February 11, 2008

Iguazu Falls and Carnaval, our Introduction to Brazil

Hello, friends and family. As I write this post, Jared and I are celebrating four months on the road. Over the past four months, we have spent countless hours on buses because we would rather save the plane fare. Then again, an 18-hour bus trip isn´t so bad when you have an attendant serving you champagne and a seat that folds down into a flat bed. We traveled to Puerto Iguazú on the holy grail of buses, one with genuine flat beds.

Before we visited the famous waterfalls, Jared and I stopped at Triple Frontier landmark. As we stood across on Argentine soil, we could see Paraguay to the left and Brazil to the right, just across the river. Each country´s territory was marked with an obelisk in their national colors. Most likely, that is the closest we will get to Paraguay.

How can I describe Iguazú Falls? Only a poet could do it justice. Iguazú Falls are a series of 275 waterfalls along 1.7 miles of the Iguazú river. The cataratas, as they are called in Spanish, are mostly 210 feet tall, though some are as tall as 269 feet. (Niagara Falls, for the record, are 167 feet tall.) Separating Brazil from Argentina, the falls should be seen from both sides to be properly appreciated. Argentina has the closer look--we took a boat into the base of some of the falls--while Brazil has the panoramic view. And, oh what a view. Take a look at Jared´s photos and try to imagine the roar of Iguazú Falls.

We finally got our Brazilian visas in Puerto Iguazú. The small consulate in the Argentine border town didn´t want to see any bank statements or proof of onward travel, they only wanted cold, hard cash. My visa cost $147, and Jared´s cost $70, almost 50% more than we were expecting. (Sometimes it pays to be Canadian.) And for some strange reason, my visa has a big stamp on it that says "FREE." If only that were true.

From beautiful Iguazú Falls, it was another overnight bus to Florianópolis, Brazil, where we would spend Carnaval. We stayed on the Ilha de Santa Caterina, at the Armaçao beach. In the small village of Armaçao, the Carnaval party was centered right outside our hostel. Music blared from a lone parade float, hundreds of people danced in the streets. As soon as the Super Bowl was over (congratulations, New York Giants!), Jared and I grabbed our caiprinhas and joined the party. Check out our photos of Carnaval and Florianopolis.

Honestly, up until Carnaval, I wasn´t so sure I wanted to visit Brazil. The language barrier, higher costs, and crime stories made me nervous. All my fears disappeared when a group of Brazilian women grabbed me by the hips during the party and showed me how to samba. Even though I can´t understand their language, the warmth of the Brazilian people is infectious.

Now that Carnaval is over, Jared and I are still having a fantastic time in Brazil. We are currently in Paraty, a small town with the best examples of colonial Portuguese architecture. You´ll hear more about Paraty in our next post.

Remember the volcano we saw back in October in Banos, Ecuador? Now it is erupting, though currently Banos isn´t at risk.


Chris Serico said...
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Chris Serico said...

Wow, next time you're on a champagne-serving, flatbed seating bus, some photos of that, please! :)

That said, the waterfall photo is awesome.