I miss it already

Trip Start Aug 09, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Uruguay  ,
Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Ended up staying longer than I thought in Presidente, but it was fun there.  Arrived in Foz do Iguašu eventually and took off for the waterfalls.  It was sort of a strange feeling being out in this part of the country after living the city life for about 6 weeks.  The other thing is that feeling of traveling again.  Was pretty comfortable in Rio, and now I was taking buses, loading up the backpack again.  I think you can do a lot more in a week traveling than you can staying stationary.

So, Iguašu Falls are the largest in the world (NOT the tallest, the largest).  A few stats:  3km long and 270-something different falls.  Yep.  Now hopefully you can understand how difficult it is going to be to describe this place.  A couple famous little stories are 1)When Eleanor Roosevelt came here, the first thing she said was "Poor Niagra" and 2)The explorers originally thought they had truly found the edge of the earth.  The cool thing is that this is as good as it gets.  It is a fact that there is nothing else like this in the world.  The falls are actually on the Iguašu River, dividing Brazil and Argentina, so you actually need to make two days of the visit.  One day to the Brazilian side, one day to the Argentina side.  It is surrounded by that same Atlantic Rain Forest that I went to in Rio (just no forest in between anymore, for maybe 400km...)  You walk along this trail and can hear the falls long before you get to them.  It is a spectacular sight.  I decided to stop ranking beautiful or cool or best places after coming here because it was just amazing.  You have to come here before you die.  And it is all in a setting of rain forest.  Birds flying around, see snakes and huge lizards as you are walking along.  Its crazy.  Rainbows over the falls.  Like a dream.  I remember being happy simply by looking at something beautiful.  The stupid part is that I`d never even heard of this place before coming to Brazil.  How is that possible?  You can see jungle and waterfalls stretching forever.  And then as you continue the trail, you realize there are even more waterfalls further along!  The whole walk you`re just staring open-jawed at the thing.  Then at the end, is what they call Garganta do Diabo, the Devil`s Throat.  Where there is about 270 degrees of waterfalls pouring into the same spot and the mist rising out of it blinds whatever is more than halfway down.  You get sopping wet just from the wind and mist.  Took a boat ride down the river, by all the falls, and underneath a couple of them.  Very very wet!  But even after all this, I was looking forward to the next day because everybody (after so long in Brazil, you can imagine how many folks I`ve met who have come here) says the Argentina side is way cooler.  The Brazilian side gives a great panoramic view of the whole thing, while the Argentina side lets you get a lot closer.

The next day, on the way to the Argentina side, we first went to the Triple  Frontier, where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay all meet.  Not all that special, but whatever.  Crossing the border was easy.  Just an "In transit" stamp since I was coming back to Brazil the same day.  This side did have a lot more going on.  Different trails to walk along, all with awesome looks, and all real close to the falls.  Everything was gorgeous.  And at the end, you stood right over the Garganta do Diabo.  Spent the whole day here in different parts of the park.  You guys should see some of the videos I took - I think the new camera takes awesome videos for some reason.  Pictures definitely don`t do the place justice.  You can`t even scan your head to see all the falls, you literally have to walk kilometers.

Okay, next day wanted to go to the Itaipu Dam.  Not too far away, maybe 18km, just a city bus ride.  Largest man-made thing of the 20th century.  Weird that it happened to be right next to the largest waterfalls in the world.  Also weird that I had never heard of either of them back home.  This dam sets all sorts of records, largest power plant, largest man made thing, largest dam, blablabla.  Supplies Paraguay with 95% of its energy and Brazil with 25%.  All clean energy too.  Took a free tour around.  Don`t want to get into the whole stats and story of the place.  Look it up. ;)  Ecological issues.  Think they ruined a "mini-Iguašu" and caused extinction of some plants and stuff in the building process.  Had talked to Lilian about it back in PP and she didn`t like it at all.  Destroyed a portion of pretty area.  On the other hand, if you can appreciate something so humongeous that humans were able to build, it is pretty amazing.

Next up, went to Curitiba.  All anybody EVER says about Curitiba is that it is clean and has a good transportation system.  And after going there, well, thats really about all there is to say about that city.  But is nice I guess to see the juxtaposition between Curitiba and other Brazilian cities.  Also went to the Oscar Niemeyer museum.  Actually thought it was going to be about him, which would have been cool, but as it turned out it was just another crappy art museum.  If you can`t tell, I`ve given up on art.  Unless something is completely rad, I`m not doing any more art museums.  Niemeyer is a hugely famous architect in Brazil.  Did all the crazy stuff in Brasilia, did the thing in Niter˛i, did the arch at the Sambadromo in Rio, even the UN building in NYC, some other stuff I don`t remember, but the point is that all his stuff is crazy and cool looking.  I am classifying architecture as different than "art".  Went out one night, then took a bus to Blumenau.

So, I wanted to see some of the south of Brazil before leaving.  Unfortunately, there is a bunch further south that I can`t get to this trip.  But the south was settled more by Portuguese and other European immigrants and that gives Brazil a completely different feeling (Curitiba..) than you get in the rest of the country.  And it is true too.  Tall people, blonde hair, blue eyes, you get all kinds of people who look like they don`t belong in Brazil.  But I had heard Blumenau was settled by Germans and still retained some of that heritage so thats why I came here, just to see what it was all about.  Definitely not a touristy spot.  Was a pretty town.  Mountain in the background everywhere.  Just missed a festival.  Would have LOVED to go to a polka fest in Brazil.  But I did get to enjoy some of the awesome German food.  Pork, sausage, saurkraut.  Even had better beer, brewed here.  The couple days here made me want to go to Germany.  Its crazy because you truly don`t feel like you`re in Brazil.  And of course some of the buildings are done up German-style, like they do in Frankenmuth.  I think Frankenmuth overdoes it a bit more though.  Was kicking myself a bit, because there is a smaller town nearby that loves visitors, that I hadn`t heard of before now, but it is completely a German town.  Everybody still speaks German, just everything about the place is still in Germany.  Called Pomerode.  Have all kinds of polka and beer and German festivals.  Man!  Next time...can`t swing it this time because the visa is gonna cause problems.  Something about their geographic isolation from the rest of the country and then also, the Germans were all from the same part of Germany and didn`t have the dialect problems that contributed to the rest of the areas to move to Portuguese.  I really enjoyed my time in the south, and definitely want to check it out more the next time. 

Went back up to Rio for a bit, then back to Sao Paulo for the flight out of here.  You guys already know about the visa and ticket switches so no need to address that, huh?  Well..I have just arrived in Montevideo.  Only have a first impression but it is definitely a different country.  First of all, the city is nicer than any other city in Brazil.  Not saying I like it better, but just nicer...Maybe "nicer" isn`t the word, maybe thats what people mean when they say Buenos Aires feels European.  Thats how I feel about Montevideo.  And the food is pretty good.  Breakfast still sucks.  And of course they`re crazy over mate (mah-tay).  And maybe eventually I will like it more here and in other places in SA, but right now it kinda sucks because I am still thinking about Brazil and how I wont be going back for awhile.  And I`m not really looking forward to learning Spanish like I was with Portuguese.  Guess I became a bit of a language snob and I`m biting my tongue here, but I`ve already got a list in my head of why I like Portuguese more.  At any rate, I`m back to square one, minimal communication with people.  Simple things becoming complicated.  At least it made me appreciate the fact that I actually did get pretty good at Portuguese.  They are NOT the same language.  And now I have to try to become adequate in Spanish since a truckload of my awesome times in Brazil stemmed from the fact that I could understand and be understood in Portuguese. 

Oh yeah, before I forget, I did get to watch the Super Bowl with some friends and a couple random Americans.  Was so happy to see the Americans, people I could talk to during the game about the game, debate stuff, you know, what people do during games, since none of my friends knew anything about it.  Well, the first guy thought Chicago was the Colts because of the C on the helmet and the other guy asked me "Hey, don`t the Colts have a pretty good quarterback?".  Are you KIDDING me???!!  These were male, 20something Americans!  Ma, even you know this stuff!
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