Iguazu Falls

7 05 2008

Since leaving Buenos Aires, the twin main objectives have been to waste some time until the Canadian weather gets its act together and realises than it’s time to be warm. And visit the Iguazu falls.

One objective is complete. The falls are well worth such a huge detour. Since we had come so far to see these falls, we visited both sides, one side being in Brazil and the other in Argentina.

iguazu1Big solitary fallsI must admit to being slightly underwhelmed at the start of the view in Brazil. We’d just had a (verbal) fight (in ‘Russian’ or Portuguese, could be either) with the Brazilian guards about having to pay for the bus service in to the park even though not using the bus. [It’s not possible to enter without buying a bus ticket as well, don’t waste your time trying.] The walkway / viewpoints in Brazil at first only allow you to see some of the waterfalls on the Argentinian side (across the river). They are impressive, but worth several thousand kms? Not really.

Garganta del DiabloNot until later do you see the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s throat) with is a U shaped thundering wall of excitement. And then, suddenly, it is worth the visit (if you can see anything through the spray). On the Brazilian side, there is a walkway on which you can stand in the spray of the falls, and have falls almost all around you. It is huge! But this is all I liked about the Brazilian side – I prefered the Argentinian side. Lots of walkways. Lots of view points. Lots of places for Stefan to take photos (>200!). Many smaller falls (less water, same drop) amongst the trees.

Group mug shotOn top of the Garganta del Diablo you can hardly hear yourself think. A phenominal amount of water pours over the falls, and sprays all over the place in a thourougly frivolous way. A wall of white noise. I tried to encourage a boat race over the edge – bit of a waste of time, you can’t see through the spray for about half the height of the falls. How would you know who won?

After a while of watching all that water it seems a little irresponsible to lose all that energy, and not, maybe do something useful, like turn it into electricity (spot the engineer…). Luckily just up the Paraná river (maybe 30km away) is Itaipu hydroelectric station that generates a lazy 14GW. The biggest hydro plant in the world, generating essentially all of Paraguays electricity and 20% of Brazils. We went there to have a look, but they wanted to shunt us into a bus and charge us to look at the dam wall. Not go inside the generating hall or anything exciting, just look at the outside of the concrete dam. Do I look so stupid? We looked from the road – it looks like a big dam(n) wall.

The Iguasu falls looks much bigger than Niagra (turns out it is), but maybe I’ll have to just have another look at Niagra in a week or so. And then see Victoria Falls. Could be a bit harder to get to Victoria falls though… Does this mean there is another trip to Africa coming up? Hmmm.

bluey2blueyAnd a bird we saw at the falls for Kev and Steve. Sorry, no idea what this guy is called.

Let’s just say it’s Bluey from Argentina.

butterflyI wonder if Sea to Summit would like to use this one – the butterfly was a bit crazy, it was trying to lick the dry bag. I guess it is a similar colour to it’s favourite meal. I’d never seen a butterfly’s tongue before. I don’t know why I would have, but I felt I should have.

Toronto is expecting mid-teens for a few days. Warm enough to visit? I guess it will have to do. Maybe a bit better in a week. Still working on the second objective.


7 05 2008

Brazil has been an amusing interlude. Possibly more amusing for the locals – I still cannot speak a sentence in Portuguese. I still call it “Russian”. If they speak too fast to me, I reply with “Russian russianrussianrussian”. Honestly, some of the sounds are more Russian than Spanish. Stupid Australian – still only speaks English.

10kkmFrom Morretes we climbed up into the metropolis of Curitiba via a back road. It rained the day we went anyway, so the cobblestones were wet and slippery. There were only two maniac drivers that tried to skid off the road, the rest were more sedate. But the scenery was pretty good – possibly amazing without fog. Lots of rain forest. Too wet for many photos. Stefan and Sabine hit 10,000km. Well done… 10,000km more to go Sabine!

With barely a pause in Curtiba (ok, a few hours stop) the three of us jumped on a bus to Foz do Iguaçu at the border of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. A long bus ride and a day later we were still in overcast conditions. So we did the only rational thing – find a place to sleep and wait for the rain to go away. It did.

Paraguay borderSo the next day we went bargain hunting in Paraguay. The weather wasn’t nearly nice enough to go and visit the falls. The oddest thing about this day (apart from the utter chaos of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay) was the border controls. From Brazil to Paraguay there was exactly zero control. That was a bit odd, but it meant I could enter, take a look around, tick Paraguay (otherwise a big hole in the middle of the continent I hadn’t set foot in) and not need to worry about a new visa or the return to Brazil. Whew. Lucky.

Ciudad del Este was chaotic, and Stefan and I ran out of steam and patience before hunting down a bargain. I probably should have been looking for a camera. Eh. Canada is fast approaching. I think they have them there as well.

The border crossing into Argentina began as simply as the one in to Paraguay – we had to go and ask for an exit stamp from Brazil. Normally you could just exit without hindrance. The Argentinian side looked more like normal, with a propper border control. The catch phrase of the day was “Everything is better in Argentina”. This was backed up by the cost and quality of accommodation, the food, the wine, the language (I can understand something again!), pretty much everything. Although after a day of consideration, the consensus was “everything is better in Argentina, except for the breakfast, fruits and beach chicas”. You can’t have expect one place to have everything.

So in a spirit of inquiry, after a strenuous ride of 13km and a border crossing, we tried the Puerto Iguasu offerings. A kilo of Bife de Lomo (fillet steak) and sides, for three. Almost as good as out west in Argentina. Everything is better here. Life could be so hard. I’m really starting to put weight on. Not to worry: I’m sure I’ll lose it in Canada again.

Morretes, Brazil

29 04 2008

This place is strange. We had beautiful weather for 8 straight days, and now, when we want to get back on the bike and do some riding, it rains all night and most of the day. A repeat performance of Matinhos. Except we have learnt from that experience (a week ago), and are just staying put until the rain stops. In the internet café, wasting time. YouTubing it up.

Whats that I hear you say? It’s only rain? Correct, and I don’t care. Being soaked all day isn’t much fun, and the road we are planning to take is cobblestones most of the way. Slippery when wet. Plus, this should be a road of good views – no point going there in ‘pea soup’ fog.

Ilha do Mel

27 04 2008

Could be translated (incorrectly) as the Island of Honey. It doesn’t really matter. I spend a week of this:

Riding on the beach

Trying (again) to surf

muy bien fish

Hard at work

Not a drop of rain (well, some overnight, but didn’t affect us). Some good fish. Plenty of doing nothing. 3 books in 2 days.

Hope you enjoyed your week 🙂

(Thanks Stefan and Sabine for the photos!)

Brazil. Rain?

20 04 2008

What’s going on here. It is not meant to rain on the coast of Brazil. Especially not when I’m here on hoiday.

Today I1m entrenched in an internet café. The bike is loaded and waiting outside ready to go when the rain stops. I wouldn’t mind a light sprinkle, but it’s coming down in buckets. The road is now flooded, but I don’t want to spend another day in this town (Matinhos). There is nothing to see; it is practically deserted. Think of the Gold Coast (4-5 story apartment style beach houses and pretty much no-one around). Not really all that exctiting.

Maybe it will stop raining soon. Maybe not.

+1hr. The water is now above the top of the gutter. Surely this can’t continue…
+1/2hr more. I can’t see the gutter any more. Where does all this water come from?
There’s a new river forming! I hope it doesn’t carry away my bike!


12 04 2008

Ok, I cheated again. But I figure the ‘pure’ bike trip is over and now I’m doing my best to enjoy myself until it warms up in Canada. Today they’re going for 12°C, so it’s getting there. Still a a way to go.

I finished my ride across Uruguay. Punta del Diablo did hold me captive for one more day. Kind of funny, I don’t normally like just relaxing by the beach, but it’s so nice there, and it was kind of novel talking ‘Oz’ again. I couldn’t help it.

The border posed a small problem: I arrived at the consulate (to get my visa) 30 mins too late, at 1pm. This meant I had to overnight in Chuy. Not the highlight of the trip, but there have been worse towns. Other than that, and the fee for the visa, everything went smoothly (definitely not whinging about the visa – I’m still outraged about Australia’s visa requirements).

Stefan and Sabine have been camped out here in Campeche (near Florianopolis) for a week. So I jumped on a couple of buses and came up to meet them. Another chilled out beach spot. Stefan has been taking surfing lessons, Sabine and I bashed about a volleyball for a while. We sat on the sand. Cooked up a 1.5kg fish for dinner. Found out we could do with more, so added some prawns. Kind of hard work.

We will head for a different, possibly equally idyllic, beach tomorrow. Maybe with more surf. Perhaps I’ll take a crack at surfing again (Lessons? Who needs lessons? :)).

And I want to go back to work?