A Travellerspoint blog

Iguassu Falls

Brasil & Argentina sides

sunny 43 °C

From Bonito we took a 15-hour drive to Iguassu - yes, 15 hours!! Quite gruelling, but this then gave us an extra day at the falls on the Brazilian border and the chance to pop over to Paraguay for duty free shopping.

Iguassu was absolutely melting - 43 degrees!!!! the camping site was quite bad. Full of overland trucks (Kumuka, Oasis, Budget, Tucan Travels, you name it), a swimming pool full of young Westeners drinking beer in the very murky water, loud music and, just to make it the ultimate nightmare, only 2 toilets for all of us!
While the camping site was quite crap, the falls were really impressive. Before we entering the park we took an helicopter ride over them. First time in a helicopter for both, I must say very nice!! We ended up in the helicopter with someone who was scared of flying and kept stretching her arms around to hold on tight, perfectly in the path of my camera!!! Arghh! I would have killed her, but refrained victoriously!! Anyways, the falls were great. Too hot still - steady on 42 degrees, but the place stunning. Full of butterflies everywhere, and water and the sound of the falling water...

The day after we crossed over to Argentina, where the waterfall area is much larger. The park is also much bigger and better organised, they have a small 'green jungle train' which takes you all the way to the top of the falls, where you have a really close view of the Garganta del Diablo gorge from the top (from the Brasilian side we could see them from kind of below, though it was more panoramic). We bought a green pass, which meant we had a boat ride at the top on a dinghy - where we saw an awesome caiman in the water covered in orange butterflies - needless to say we all thought it was a rock until the boat guide pointed it out to us - and then the 'great nautical adventure' which consisted in sitting in a VERY POWERFUL motor dinghy and then drive almost under one of the falls, getting absolutely soaked - I mean, completely soaked. It was like being at the rides and really good fun. From the motor boat we were then transferred onto a huge tourist jeep for a jungle 'safari' with nothing to see, if it wasn't that a family of capuchinas monkeys decided to show up above us and keep us company for a few very enjoyable minutes. Some of the monkeys had babies on their backs, really sweet.

So Iguassu was impressive. Between the 2 countries I popped over to Paraguay to look for a new laptop battery, while Gregory went to visit the world's largest dam Itaipu. Popping to Paraguay means walking over this long bridge where you can enter without having passports checked. As soon as you reach the other side it is full of electronic shops. I went in the first one and showed our old battery (which is meant to be fairly difficult to find, given the age of the laptop) so the guy started phoning around till they found it. I had to wait in the shop for an hour while they went to collect it, in the meantime 2 of our fellow travellers turned up in the shop too. Finally the battery turned up and our friends decided to buy a camera, and here the story of the weirdest money transaction started. They guy took us to another shop where they could charge the cards (a shop friend of theirs). He starts taking my friends' card and none of them are accepted. So I offer them to pay for them with mine. Mine is accepted, but they need to do this over the telephone and record the transaction with one of those manual machines that carbon copy the card number. The amount of course is in Paraguayan currency, and I have no idea of the exchange rate. So I end up signing the receipt for 24.xxx.xxx of their currency - that is 24 something million something - but then by then it was too late to withdraw. In all this, they have taken my passport as a guarantee for the Visa card, not noticing that I have signed for a card that is not in my name!!! I was in fact using Gregory's card, so in practice could not really use it myself or sign for it. That gave me the confidence to go ahead with the risky business as Gregory could easily report the card stolen and get the money back in case of major trouble. Anyways, after the whole thing was concluded, I went into another shop and asked how much the amount corresponded to in $, and the amount seemed to be about $100 more than I had agreed with the guy!! So I walked back into the shop and told him what I had found out and the guy trying to give me weird explanations, anyways end of the story is that he probably overcharged me (still need to check online) but, since the battery fits and works fine and we really needed it, we will let this go and let them get away with it - though I might email him a little message if I decide to spare the time.

Anyways! Here are some pics

The Iguassu falls
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Caiman with butterflies
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The butterflies truly loved Gregory, this one stayed for 5 minutes...
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Posted by Flav-Greg 08:52 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

Bonito

sunny 35 °C

Bonito means beautiful, and indeed we had a really nice time here. The town itself is quite dull (apart from the colourful phone boxes, see tucan box below) but the surroundings are great. We went on a day trip to the Rio Prata - see www.riodaprata.com.br and www.estanciamimosa.com.br - which involved lunch on the estate and then a 2-hour floating downstream with snorkel in the rio Prata, where you are surrounded by hundreds of colourful fish. The waters are absolutely clear and the fish are very abundant - we hired an underwater camera and that was a really good idea, check the pics below!! Unfortunately I took all the photos outside of the water on the wrong setting as movies, so I do not have any of those, some of which are quite good. Basically, the current downstream is quite strong (very hard to stay on the same spot or swim against the current) so for 2 hours you just float down amongst all this fish. Very nice. We camped on the grounds of the local Youth Hostel, which was pretty good with excellent breakfast and the tents were under a shelter, so that we could keep the waterproof cap off the tent and breathe a lot better. Temperature here quite high, at least 35 degrees, but it was just about comfortable. On the second day we took an escursion to the 'Blue Cave', basically a very large cave with a very deep blue lake which is quite beautiful, but not much can be explored and considering the heat, an optional trip. We spent the rest of the time on the camping site in the swimming pool and that was great.

Camping in Bonito
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Rio Prata snorkelling
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Rio Prata underwater
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Toucan phone
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Posted by Flav-Greg 08:45 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Pantanal

sunny 35 °C

The Pantanal is an area the size of half of France which contains lots of wildlife. After a few hours on the road, including about two on a very bumpy dirt road, we got to a spot where we were transfered onto a tiny motor boat which took us to our 'lodge'. The lodge was really great: swimming pool, big rooms with all comforts, big social area with pool table and lots of sofas and armchairs to chill out in the evening and enjoy the caipirinhas...and only 20 of us plus 4 nice Germans. During the one full day we have had there, we were taken out on a horse ride in the swamps and then a kayaking outing. Gregory managed to overturn the kayak as soon as he climbed into it (!!!!), which was very funny if it wasn't that another passenger had a camera on him and that camera got soaked in dirty water... We later found out that the kayak had a hole on a side and could not take heavy people and so this was the reason why it overturned - so it wasn't Gregory's fault after all. The best part was that half way through the outing the guide asked my boat to swap with Greg's as we were lighter (despite me being on it!!!), so we inherited the crap boat that was filling with water (it had overturned a second time in the meantime...). The guide asked for my bottle of water and then used it throughout the trip to scoop water out of the boat till we got back. It was an extremely relaxing kayak outing as you can imagine...None of the events brought us to see much wildlife unfortunately, as we are here in the wrong season. The pantanal is swamped at the moment, which means that most territory is under water and there is plenty to eat, so the caimans are all spread in the water and cannot really be seen, and nobody comes out as they have enough food. We saw a few capybaras, a few sparse caimans here and there,a lot of colourful birds including macaws and tucans, and that was it! Then of course we had Shika, the howler monkey resident at the lodge. She is 5 years old and only likes men, though she lets ladies approach her if there are no men available!!! Shika was the highlight of our Pantanal experience, she was incredibly affectionate and always looking for people´s company.

From the Pantanal we have travelled to Bonito, which is a few hundred KM south and a place with lots of stuff to do, including swimming down a river with mask and snorkel in totally clear water and millions of big fish. Will upload the fish pictures later as we have not uploaded onto the laptop yet.

I am actually very tired at the moment, this blogger is turning out to be very time-consuming and one has to make the time to select the pictures, transfer them to USB stick, then upload them and considering that we have no battery on the laptop and so we can only do stuff when we have electricity, and then upload from Internet cafes, well it all gets like a big task. But hey! We do want to do this and it is great to receive your comments and news, so we will keep struggling for time like back home!!! Nothing changes, does it...

NOTA ITALIANA
Mi rendo conto che non tutti parlano inglese, ma realisticamente non posso tradurre tutto il blogger in 2 versioni. Cerchero´magari di fare dei piccoli riassunti o di mettere certi commenti in italiano alla fine della sezione e vediamo come va... beh il ´riassunto´per il momento e´che sta andando tutto veramente molto bene. Rio e il carnevale sono stati bellissimi, il carnevale e´uno spettacolo della madonna che non mi aspettavo di tale livello, quasi inimmaginabile. Poi il tour e´bello, il gruppo e´molto simpatico, siamo 17 e cé un po di tutto, giovani e meno giovani, ma tutti con un ottimo spirito. Nei posti che ci hanno portato ci hanno sempre incluso delle gite veramente buone - la gita in barca a Paraty, la lodge lussuosa del Pantanal (proprio un pantanaio, come dice la parola) con passeggiata a cavallo e canoa, poi a Bonito una gita/ nuotata nel fiume dal miliardo di pesci, insomma benone!! domani si parte alle 5 (si, alle 5 di mattina) e si pedala per 16 ore fino alle cascate Iguassu. 16 ore in camion, aiuto!! pero´poi stiamo fermi 5 notti grazie a dio...
ok ora vado, saluti a tutti

Road to the Pantanal
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Shika
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2 scimmie, una piccola e una grossa...
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Horse trekking in the Pantanal
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Posted by Flav-Greg 18:11 Archived in Brazil Comments (3)

Our Exodus overland begins...

First stop Paraty

sunny 32 °C

We set off on Papa 5 - our Exodus truck - at 8 am on Wednesday the 21st of Feb. First destination was Paraty, some 300 km south of Rio on the Costa Verde of Brazil, apparently one of the most beautiful coastlines in South America. Paraty is described as the most pictoresque colonial town in Brasil, and the name comes from its pirate history. Very nice town indeed, lots of nice cozy shops and restaurants. We camped here for 3 nights, the first of which was a nightmare. I chose the spot for the tent in the shade - we got there at 3 pm and had to plant it under the burning sun - in the night we realised that the trees diffused a very unpleasant smell (or was it what people were doing under the trees?) and it was so bloody hot!! Then things improved and the shade was still an advantage but generally I would say that camping in Paraty was not such a great experience. The sea is absolutely HOT - must be at least 40 degrees - so when we rushed to bathe to refresh after the tent planting ordeal, we found ourselves in the hottest broth we could ever imagine!! The town however is really lovely and the first experience with the truck and the cooking took our concentration. It is 17 of us, of which 6 Irish fellows - I just cannot get rid of them, can I? Worked with a terrible one for over a year, then the owner of the guesthouse in Rio was Irish, and now a third of the team!!! Well OK, I admit they are all very nice...
We have a nurse on board, a GP and a copper - I'd say the emergency services are taken care of - one of the guides is a mechanic, so I think we are really OK. Everybody so far seems really nice and helpful, so overall we are quite happy. We are now doing some 3 days of all day driving to get to the Pantanal, which is a wildlife hotspot in the South West corner of Brasil, full of birds, alligators, capybaras and unfortunately mosquitos. We are going to spend 2 nights in a lodge with pool and all luxuries, so we are quite looking forward to it.
Below are some pics of the camp and of a day boat trip we took from Paraty on boats called 'schooners' - ours was called Sir Francis Drake. It was really good, we made 3 stops at different islands and the water was absolutely gorgeous. Then they cooked on the boat and served a very good fish meal, AND I managed not to get burnt!

Next stop Pantanal, greetings to all

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Posted by Flav-Greg 17:15 Archived in Brazil Comments (6)

Rio de Janeiro/Carnival

Rio...we've made it!

sunny 35 °C

First 2 days were real hard, trying to recover from the last hectic few days in London, my fall down the stairs with annexed aches and sores as well as what looked like a mild symptom of DVT. My hand has finally healed and the legs are also OK, though still bruised.
3rd day was the real beginning of our holiday, in the sense that I was able to get up and walk around and feel like a human being again.
We have done all the usual sites - been to the Christ statue (completely obliterated by clouds though..), Sugar Loaf by cable car, Botanical Gardens, Copacabana and Ipanema beach. While going to Sugar Loaf, Gregory managed to burn his nose, while I completely underestimated the length of our trip and sun exposure and so managed to sunburn my shoulders and collarbone - nevermind, maybe when I hit 50 I will remember to put sunscreen on...NEVERMIND!!!!
The guest house is OK, a lot more rundown than what it looks like on the website - www.casamangomango.com - but the pool is refreshing and Gregory enjoys it every morning at 8 for an hour, together with Julie's kids, 5 and 7, who take it in turns to jump on Gregory's back and get carried backs and forwards. So they both have fun and Gregory swims with weights, which is great exercise. Casa Mangomango is huge and needs a lot of work, but the people are super-friendly and we have all what we need and more - a very large room with en-suite bathroom (not expected), free coffee all day, laundry lines outside the door, power points for all of Gregory's electronic devices (I still do not know how he has managed to fit everything in that ruscksack), we can access the kitchen to make our own caipirinhas and use the Internet and even have a small library with lots of very relevant books - travel guides on South America as well as grammars and even a small Chomsky selection.

CARNIVAL

On Monday night it was our turn at the Sambodrome - the 2 main parades run on Sunday and Monday night, then the winner is chosen. We went to the Monday one and it was worth every penny - never ever imagined that a show of this sort could ever be put up - thousands of incredible costumes flowing all night, from 9 pm till 7 am - just AMAZING!! We stayed till the very end and were completely hooked - no point in posting any pics since we have taken hundreds, which we managed to cut down to 190, and it would be just impossible to pick 2 or 3 for the blogger... The last school of the Monday night was the best - absolutely - and in fact they won the parade: Beija Flor. The theme was Africa, the rhythm was fantastic (still in our heads) and the costumes simply unbelievable. The Rio Carnival site is found at http://www.rio-carnival.net - unfortunately no pictures of Beija Flor though I am sure they are posted somewhere.

Here are some pics from Rio - next stop is Exodus overland!

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Posted by Flav-Greg 16:33 Archived in Brazil Comments (4)

Less than 1 week to go...

arghhh!!!!

Gone a long way, 80% or so of the house has been packed up. Gregory running a little behind as usual and me rolling down the stairs face down did not quite help with being fully fit for the loft trips, but we are managing...

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Posted by Flav-Greg 09:13 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged preparation Comments (5)

OK, we are ALMOST ready...

ie nothing is packed yet but all lists have been written...7 wks to go!!

overcast 4 °C

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The plan:

Rio for Carnival 14th to 21st Feb
Rio - Argentina - Chile - overland tour 21st Feb to 12th Apr
then we go independent..

Bolivia
Peru
Ecuador
Venezuela
Guyana
Costa Rica
Nicaragua
Honduras
Guatemala
Belize
Mexico - coming back middle of Jan

Posted by Flav-Greg 05:03 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged preparation Comments (7)

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