söndag, augusti 16, 2009

Iguacu falls!

Often compared to, and in many people's thoughts overshadowing the Niagara and Victoria falls, the Iguacu waterfalls in southern Brazil is one of the contenders to the title "World Wonders of Today".

Having returned our rented Opel Zafira at the international airport of Säo Paulo, Guarulhos, we were sitting tired and with filled stomachs at midnight of August 8. Originally we had thought of rising really early the next day in the beach house on the Paulista coast, drive all the way to Guarulhos, return the car and hopefully check in in time for the early morning flight to Foz do Iguacu. But what if the GPS we had brought showed up not so reliable? And if we did not find the rental firm in time? No, I thought it best to drive with security margin the evening before instead. I may also add that it is not the same thing driving on Brazilian highways as in Sweden.

But the drive worked fine. We stopped in Mogi for our first tryout of Brazilian pizza. In Swedish style we ordered one pizza each.

Don't make this mistake...

When the first pizza arrived, it was BIG and cut into slices for all of us, and we gladly started chewing. The second one was also OK, but we knew by now we had made a grand mistake. After 2.5 pizza we were completely full, but we had to keep eating as picanha (=rumpsteak) pizzas kept coming.

Guess the waiter had thought we were REALLY hungry ordering so many Brazilian pizzas. The only solution in the end was the doggy bag of course. But later, sitting at the airport at midnight no-one cared for the last pieces, so it all went into the garbage can.

Me and my daughter Jasmin went to find somewhere we could rest. And we were lucky! There is something called "Fast Sleep" at Guarulhos Airport: at the bottom floor, there is a small "hotel" with minuscule rooms including double bunk beds. And you can rent them by the hour or "full day" which means 5 to 8 hours. We had six hours to our flight so three such tiny rooms, with immaculate bathrooms in the corridor, saved our night. Just imagine if we had had to try and sleep - probably unsuccessfully - in extremely uncomfortable chairs the whole night...Brrrr.

Arriving in Foz do Iguacu we had rooms in Continental Inn, an if not luxurious then in any case very good hotel in the city centre, complete with pool table, swimming pool and an impressive breakfast buffet which we sampled right away, having received nothing but toast on our TAM flight.

Soon we were set to go. Our plan was to do the Brazilian side of the falls the first day, and the Argentinian side the next day. We walked to the closest bus stop. Bus fare was only 2.20 reais per head, not much. Twenty minutes later we were there, and weather was quite good. Following a short ride on a double decker bus, you are at the place where the common trail begins. It is also the location of a pink, grand hotel "Des Cataratas" where I wish I will get the opportunity to stay some time. Boy were there photo opportunities along the trail. The many falls are so impressive they defy description. Just the heavy sound of them (see attached video...! Below us, people in rubber boats went all the way close to to streams, but I at least was happy to be here on the side and just watch it all...

The grand finale is called Garganta do Diabo in Portuguese (The Devil's Gap), and here you are standing right beside the falls. We all walked out on a manmade ramp, and you really really needed a raincoat not to get soaked (if you weren't of the same type as some of our fellow visitors, AC/DC fans judging from the tattoos, who took the chance to pose in the mist with bare overbodies making fitting heavy metal devil signs when they were photographed.)

Our family made an entertaining photo featuring each one of us balancing on a rope above the falls. Maybe you'll get one for Xmas!!!

Taking the elevator upstairs we had decided beforehand that we wanted to try the Brazilian buffet served in the restaurant. It was a good choice. Feijoada and Moqueca were available and I believe we made the table full justice.

The next day it was pouring from the sky. But as a good tight little unit we are, we stuck to our plans and walked to the bus (3 reais this time) to go to Argentina.

The entrance is less impressive than the Brazilian side. And Lonely Planet had forgotten to tell us that the entrance fee actually requires to be paid in Argentinian pesos to get inside. So we had to find an ATM...

The green Eco-Train takes you to the station where the trails begin. Eavesdropping on a guide we decided to start at the Devils Gap this time. I got SOAKED.

Quite a walking distance away, you find yourself in the middle of the falls, impressive enough with water coming from below. But now it was also coming from heaven...Once again that murmuring sound. You have to experience it yourself to understand.

A short while after having been to the Gap we almost considered it a day. However we decide to give the remaining Superior Trail a shot, once we had dried up a little. And it was really worth it. The same falls we had seen from the other side the day before were now actually experienced very closely. Many good photos were taken here.

We had eaten very little during the day, because we knew what was in store. A real Brazilian churrasceria in Foz do Iguacu with good reputation from several travel guides: Bufalo Branco.

The price of the buffet including transfer from the hotel was 48 reais and it was worth every penny. The buffet includes salads, vegetables and sauces and desserts and is very fresh. And you get all the meat and sausages of various types you can ever eat: rumpsteak, cutlets, fillet, chicken, sausages and whatever. Don't miss this when you are in Foz!!!

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