Week 28 - Ilya Grande (Brazil) to Iguazu Falls

Trip Start Aug 01, 2007
Trip End Dec 19, 2008

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Where I stayed
Pousada Da Laura

Flag of Brazil  , State of Parana,
Saturday, February 16, 2008

Feb 8th - Ilya Grande

Today's the last day on this tranquil island for me and the girls. I feel fully recovered and detoxed now and ready to co
tinue travelling proper. We all went for a long walk to find the closest beautiful beach in the area and after about 40 minutes of what felt like Amazon trekking we came across a fairly beautiful beach (sadly had a beach bar for a bit of tack value).

Chilled there, splashed around and swam a bit. While Krina was soaking up some rays me and Surekha had a bevvie and a nice chat about life and such stuff. I had a last splash in the clear waters before we headed back to the hotel (wonder when I'll be swimming again?). Leaving our hotel was kind of sad and the owner and her mate got some hefty hugs from all three of us (I suspect mine was a bit too enthusiastic from them...again more ribbing from the girls about the old ladies fancying me).

The ferry back to mainland at 4pm was quite a rough trip but made to go smoother by having a sing-off between me and Surekha (the girls don't believe I ever used to sing in my school choir...and after my rendition of Aqualung's Strange and Beautiful they still didn't believe me).

Then caught a bus to what we thought was a nearby port town to catch a bus to Iguazu Falls but instead after a 2 hour bus ride ended up in bloody Rio (in the nicest sense) again (I just can't get away). Blame fell squarely on my shoulders because I asked the driver where it went and I honestly thought he said the name of the town.

The next few hours were spent trying to find an overnight bus to Iguazu (involving walking to about 30 bus kiosks and asking them one by one). That failed so the next best thing was an overnight bus to Sao Paulo and then another to Iguazu straight after.

The bus trip was pretty uneventful but damned luxurious (never been in a bus like it...wide seats, meals served to your seat and free tea).

Feb 9th - Sao Paulo

Stumbled into Sao Paulo in the early hours of this morning. Spent the next hour tracking down the cheapest ticket to Iguazu Falls (properly called Foz De Iguazu). The next bus leaving at 4pm, it was decided that a brief tour of this city was in order. Locking the packs in lockers (well handy) we caught the metro to the centre of town.

The trip didn't bode too well when Krina our tour guide for the day and with a notoriously bad sense of direction led us in circles around the cathedral (by accident) and we also couldn't find anywhere decent for brekkie.

It's unfair to say but all in all there wasn't much to see or do in Sao Paulo. Even though I only spent a few hours walking around I was totally unimpressed with anything. The only bonus was I finally found a portable electric razor to help change me from Yak to Human again.

Back at the bus terminal and after some internet and lunch it was time to catch the 18 hour bus ride to Iguazu. Again the bus was most luxurious and comfy. The only event worth mentioning was a strange fella with a chin beard sitting next to Krina (much ribbing followed when he started chatting to her..he turned out to be an ok guy from Peru..but just a tad abrupt when he speaks).

Feb 10th - Sao Paulo

This is officially a day lost..very much like in an episode of Doctor Who. Due to muchos drinkos and merriment in Rio and after I've lost a day so, officially this is it (my days just don't add up otherwise).

Feb 11th - Sao Paulo to Foz De Iguacu

So, after the long bus journey I arrived in Foz De Iguacu bright and early at 6am. Leaving the bus terminal by taxi we all checked into the Pousada Laura (a nice friendly hostel) and had a cat nap to regain a sense of normality.

After the much refreshing kip it was time to catch the falls. A short bus trip (with sawdust on the floor for some strange reason) of 40 minutes and after paying the $15 entrance fee we caught another bus to the falls themselves. After a brief walk downhill I was greeted by the truly amazing sight of the Iguazu. For me it is the ultimate in waterfalls, no question. I've seen many falls in my time in Africa, USA, Central America and South America...but nothing like this. There was a long line of minor falls (still massive) that ended in a huge rolling waterfall at the end..huge balls of mist and gushing water everywhere. It was very therapeutic for this Aquarian to watch all this water flowing and made me ponder a few things (which I won't go into).

There was a fair amount of tourist action here but the sight of the falls cancelled all that out. Got chatting to a Spanish fella who works at the European Union in Brussels. He joined us for a drink of pop and me and the girls splashed out on a Pot Noodle each (oh to eat such exotic stuff when travelling).

Late afternoon and back in town I and the girls had a craving for some carnivorous dinner. Luckily found a cosy restaurant nearby with a self serve buffet of carbohydrates and salad but with the added bonus of having a waiter bring a skewer of meat to the table every 10 minutes (lamb, beef, chicken, sausage, pork). Very delicious and cheap at $8 each. This was washed down with a few Caprisiosco's (properly called Cabrini's I hope (I think Surekha's losing hope with my memory as I can never remember the name of it)...consisting of rum, crushed ice, lime and sugar), a delicious and refreshing Brazilian drink.

Back at the hostel and the Capricioni's continued to flow and we all lounged around in hammocks and sofas and chatted for a while. At some point the girls locked me out of the room and I nearly gave up all hope of sleeping in a proper bed so settled in the hammock.

Feb 12th - Puerto Iguazu (Argentina)

With a heavy and sore head I staggered to the bus stop with the girls and caught the 45 minute bus ride to the Argentine border. So this was it...leaving Brazil for good. God, I loved my time in Brazil...every bloody minute of it (well, apart from Belem) so I was kind of choked to leave, as were the girls. The only downer about this great country is the prices. They are nearly on a par with the US so not that easy to stay on budget. Secretly I'm kind of relieved to get back into a Spanish speaking country so I can pick up where I left off with my new language.

The border essentials were fairly quick and painless but had to wait for an hour to catch the bus going to the actual town Puerto Iguazu. Walking out of the bus terminal a hostel tout hitched onto our group and led us a nearby hostel. It was a deceptive place, as you walk passed you can see a nice garden and pool but on closer inspection the pool is barely big enough to dunk your feet in.

Today it was all about chores so while the girls sorted out sending some clothes home (a bit of subtle persuasion was needed as their packs were unbearably big and heavy) I did laundry and checked emails briefly. On waking up me and Surekha went for a beer in the patio and there met Angus (the truly sarcastic Kiwi). Really nice fella and we all had a long chat. When Krina went for a stroll she came back with the strange Peruvian fella from the Sao Paulo bus (small word). More ribbing ensued (something to do with Krina kissing in a tree...?).

Dinner was a pizza for everyone and a few beers on the main town junction (literally on the junction). Then back to the hostel for more beers and were joined by a group of Israelis'. Shamefully all we could chat to them in a drunken state was about their military service (always happens when I meet Israeli's for some reason).

Feb 13th - Puerto Iguazu

Caught the local bus to the falls (me, Angus and the girls) and was again amazed at the beauty. On this side of the falls it is slightly more natural because most paths are close to the water.

After a long walk around we all spotted some motor boats ploughing into the falls with screaming people on board. It was decided that we can't miss out on this so paying the $30 fee we queued (a bit of nerves during this time I might add). Donning the life jackets and heading off at full speed the boat ploughed sideways into one set of falls (soaking everyone completely) and then ploughed headlong into a big set of falls (any areas not previously soaked were now). All in all it was really good fun and worth every penny).

Forgetting that our bus was due to leave at 4.30 and it now being 3.30 we rushed to catch the tourist train (there's a train ride to the falls). After 20 minutes it slowly dawned on us that we went the wrong way (doh) so cursing our bad luck we power walked our way back to the entrance. At 4 we caught a taxi there and even after the cab driver being quite sure about us not making it (she was a female version of Michael Schumacher) we arrived at the bus at 4.31 and pounced onto it (very close to losing a $100 bus ticket).

Being still soaked from the boat ride the first few hours were mighty uncomfortable but fortunately this was no ordinary bus ride. Apart from the numerous police checks (with sniffer dogs) we came across a road accident (which I was unfortunate to see a dead body lying on the road) which slowed us down. Then 30 minutes later the donut of a driver ploughed into the back of a car (the only one on the road I might add) and then the final straw was a burst tyre. Thankfully this all gave me a good chance to get my pack out to change and also have a swift smoke.

Apart from a few stops the bus driver and crew refused to let people out to stretch their legs which caused much unrest in the passengers and prisoners of mobile prison 185. It got so bad that Surekha tried to make a break for it by climbing over the driver's seat from the passenger side but getting caught she was chastised and sent back to her seat. Eventually it took the force of numbers as a group of Italians and some others also demanded freedom to get us out for 10 minutes.

Feb 14th - Buenos Aires (literally meaning Good Air from the sailing ships arriving)

Arrived in Buenos Aires quite a few hours late due to the eventful bus ride. Caught a cab to Angus's recommended hostel (Hostal Tita Designed and owned by a local architect..and you can really tell). Sitting in the cab I was immediately smitten with Buenos Aires and its wide tree lined streets and grand looking statues.

On grabbing a coffee (and after that a really good cup of Mate..traditional herb tea that's served in a thing that looks like the Holy Grail and with a metal straw. This is then passed around as a kind of social event. Well good.) we all met a hostel straggler called Ben. A slightly mad but nice Aussie fella (best mates of Angus the Kiwi apparently). All four of us went for a look around the shopping area (Florida area). It was as quick as anything because of the decent metro system.

Was well busy and bustling there with tourists and locals barging around and buskers and beggars everywhere. After a few hours of window shopping I was losing the will to live (1.6 hours is my mental and physical limit) but we all went for a drink and food so I woke up a bit.

The evening was spent chilling in the hostel supping on cold beer and chatting to other hostellers (quite a varied mix here...big Chilean group, big Spanish group, some stoner Americans (nice fellas) and a French guy).

The plan for this next week is 3 more days in BA and then head south to Patagonia and the floating glacier in a lake.
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