Starting in Brazil

Trip Start Feb 01, 2014
Trip End Jul 03, 2014

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Parana,
Monday, February 17, 2014

Distance Travelled : 7,670.8 miles / 12,344.9 km
Hours on Bus : 57 hours

Ending the Brazillian part of our travels could not have been done in a more spectacular way (hence why we┤re starting right by Iguašu Falls!), but I think we need to start at the very begining. On the 1st Feburary 2014 our adventure began as we flew from the drizzle that encompased the UK to the sauna-like conditions of Rio. We had high expectations for the city, based on everything we┤d seen and read about, as well listening to numerous peoples┤ travels there in the past. Luckily it did not disappoint - Christ, Sugarloaf, Copacabana - all as good as we had hoped for, if not better. We spent 4 days wondering around the 37degree heat taking in as much as we could, before Liv gave in to her heat stroke! This included the rather steep learning curve of how to order the right amount of food for 2 people, as we on more than one occasion raised the eyebrows of waiters by ordering enough food to feed a substantially sized army (Tip : turns out most main courses are meant for 2 people).

We also managed to squeeze in, much to Martin┤s delight, a trip to the Maraca˝a stadium to watch Botafogo be beaten by Vasco de Gama. Unfortunately, this then sparked a massive mision for Martin in buying a football shirt from every country we visit (he wasn┤t able to limit himself to 1 shirt in Brazil though).

From Rio we headed down the coast, stopping off on our way to Sao Paulo at the sleepy town of Paraty, which offered some respite from the hecticness of Rio. The cobbled streets and late night music of this old fashioned beachside town was a perfect antidote to the cities we sandwiched it in either side.

Sao Paulo seemed to be a popular place for most people to leave out during their time in Brazil, as it lacks the character and beauty of Rio - and with a population just shy of 21 million across the entire city area, it┤s quite a large place to try and explore. But explore we did, Liv spent much of her time melting in the heat (again!) but was given regular energy top ups with ice cream and Fanta from Martin. Although the city defintely does suffer from a few of the issues we had heard about, we did still manage to find a couple of gems. The bohemian district of Villa Madalena was defintely a highlight, with plenty of trendy bars and restaurants but also acting the hub of the city┤s graffiti scene - which culminates in the winding streets of Beco do Batman (yep, literally Batman┤s Alley). The other district which left a lasting impressions was the Japanese district of Liberdade. In a short walk from the centre of town, you can be completely transported to the largest Japanese community living outside of Japan. We made sure that we took full advantage of the brilliant Liberdade restaurants, although still managed to over-order on the sushi!

After leaving the bright lights of Brazil┤s two largest cities we headed in land to the Pantanal. The Pantanal is one of the worlds largest tropical wetland areas and covers up to almost 200,000 sq km. Over the course of our three day trip (which we┤d had to book in a stop-over in Campo Grande....wouldn┤t go out your way for that place!), we were lucky enough to see a fair bit of the spectacular wildlife that these wetlands are so famous for, in amongst walking and boat safari┤s, piranha fishing and kayaking down the river. We saw toucan, capybara, armadillo, parrots, caiman, otters and the most impressive and lucky spot of our trip was a jaguar. On our last night, at the very end of our last activity, our guide (in our small 4 person boat) spotted the reflection of the jaguars eyes in his torch, we were able to go right up to the bank of the river where she was sitting - completely dissinterested in our presence. It was such an amazing thing to see and we feel so lucky to have left the Panatanal with that memeory.

But leave we did, making our way further south to head to Iguašu Falls. We took a brief divertion to snorkel in the crystal clear waters of Bonito, but arrived excited to see the crashing water and to venture on to countries new. We also decided to visit the Itaipu Dam from the Brazilian side as we┤d discovered that this was an easier trip than from the Paraguay side. The Itaipu Dam is the 2nd largest hydroelectric dam in the world (after the Three Gorges in China). It spans the border of Paraguay and Brazil and was built as a joint venture, only completed in 2007. It can produce up to 14 million megawatts and provides 75% of Paraguay┤s electricity and 17% of Brazil┤s. One of the most fascinating things is the way in which everything is split 50/50. Even on shift - there are 5 people in the control room - 2 from paraguay, 2 from Brazil and the 5th person alternates every 6 hours in being from either Brazil or Paraguay. A very unexpected highlight from Brazil, but something we both thoroughly enjoyed.

Tomorrow (19th Feb) we leave for our first South American land border crossing, and head off in to Paraguay.
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