Soy una Legenda en Paraguay

That’s right, we have arrived in Paraguay!

We left Foz de Iguazu yesterday, it was a hot morning and it was only going to get hotter from thereon.

The border crossing to Paraguay was an alternative immigration experience. We arrive at the Brazilian checkpoint, which is just over the bridge from Ciudad del Este which is a mad place where you can buy anything from cheap electronics to guns and ammo. Our driver parked the minibus and our group trudged the long way over a busy road into the immigration terminal, because for some unknown reason we werent allowed to take the stairs that led directly to the officials’ hut. Having submitted or passports we then trudged back to the bus in the searing heat, and our driver drove us over the “Friendship Bridge” to the Paraguayan immigration point. At this point we were officially illegally in Paraguay! We then collected our official passport stamps from another pokey little immigration point, and drove onto the bus station as legal visitors to Paraguay.

We had a hour to kill at the bus depot, so we bought some more of what would be several litres of water that day (Muy Caliente!), and had a pretty good hamburger in the restaurant. It felt strange paying for items in our new currency, as 2 bottles of water came to 10,000 Guaranis (that is 1GBP). We were all carrying alot of zeros with us today.

Finally at noon we borded a bus which, especially compared to the rather luxurious coaches we were used to in Brazil, looked rather shabby. It would turn out to be a deathly heat trap for the next 5 and a half hours as there was no aircon and outside the temperatures hovered around 40 celsius. Sanni and I drank gallons of water and undressed as much as was decent in public, but still it was hard going. The bus was also not an express bus as it was constantly stopping to pick up more passengers at seemingly random locations, or to allow the driver to pick 15 deck chairs in a roadside shop he rather fancied the look of – but it never stopped to let us off for lunch and a chance to cool off.

However, when all seemed lost and I was really going crazy with the heat and the woman to my right blasting out dodgy latin music from her mobile, we finally entered Asuncion and made our way to the “Palace Hotel”. We had already decided that with a name like that it was bound to be on a par with our Hotel in Sao Paolo, and although the outside promised palatial splendour, the rooms turned out to be very old and worn. However I must say that the hotel has a certain charm, the staff are very nice and it is well placed in the heart of Asuncion.

After an early night we awoke refreshed and ready to go out and explore what the city had to offer. We had breakfast and headed out of the front door with a spring in our step, as it was a lovely sunny day. It also turned out to be hotter than yesterday, and within 15 minutes or hearts were thumping and we were gasping for some cold water. I can now see why Terere is so popular here – in the hot months all the locals carry around a big thermos full of cold Yerba Mate, which must enable them to get from A to B in this weather.

So we reverted to what is swiftly becoming or favourite past time – hanging out in the Mall! Aircon, food, and we got to see “I am Legend” for 1 pound each. Great! It was a really good movie in my opinion, but really scary, and afterwards Sanni and I both got the fear wandering the streets of Asuncion as it was still blisteringly hot and there was a really noisy political rally going on in the center. We headed back to the hotel for a cool beer, and all was well again -although the little hotel dog with the jutting teeth was still slightly unsettling to us!

Time for dinner now, hopefully another buffet offering where you can pay by the kilo – yummm!! 🙂

“Poor Niagara”

is what Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly said when she first saw the Iguazu Falls. Although I wouldn´t diss the Niagara Falls, Cataratas do Iguazu is pretty awe-inspiring. The name of the falls, which are located on the border between Brazil and Argentina, derives from the Guarani words i (water) and uazu (big), and that´s exactly what it is. The sheer number of different falls (275) is astonishing, but it´s the power of the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat) which is truly breathtaking.

We visited the falls first from the Brazil side, and on the second day from the Argentinian side. Many people say the latter offers better views, but I think both offer an awesome experience! In Argentina we took a speed boat trip under some of the ´smaller´ falls, which was refreshing after all the waiting (see below).

Our trip to the Argentinian side was hampered both ways by a road barricade 10km before the entrance to the Iguazu national park. The local parents were demonstrating against poor conditions in the local schools, and wanted to get more attention for their cause by blocking the access to one of the major touristic attractions in Argentina. Fortunately even they had to have lunch, and all the cars, buses and lorries were let through after a 2.5hr wait.  On the way back it was a mere 45 min wait until the protesters gave up and went home.  

About Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo is 3 times the size of Paris, and the official estimates for the population of Sao Paulo are between 18-24 million – the error margin is bigger than the whole population of Finland!!  It´s a crazy, busy, polluted, and at times quite a depressing place to visit. On the way from Paraty (the last 1.5 hrs of the 6hr bus trip were within Sao Paulo) we saw favela after favela, and a high security prisons with watch towers in each corner.  We got the ´big city angst´ straight away!

On the lighter side the Sao Paulo´s Museum of Art (MASP) had a good collection of Brasilian modern art and a Tatsumi Orimoto retrospective featuring photos from Orimoto´s performances, including his famous alter ego, Bread Man. More on Orimoto.

Also, the highlight of our hotel, which was otherwise a real dump, was finding the local Kiss FM which played fantastic 80´s and 90´s rock anthems. Genesis, REM, Guns&Roses, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi – you name it!! 

34 in Sao Paolo

Good morning,

thanks for all the birthday wishes, I can report that although I suffered some big city angst on entering this mega city, we went out last night with most of our group (some Taxi comedy resulted in a third of the group being lost) and drank what turned out to be very strong Caipirinhas! Anyway, it was a good night, which Sanni and I decided to bow out of when we went drinking with some locals who took us to the local version of Nandos (fine if you want chicken, not if you want a good drink).



What a change of pace!

Rio was brilliant fun, but I just love this sleepy little town, full of great cafes, bars, shops and beautiful old Colonial buildings. We arrived yesterday at noon after a 4.5 hour coach journey (the coaches here are very comfy, not like the horrible contraptions we get in Europe and Sydney to Byron Bay…).

First activity was lunch, we got introduced to a marvelous way of eating, whereby you have a buffet full of all kinds of food which you pile onto your plate and at the end they weight the plate and charge you per kilo! Genius!

For the rest of the day we just chilled out, it was really lovely walking around the town, taking in the quiet atmosphere, trying not to take the same photos, and stopping for some delicious ice cream which was charged – yes, you guessed it – by the kilo!! Perfect!

Today we took a boat cruise around the islands here, it was great to get to swim and snorkel for the day. My favourite moment was grabbing a beer after the first swim and chilling out in the hammock at the bow – pure bliss.

 Oh and the scenery was truly magnificent. Missing home? Not so much  🙂

Farewell to Rio

Well sadly it was time to get going from the incredible city that is Rio de Janeiro (thats Hio de Janeiro). I have seen few cities that are set in such spectacular natural surroundings – the mountains, the sea, the fantastic public beaches beaches, Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf mountain, cool Samba parties on hot Sunday nights, people out jogging along the bay, having a beer at dusk on Ipanema beach…it is pretty special.

We had a great time staying with Renata (That is also with an H, I found out after all this time!), my workmate from a few years ago, who showed us around and took us to nice parties that we would never find on our own. Too bad we had a day cut short from our stay! Obrigado!

We even started to learn about how to deal with the taxis here because, as we found out, they will try to rip you off if they think they can. In the end it was a two way street – the taxi guy who drove us to Sta Teresa for lunch almost had us for 35 Realis, but Sanni held firm and handed him a tenner and told him that was all he was gonna get despite his abuse. To make up the imbalance, I decided to try to rip our taxi off in the evening by refusing to pay the meter fare (he said a tenner but traffic was so bad that it ended up being 18). But when he followed me down the street complaining and sounded a bit like my old workmate Fernando, I felt sorry for him and paid the rest.

 But it was time to start our organised tour, first stop Paraty…

That beach

Starting from Renata´s flat we started walking around the lagoon (Lagua) to get to the Ipanema beach. Lots of brasileiro´s were jogging and cycling past us, it was a real shame we forgot our running shoes in London…

Ipanema beach was as wonderful as I´d always imagined, with beautiful white sands, blue seas and tall, tanned, yound and lovely people everywhere.  Ahhh…

We walked the lenght of the beach and took lots of photos of the Sugar Loaf mountain as we were approaching it. Except that it wasn´t the Sugar Loaf mountain, as we later discovered from Renata who had found our texts trying to explain where we were highly amusing.

The night ended splendidly in Casa Rosa with samba music, a great capoeira performance, and funky favela rhythms. Perfect first day in Rio! 

River of January

We finally arrived in Rio de Janeiro (which means River of January in Portuguese) on Saturday evening as  – to our surprise – did our luggage, which Iberia was unwilling (unable?) to hand back to us on Friday when we were stranded in Madrid. The customer service agent assured it would be checked in for us for the Rio flight, and amazingly both of our bags showed up at the Rio airport!

After a quick shop at the duty-free for Renata (Ville´s friend, who we´re staying with for the next three days) we got a taxi from the airport to her flat in Humaita. We´re very impressed with block which has a swiming pool and a sauna.

Renata took us out for some lovely Brazilian snacks after which we crashed. It has been a long day, but at least we´re in Rio!!!

Si si si, hehehehe

Yes, disappointing but sh*t happens!

I think we may have to get used to the Latino style of “doing” things…nobody at the airport seemed to know exactly what we should do or where we should go, I even suspect that at least two of the airport staff has no actual clue as to where they were in the building.

Of course no apologies were offered to us (or any of the other countless passengers that missed their flights to South America), my favourite moment was when we went to the customer services desk to explain our unfortunate situation and we were greeted by a clerk who seemed content to laugh like some bandito from a bad Mexican movie whilst explaining to us that we would be spending the night at the airport hotel.

However we are content to be in an already warmer climate, its very pleasant here in Madrid, and the hotel room is super nice as we upgraded to the biggest bed I have ever seen – yes, my feet are at least an inch away from the edge wherever I lie!

Time for dinner, hopefully served by the same Spanish version of Basil Fawlty who served us our lunch.

Next post, Rio!!

Wet planes

Courtesy of Iberia airlines, we´re spending the night in Madrid after missing our connection from Madrid to Rio today. Our flight, for which we had to get up at 04:30 – somewhat painful after a few (too many) leaving drinks last night – was late leaving Heathrow because the plane was “wet”. Yes, that´s right, the plane was too wet to leave on time. No, we didn´t know that was possible either.  

Nevermind, we got an extra night´s rest before the 10hr flight to Rio, with three meals thrown in by Iberia.  V´s very excited about the bed in our room – it´s wider than it´s long!! 

P.S. The Madrid airport is like a huge, not very well signed maze and the staff seems to be almost as confused about it as the passengers are – leave plenty of time if transferring in Madrid!