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Brazil

Foz do Iguacu - Day 12

The amazing Iguassu Falls and awesome Argentinian steak

33 °C

It seems like the nice hostels have rubbish breakfasts (apart from Casa Curitba) and the bad hostels have good breakfasts. Anyway, after sleeping on top of towels on the bed without decent air conditioning, it was a good start the morning. After packing our bags, and the nice staff at the hostels keeping them in a room for us, we headed out to see the Brazilian side of Iguassu Falls. We were really excited about this part of the trip, and it did not disappoint one bit.

We jumped on the bus in Foz and after a few stops the bus was rammed with people. Andrew made a joke about it being worse than the Victoria Line and we got talking to a group of two guys and two girls. One guy was from Crouch End (that's two connections to our old home in six days) and the girl, noting our Northern accents, said she was from up North, somewhere called Lancaster! Unbelievable what a small world it is.

The Brazil side of the national park feels a lot like the entrance to a UK zoo, with the style of the buildings and the open top buses, giving it a 'day out' touristy vibe that I wasn't expecting. I wasn't complaining though, as it makes it so much easier to get around. From the entrance we got straight on to the open top bus and made our way past the zoo and ecological parks to the start of the viewing trail.
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The walkway quickly took us to the first viewing point and although small in comparison to what we were about to see, the waterfalls and landscape around them were still beautiful and were probably the biggest I'd ever seen in real life.
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My Dad had told me that the park was home to some animals called Quati (on the Brazil side, they have a different name on the Argentinian side), and they often steal people's food. Practically as soon as we walked past the first viewpoint I saw a large one on a bin:
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As well as the Quati there were lizards too:
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As we continued the waterfalls got larger and more impressive, we took videos to capture the sound, strength and speed of them.
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The closer we moved towards the falls, the noise became louder and you could see and feel the mist and spray of the falls. The first sight of the main falls was breathtaking, it felt like you were on a movie set. It was the most incredible thing I have ever seen - their beauty and power was overwhelming. As we stood on the platform out in the water, looking up at the falls, we were constantly being sprayed by the water and as a result some of the pictures and videos have watermarks but it adds to the impact! As we looked down, there was a a rainbow stretching out beneath us, it was just perfect.
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This was the end of the walkway but there was also a glass lift up to a viewing tower to take a look at the falls from a different angle. As we've covered, I don't like heights and the floor at the top of the tower was basically metal grates so I could see all the way down! Needless to say I was scared but it was once again worth it.
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After the tower we went to get some lunch and on the way saw a family of Quati's with their babies and what I assume to be the mummy or daddy Quati jumped up and grabbed a packets of crisps out of a man's hand!
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The flies and wasps joined us for lunch (annoying!) over looking the falls...
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...then we headed back on the open top bus, where a very cute Brazilian 1 year old girl played peekaboo with Andrew! Another bus journey back and we were at our hostel to grab our bags and go to Argentina - we were so excited about seeing the falls from that side tomorrow as everyone had said how much better it is. Today was only a couple of hours, where as tomorrow would be a full day at the falls.

We lugged our tired bodies, and our backpacks, in the afternoon sun up the road to the bus station and waited for the bus to Argentina. It seemed strange getting on a bus to a whole new country, especially when it only cost £1.30 a ticket! At the border, the bus left us. We quickly got stamped out of Brazil and then realised we need to get on another bus, get stamped into Argentina and then potentially get back on a bus to take us to Puerto Iguazu, the town for the Argetinian side of the falls. We waited for the bus in 'no mans land', as we liked to call it, in 33 degree heat under a tin can shelter. We ran out of water and went a little crazy wondering whether our mums or the British government would come pick us up and take us to Argentina because we were boiling?! Luckily the next bus waited for us to get stamped into Argentina, meaning that we had 'only' been on 6 rather than the expected 7 buses that day!

Our next hostel, Pop Hostel, was a short walk from the station (once we knew which way we were going). We had a large room, big enough for our double bed, a set of bunk beds and so much more space for activities (you're welcome Stepbrothers fans)! It was cleaner than the last place, had a shower that didn't look like a death trap, Internet that worked and it was quiet. All in all an improvement.

We hadn't been out for tea for 5 nights and Andrew had heard good things about a restaurant called Color, and they were right. We sat outside, in between a moaning Australian couple in their 60s (they didn't have her usual Cinzano and she liked capers, but not this many!) and a nice policeman from Bangor, Wales who now lives 6 hours inland from Perth, Australia. There was a band of three Argentinian men with guitars, singing what sounded like traditional songs mixed in with the Girl from Ipanema and the Greek plate smashing song!
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We weren't sure what to order but when the Welshman's plate came out we wanted exactly what he was having. The tenderloin steak was enormous, crusted pesto and served with saffron potatoes, sundried tomatoes and roasted peppers, in a Malbec sauce. It was gorgeous! Washed down with mineral water and a couple of bottles of Quilmes, and it only came to about £34 with tip and they gave us bread and chicken pâté to start on the house.
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The end of a perfect day!

p.s I saw two hotels in the Iguacu National Park today, made a note to Google how much they cost to stay at?!

Posted by staceywaugh 12:02 Archived in Brazil Tagged waterfalls animals buses steak Comments (3)

Curitiba to Foz do Iguacu - Day 11

32 °C

Breakfast this morning was cheese and ham again, different kinds of cake and fruit. The woman who either runs or owns the hostel is so lovely and wants to make sure you're happy all the time...she reminds us of someone but we can't put our finger on it.

We took the bus to the station in the boiling sun - walking from the hostel up the road to the stop was not fun in backpacks! Our coach arrived and it was spacious, new and hardly anyone else got on. On the nine hour journey to Foz do Iguacu we watched Drive (was not expecting the violence!), 21 Jump Street and Sopranos (we're only on series one). Looking out of the window, the landscape in this state (Parana) couldn't have been more different to Rio de Janeiro state - the land was flat for as far as the eye could see, with a lot less woodland and much lighter shades of green. It reminded me a bit of some of the English countryside.
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The bus only made one rest stop, as there was a toilet and free water on board, and we bought a fried chicken on a stick thing called Espetada, which I think is just a kebab. It was really tasty, but better - there was a Tabasco sauce equivalent! Heat, yay!

During the last hour and a half of the trip the bus stopped a few times and we never knew whether it was our time to get off, there doesn't seem to be signs to let you know what town your in...I will be grateful when I see the likes of 'Welcome to Morecambe' again! About an hour before we got to Foz, you could hear the rumble of thunder, sheet lightning was illuminating the sky every few minutes and then a massive crack of fork lightning hit the ground. I quite like thunder and lightning but neither Andrew or I could remember why they occurred and made a mental note to Google it later...we seem to be doing this a lot already, which means were going to come home with a lot of random knowledge! Enjoy everyone! ;)

Arriving at Foz, it was dark and late so we jumped in a taxi to the hostel. Posada El Shaddi looked ok on the outside but inside our room it was musty smelling, run down with bare plaster covering cracks on the wall, the sink was coming away from the wall, the shower had a hole in the wall where the pipe was and it didn't feel clean. I can deal with the shabbiness of places as long as it smells and looks clean...I went to sleep laid on our two towels across the bed and pillow and covered in my sarong!

Posted by staceywaugh 04:39 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

Curitiba - Day 10

Serra Verde Express to Morretes

36 °C

Early start this morning to get the 8.15am train on the Serra Verde Express to Morretes, so we missed breakfast. We'd read about the train - the only reason we came to Curitiba - online and was told it was blood curdling, which is wasn't, and beautiful, which it definitely was. We chose to sit in the executive carriage due to the English speaking guide and through recommendation, we hoped to be sat on the left side of the train for the better views.
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Luckily the carriage wasn't full so when we found our seats were on right side we were able to swap easily. The train was slow at 25kph, which meant it took a while to get to the good stuff, but in the meantime the guide told us some history of Curitiba and Serra Verde Express - for example, the railway was built in the late 1800s to link Curitiba, the capital of Parana state, to the the coast to support economic development. He also told us about the Parana pine trees that gave the city its name (Curitiba means many pine trees), which are the reason people came to Curitiba in the first place - to eat all the pine seeds.
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It was nice to take a new mode of transport from the bus, and because it was slow, it meant we could take lots of photos of the train as we started the journey. As an aside and with no photographic evidence, as we made our way out of Curitiba, one thing I didn't expect to see when looking out to the Brazilian countryside was hydrangeas. There were blue hydrangea everywhere?!
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To keep us entertained at the start of this 3 1/2 hour train ride, the guide gave us a free snack box each containing Melba toast, cheese crackers, cheese spread, a cookie and a coconut and chocolate snack bar, a can of pop (fizzy drink, southerners), water, coffee or beer and then told us we could drink and eat as much as we liked on the trip - a bonus when you're drinking lots because of the heat but having to pay higher than UK prices. We made the most of it with pop, water and beer and an extra snack box for the way home! As we at and drank the train wound through the countryside.
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Eventually we got to the main attraction. Trees started to close in on either side of us and soon we were running through the Atlantic Rainforest, winding up the mountain, over bridges and through water soaked tunnels. Quickly then, the train poked out through the vegetation and the most incredible views of lush, green tree covered mountains were in front of us and down below us, streams and rivers. The sky was blue with few clouds, somehow we'd manage to pick the first day it hadn't been overcast, which would have spoilt the awesome views.
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The train stopped high in the mountains at Morumbi, where quite a few travellers got off to hike...with only one train there and back a day, I assume they were staying in this remote location for a while. It was slightly foggy at this height, so hopefully it cleared for them as I imagine it would have been quite the view from up there!
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The next, final and our stop was the small town of Morettes, near the coast of Brazil. The heat was almost unbearable as we walked around the little streets and after finding a map, as neither of us listened when the guide told us where the bus station was, we went to buy tickets for the bus back. This is where we met a couple of Brazilian men who were at least 65 years old, who put us to shame - they had just been for a 4 hour hike up a nearby mountain in 36 degree heat and we could barely walk around the town for 20 minutes! We were very impressed.

Tickets in hand, we had two hours in the town. We found a kilo restaurant for lunch, which was something we'd seen a lot of in Brazil so far but had never tried. It's basically a buffet style affair, with hot and cold dishes such as salad, pasta, fish, chicken and vegetables, and once you get to the end someone weighs your plate and you pay per kilo. At first though, we thought it was an all you can eat buffet, as the language barrier with the waiter was an issue again, so I began to pile my plate up (typically, mine weighed more than Andrew's!) but turns out you pay for weight or a set price and eat it all. The weight was cheaper and my plate was so full. The owner came over to say hello, he seemed to like us English people, and his wife tried to get their little daughter to practise her English with us but she was too shy. The food was great - I had fried fish and prawns, potatoes, pasta, salad and I tried a Brazilian vegetable called Aipim, which looked like fried or roasted parsnip but tasted like dry, hard, tasteless parsnip! It wasn't bad at all, but I wasn't a fan and it seems like a lot of the food (remembering the manioc flour in the feijoada, which I have since found out is the same as aipim?!) here is quite dry.

We walked off our food around the little town, looking at the shops and buildings, and then sat by the river for a while until it was time to go back to Curitiba.
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The bus was hot with no air conditioning but open windows and reclining seats meant we could nap with the warm air blowing on us during the hour and a half journey back.

After a massive lunch, we bought pork chops and salad for our tea from the supermarket for about £2.50 (we need more of these cheap meals to keep the costs down) and then planned to go out into the old town. But the weather had different ideas for us with thunder, lighting and then rain. So we bought a couple of cold beers from the hostel and played our first game of cards on the trip and Andrew won...boo!

P.S This morning we picked up our washing from the tumble dryer and it smelt amazing! Crazy how quickly clean clothes become a luxury...wonder what we're going to be like in 4 months?!

Posted by staceywaugh 10:19 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

São Paulo to Curitiba - Day 9

Bedrooms and bathrooms and bogs - oh my!

28 °C

I realised we haven't shown any pictures of our hostel so here are a couple. Here's our tiny bedroom (Andrew's back is pretty much against the wall!), toilet with John and Yoko watching over us and a nicely tiled little bathroom...I would quite like an ensuite tiled like this in my house, but I don't think it would sell well afterwards!!
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Today was another day of travelling with a 7hr coach journey. We left the hostel at 10am and got to new one at 8pm. The journey was easy, looking out at green hills and tree covered mountains with the sun shining, in between watching Juno (still love that film) and Dexter. We also did a bit of planning en route, as we hadn't been able to decide between an over night bus to Foz do Iguacu (where we will see the Iguacu Falls) as planned or a lunchtime to evening bus with a night in a hostel. We decided to go to Iguassu a day earlier, rather than the overnight bus and spend two nights in Puerto Iguacu rather than one - we're getting the hang of spontaneity! We booked the tickets for the next coach as soon as we arrived in Curitiba, again displaying Portuguese ticket buying prowess!

Hostel, Curitiba Casa Hostel, was just a few mins from station, but quite remote compared to the other places we've stayed. It's a nice, clean place, with a large room and it's own large bathroom, plus it has laundry facilities - a dream! The only downside is that there is what seems to be a high school trip here and I have hay fever so my patience levels are low!! After a slow dinner, which should have been quick - the oven obviously wasn't the temperature it said it was - we had an early night to get ready for train trip on the Serra Verde Express :)

Posted by staceywaugh 12:32 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

São Paulo - Day 8

Graffiti art and Parks

30 °C

We only had one full day in Sao Paulo, as we were using it as a stopping point between Paraty and Curitba really, but we wanted to make the most of it so we got up early, had toast for the first time in a week, and started the day. The blackboard at the hostel said 'Graffiti du MUBE' under things to do tomorrow, and after checking it out online, we discovered it was a Graffiti exhibition at the Museu Brasileiro da Escultura and decided to go there.

It was either a 50 minute journey on public transport or a 50 minute walk to the Museum so we decided to walk via Ibirapuera Parque, a massive urban park in São Paulo. The park was lovely, quiet and green, and I can imagine if you lived there (and were into exercise, unlike me in England - something I need to improve on when I return!) it would be a great place to jog, run or cycle.
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There was a pond in the centre, and as we looked over the tiny bridge there were enormous fish on the surface - honestly big enough to batter and serve with chips! There was lots of birds around too, which I like taking pictures of...sorry for the murky fish pic! Just needed evidence!
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On the way of the park, in between the busy roads of São Paulo - the worlds 8th largest city according to Wikipedia...would you believe Istanbul would be the 2nd???) - was the Bandeiras Monument, a huge stone tribute to the explorers who helped create São Paulo's culture.
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Continuing our walk to the museum we went down a long main road with massive houses, clinics, shops for home interiors, on either side, obviously a wealthy area. Further along car dealerships popped up, Bentley, Lamborghini, Maserati, Aston Martin...and even a Harley Davidson dealership Uncle Phil (I have been told you're reading this)! You'd be ok out here :)

Eventually we arrived at the graffiti exhibition after much longer than 50 minutes.
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There was artwork inside and out, some of which I didn't like but most I definitely did...here are some of them and a couple of dubious pieces that Andrew stood next to!
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Next stop was a shopping mall not far from the museum to see if they had any SD card to iPad cables as the hostel didn't have an SD slot and we figure many more won't and it would be easier to upload straight to the iPad. Andrew had to look at the maps (he loves them) to work out how we got there. He really had to get inside it:
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On the way, the houses were enormous with CCTV outside and security on the gate, and the Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Louboutin shops inside the mall gave the area away again. We, of course, weren't dressed appropriately to go in and being currently jobless and homeless couldn't afford it anyway!

A note for travellers in Brazil - if you enjoy spicy food like we do, then forget it! After a week of relatively plain food we stopped at a place serving prawns with everything and chose the two things on the menu that had one and two chillies on the menu to show the spiciness. If they hadn't have marked it with a chilli I'd have never known the difference. Needless to say we're looking forward to a curry or chilli infused dish soon.

We walked towards the river after food, then wished we hadn't bothered when we were greeted by roads the size of the M6 either side!. We did, however, discover a plastic surgery clinic with the name Alan Landecker on the front, to whom we've given a swish movie style American accent and haven't been able to stop saying since.

After a short walk around another park, Parque Trianon, a tropical park with monuments and trees, Andrew declared he didn't need to see the other half as it was "more of the same", we got our first ice cream of the trip and headed back, exhausted.
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We had a quiet evening in, planning more of the trip - booking a hostel in Lima and a flight from Lima to Cusco after we couldn't face a 21hr bus journey - and uploading photos via our new, £3 USB stick with SD slot from the market (nowhere sold iPad cables)!

Posted by staceywaugh 06:24 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

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