After a brief 16 hours on the bus we arrived at Foz do Iguazu – the local town near the waterfalls. We stumbled off the coach and fell into a taxi which took us to our accommodation which was a bizarre mix between a hostel, hotel and motel. We dumped our bags in the room and took the bus to the Brazilian side of Iguazu falls (the waterfalls are split between Brazil and Argentina by the Iguazu river). We had also spotted a leaflet in the hostel that advertised ab sailing and zip lining in the trees so we rashly bought a voucher from the hostel to do those two activities. We arrived at the waterfalls and had our first glimpse of the tremendous sight. It was absolutely spectacular!! Our eyes were glued to this immense beautiful natural wonder. I have never seen something so breathtaking in my life.
After gazing at the falls in awe for rather a long time, we did the zip lining in the trees and ab sailed 55m down the rock face with a view over the waterfalls. This was absolutely incredible although I couldn’t help thinking my white shorts were being ruined by the rope as I slid down. I tried not to let this petty thought ruin my ab sail.We watched the sunset over the waterfalls and I took some necessary photos for the blog. Social media first, real life experience second.
The next day we left Brazil and crossed the border into Argentina!! Border control was virtually non existent with no bribing necessary. We were sad to be leaving Brazil as we had spent such a great time there, 2 weeks really isn’t enough! We visited an animal sanctuary in the afternoon which was quite fun but just a time filler as we were visiting the Argentinian side of the falls the following day.
We woke up at 7am the next day to get to the falls by 8 and avoid the numerous swarms of retired American tourist groups. This was also our first hostel breakfast with scrambled eggs!! A great start to the morning. We ran to the bus stop as getting up proved harder than we thought. We got to the falls and started off with a 7 km trek to a rather underwhelming little waterfall. I don’t quite understand why we did this as Iguazu falls were a lot closer and more impressive. By the time we returned from our trek the retired American tourists were in full swing roaming the national park. Bad timing on our part. We later took a speed boat underneath the falls which was absolutely hilarious as we all got completely soaked. We had also brought a bag with us containing swimming trunks, flip flops and a towel but due to pure laziness we decided not to change as we had convinced ourselves we would emerge dry (even having been told the night before that you get soaked). I walked all day with a stupid plastic bag that I didn’t touch once.
Once again the Argentinian side of the waterfalls did not disappoint. They were breathtaking. The shear power and quantity of water that flows over the cliffs is inconceivable. This is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.
We arrived back into town around 6 and went to pick our washing up from a dodgy little launderette. Unexpectedly, as we stepped in, the man started rambling on about how we had paid with fake bank notes which we had just taken out from the bank atm. Luckily, I spoke good enough Spanish to return back a convincing argument. 10 minutes later after a decent debate, the man caved and gave us back our washing. His clever scam had failed and our washing was clean. 1 to the tourists, 0 to the launderette.
Tomorrow we fly to buenos aires, this flight we have to catch!
Our bus to São Paulo turned out to be rather long. The bus drivers seem to stop every hour or so turning a 2 hour journey into a 5 hour journey. Very annoying.
We were all quite worried about arriving in São Paulo especially in the evening as we had heard such awful stories about random beatings, muggings, being held at gunpoint and so on. So when we got into the taxi, we prayed that we would be taken to our hostel rather than a drug den or worse.. We arrived to a metal barred door, walked in and to our surprise the hostel was amazing! The best hostel we’ve stayed in so far. The couple running the hostel were so friendly and welcoming, feeding us their barbecue and treating us like normal people rather than poor, inferior, homeless backpackers. After the barbecue Nick, a German friend and myself decided to go to the biggest, most well known techno club in São Paulo as it was Saturday night. We took a taxi through a fairly rough neighbourhood (to put it mildly) and I’ve never felt so vulnerable in a car before. We got into the club around 1am and came back around 6am. The taxi ride back was also the most dangerous car journey I’ve ever experienced. The taxi driver was racing through red lights, swerving uncontrollably and driving unbelievably fast. Luckily we had some alcohol in our system and enjoyed the ride somewhat. The club was also incredible. Awesome music and people although the night cost me nearly 100 pounds, but it was totally worth it!
After a few hours of unconscious sleep, we had to check out of the hostel. We now had the whole day to kill before our 16 hour bus to Iguazu falls in the evening.
Little did we know, today the city played host to quite an odd event that would keep us occupied for a short while. A gay parade. But this parade was not any old gay parade, this was the biggest gay parade in the world! What luck that for the one day we were In São Paulo, our dates had coincided with the day of the parade. We felt obliged to check it out. It turned out to be rather weird and somewhat intimidating. We had a quick look and scurried back to our hostel in disbelief and confusion of what we had just witnessed.
Evening came and we had to say goodbye to our good friend Nick who we had been travelling with ever since stepping foot in Rio. Hopefully however, we will see him further on in our trip, potentially in Buenos Aires. Our short stopover in São Paulo had proven to be one of the best days of our trip so far.
We reluctantly left Ilha grande heading for Paraty (a beach town a few hours down the coast from Rio). 5 of us arrived in the evening to a small hostel which had been hand-built by the young Argentinian boss who was at the front desk. We found him cleaning the tables the next day. As you would imagine however, a hand-built hostel was not in the best condition. The rotten wooden triple bunk beds were on the verge of collapse.
Paraty is another beautiful little South American town. It is similar to an old European settlement with cobbled roads (lethal to flip-flop wearers) and Mediterranean architecture. We decided to go on a tour of the nearby waterfalls which was brilliant. There was a 10m cliff jump that we nervously stepped off that proved more scary than fun and a 60m natural rock slide which we elegantly slid down after, proving our manhood to the locals.
Today was flying day. We were meant to catch a flight scheduled at 6 55 from São Paulo to inland Brazil, but, at 6 55 we were still sleeping in our rickety bunk beds in Paraty (a 6 hour bus ride away from São Paulo). That’s one flight out of three we’ve missed. We can’t miss the next two otherwise we will be spending many many hours sitting depressed on a bus thinking about the money we have just wasted whilst the cabin crew eat away at our in flight meals that us backpackers so desperately cherish.
We later visited two cachaca (national alcohol) distilleries and got to taste all the different variations. They were all vile. Cachaca is a horrible alcohol.
The next day we walked to the port and went on a boat trip to a few local islands. Another peaceful, fun day relaxing and swimming in the calm Brazilian waters. We got off the boat as relaxed and rested as one could be, expecting to book our bus and head to the spectacular Iguazu falls on Sunday. A perfect, flawless itinerary. But, to our surprise all the buses were completely full. This was a bit of a spanner in the works as leaving a day later would mean we wouldn’t have enough time and leaving a day earlier would mean we would have far too long in the empty town near the falls. We decided to leave early and spend a night in the safe haven that is São Paolo.
With such fond memories fresh in our mind from Rio, we were sceptical about our next destination. How could it live up to buzzing city that is Rio de Janiero?
Ilha grande is an island with more beaches than inhabitants. The landscape is dense with trees and the beaches completely untouched. We planned to stay two nights but after a couple of hours, we knew we had to stay longer, and potentially miss a flight we had booked from São Paulo to inland Brazil. We took it easy on our first day, just walking to the main town/village and getting to know the island.
On our second day we trekked (with new hostel friends) to one of the more famous beaches on the island – Lopez Mendez. It took us 2 hours in the scorching heat over this magical island, finally arriving at Lopez Mendez where we had been daydreaming of cooling off with a long, relaxing swim in the ocean. We arrived on the beach, sweating heavily and with our mouths parched, only to find a wooden sign saying ‘no swimming’. Not what we wanted to hear. We ended up going in the water anyway as no Brazilian signs were going to interfere with our plans. We stayed on the beach for a couple of hours before getting a water taxi back to our hostel. We set off and 10 minutes later, the motor broke down. We were stranded at sea. Luckily, a fisherman picked us up soon after and kindly charged us a high price for the rescue service. It was also my birthday that day so 10 of us went out for a big meal on the beach. After haggling for some free birthday cocktails we went to the hostel for a party. It was a great birthday!
Yesterday, we took a cable car to sugarloaf mountain which boasts very impressive views of the city. There is, however, quite a stark difference between the wealth of the city centre and the widespread poverty of the favelas which are bordering each other. We also took a tour of one of the safer favelas called Rocinha which is in the process of ‘pacification’. The favelas are fascinating places. There are vast numbers of people living in such condensed spaces with open sewage running freely down the mountain in some areas. There are bullet holes in the walls and collapsed houses due to poor construction or landslides. Many of the people have very poor education and drugs are an easy outlet. The architecture is also fascinating due to the different colours that span across the hills. A few of the favelas have improved in safety over the past year or two however there is a big worry that after the Olympics the favelas will revert to their previous state and the drug lords will rule again.
On Friday night, we went out in a place called Lapa – party central. The streets were overflowing with all different types of people and everyone was drinking the lethal national drink – the caipirinha. Everyone party’s on the street for hours until the sun starts to rise. Every night in Lapa is an experience.
I arrived two nights ago and met my friends Dan and Joanna who I will be travelling with for 2 months. Unfortunately the weather in Rio is not how I imagined it. Rain and cloud with intermittent sunny spells. The beautiful Copacabana beach is a no go at the moment. Hopefully we will get some proper sun before we leave Rio in a few days.
We took a bus today (the bus drivers are mad) to Christ the Redeemer and managed to get a couple of cool photos before the clouds came in. We also visited the botanical gardens and after decided to walk back to the hostel which we thought was not too far away. We ended up crossing practically the whole city which took us 3 hours. We recuperated with a good night sleep in our underground hostel (dungeon).