trail led us down to our first view of the falls.

The falls can be seen from both Brazil and Argentina, and the sheer number of falls and dramatic drops are spectacular. If you view it from the Brazilian side in the morning you can view a number of rainbows emerging from the mist.

The climax of the falls is the Devil’s Throat, proving why these are the world’s largest waterfalls by volume. You can walk out to a platform that overlooks the fiercest part and yet again get drenched, but it was a welcome relief on a mucho hotto day.

After a day trekking through the undergrowth, we had worked up an appetite so headed to one of the many buffet restaurants in town. In Foz the buffet selections have taken a turn for the better, or worse depending on your view point, as they now include dessert buffets, with this particular joint providing all you can eat ice cream AND chocolate pizza! What would you do in that situation, try all 10 flavours to get your money’s worth or just have one scoop? We moaned and groaned all the way back at the hotel wishing we hadn’t eaten so much.

The next night, seemingly forgetting the stomach pains from the night before, we headed to a fancy Churrasco restaurant, sat down, asked how much the buffet was, realised we were out of our depths budget wise, but decided to tuck in and try to get our money’s worth again. The selection of meat was mouth watering, apart from the turkey’s testicles on offer, but the different cuts of beef, pork, lamb, chicken and BBQ pineapple were exquisite...along with another dessert buffet, doh. Brazil certainly knows how to feed people!

Puerto Iguazu

It takes less than 20 minutes to cross from one side of the Iguazu river to another and pass through two immigration offices using the excellent public bus service on offer, and just like that, we’re in Argentina! And why did we stop in this border town? To see the Iguazu Falls of course. Yes, we have already seen them but Argentina’s side has a different view point, which some say is better than Brazil and some say is not. So we thought we would discover for ourselves which side was best.

The Argentine side gets you right up close to the power of the falls, rather than showing the full panoramic view Brazil does. A walkway leads over the top of the river to the rim of the Devil’s Throat, and it was truly powerful!

There are more options on this side, with more walkways getting you up close to the top and bottom of the falls.

I think the Brazil side was still winning the wow factor game, but then again nothing is ever as good the second time around. That was until the Coatis turned up. We had seen one hiding in the forest in Brazil but in Argentina there were about 100 of the playful, cheeky, and very cute racoon like creatures, which will try to steal your food if you have any.

Back in town you can visit the Three Frontiers, where you can gaze across the Rio’s Parana and Iguazu to view both Brazil and Paraguay in one blink, with each frontier sporting a rather underwhelming concrete post painted in national colours to mark the spot.

It was a place we just had to visit, but almost wished we hadn’t, until we realised it’s not everyday you can stand in one corner of a country and point to two other countries at the same time now is it!

Brazil Highlights

Favourite Place - Copacobana Beach (Jo), Ouro Preto (Ryan)

Favourite Attraction - Iguazu Falls (Jo), Christo Redentor (Ryan)

Food - Chocolate Pizza (Jo), Feijoada - bean and meat stew (Ryan), Churrasco (Both)

Beer - Brahma Malzbier (Jo), Brahma Chopp (Ryan)

*Special mention to Copacobana Caipirinhas*

LowLights

Bed Bugs (Jo), Expensivo (Ryan)

For those of you thinking of possibly travelling to the region: Costs in USD

Accommodation - $50-70 (private room in hostel)

Restaurant meal - $10-20

Mug of Draught Beer - $1.75

620ml Bottled Beer - $2.50

330ml Soft Drink - $1

1.5l Bottle of water - $1

Bus - $5 / hour

So from the very north of Argentina we now head south to explore the country with a few essential Spanish phrases under our belts, including Hasta la vista baby, La isla bonita and un cerveza por favor, we should fair well!

But now it’s siesta time.

Jo y Ryan

Photos:http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/72157623326525946/

Tags: argentina, ayrton senna, foz do iguacu, iguazu falls, ouro preto, puerto iguazu, sao paulo

 

Comments

1

Keep them coming - we so enjoy reading them and even sometimes going down memory lane, from Rio to the Iguazu Falls - we travelled with SAGA though!!!
We look forward to the next instalment.

  Jean and Mick Feb 15, 2010 8:53 PM

2

Hey ryanandjo,

We like your story and decided to feature it this week on the WorldNomads Adventures homepage so that others can enjoy it too.

Happy Travels!
World Nomads

   Mar 8, 2010 3:54 PM

3

Hey, just came across your blog as I'll be visiting Brazil in January and intend to visit Ayrton Senna's grave. I'm concerned how safe two young women will be. Did you feel safe with the taxi drivers? Is it easy enough to get a taxi? :)

  Cal Aug 28, 2012 1:53 AM

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