And a tasty steak
03.12.2011 - 07.12.2011 30 °C
After drying ourselves off from our soaking in Paraty, it was onwards to Sao Paolo (a long but scenic bus ride away). Despite being less well known than Rio, it's about 3 times the size (one of the world's largest cities, at just under 20 million people). It's mostly sky-scrapers as far as the eye can see in the city centre, but very affluent in the area we were staying in and generally pleasant enough - if far less scenic than Rio. Either there wasn't a huge amount to see in the centre, or we missed it all - the most I found was a big modern cathedral along which a nativity scene (we're still finding it really odd seeing Christmas decorations in summer!).
On one of the evenings we met up with Dan and Amisha (friends of James from work) who live out there. Showing that local knowledge beats and guide book, we had a tasty tasty meat feast of a meal, trying our first Picanha - a big slab of beef served on a hot grill. We then went back to their flat for a nice bottle of Brazilian wine - good times, and thanks very much to both of you. Sadly we forgot the camera at the hotel, so no photos I'm afraid.
Iguazu falls - Argentina
Next up was one of the sights to see in South America - the Iguazu falls, generally considered to be the most impressive waterfalls in the world (though not the highest). Would it live up to the hype, or be a (very) damp squib? We're happy to say it was most definitely the former.
The river these waterfalls are on forms part of the Brazil/Argentina border, and the falls can be seen from both sides. We started off by hopping across the border to the Argentinian side on the first day. After an unnecessarily long journey involving 3 buses and a long wait at the border, we made it to the park. There are a series of walkways taking you right to the very edge of the waterfalls for an impressive view and a thorough soaking. The sheer scale of the falls, the nosie, and the amount of spray you get in every direction are pretty awesome, but hard to convey in photos. Here are a few anyway.
We got to see some wildlife too - no caimans or macaws, but we saw loads of butterflies, and a few coites - an animal similar to a racoon and fairly aggressive to any tourists who look like they might be bearing food. There was also an angry looking bird who was clearly fed up with me trying to photograph it.
The highlight of the day however was definitely the speedboat ride at the bottom of the falls. You basically get in a huge 500 horsepower rib which then gets driven hard at the waterfalls; they get scarily close to the point that not only can you not see anything, you can't even open your eyes because of the strength of the spray and falling water. The looks on my and Frank's faces tell the story, and I've even put up a video here (though all it really shows is that you can't see a lot!).
Iguacu falls - Brazil
Day 2, and back to the Brazilian side. Despite being the same waterfalls, and the main Brazilian viewing platform being all of 500m from the Argentinian one, the view is surprisingly different. You get more of a panoramic view on the Brazilian side (though it still has some viewing platforms very close to the falls, for the customary showering). No boat rides this time, and it's a much shorter day as the trail is only about 1500m long.
A dishonourable mention goes to the Sheraton for building a huge concrete monstrosity right in the middle of the Argentinian side of the park. You can't really see it from the Argentinian side, but it's very noticeable from the main Brazilian viewpoint, so I suspect the Argentinian planning process involved some national/linguistic pettiness which would have made the Belgians proud (though maybe that's unfair now they have a government and everything!).
And now we're getting ready to say goodbye to Bernadette and Frank, and head on down our merry way to Argentina (the whole way down to the 'end of the world' - see the travel map).