Where has all the water gone?

Trip Start Dec 03, 2005
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Trip End Jul 19, 2007


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Monday, September 11, 2006

I caught the shuttle bus between Ciudad del Este and Puerto Iguazu and headed off to the Argentine side of the Falls. This was not a bridge I would like to cross on foot, there were so many dodgy looking characters hanging around on the bridge that looked as if they were just waiting for their next catch. Or maybe there something special about it that I don't know about? It was certainly the busiest border I saw so far. Later I found out that nationals of the three countries (Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina) may all travel within a radius of thirty kilometers without the need to get their documents checked.

I only wanted to head to the Argentine side for one day as I didn't want their stamp just yet. My plans involve the Carretera Austral which I've heard means a lot of crossings between Chile and Argentina and figured an extra stamp would just compromise valuable space in my passport. Unfortunately, from what everyone told me, it looked like I had no choice and even if I just headed over for the day from Brazil or Paraguay I would be lumbered with a stamp. So I thought "what the 'eck" and went for two nights in the end.

The Falls are apparently at their dryest since 1970 so I was quite lucky in fact to be seeing them now. While I may not get to see them in their full glory, I always have the option of returning some day. The weather made a late attempt to make up for the missing water as the two days I visited it just rained incessantly on both days. I had an idea it would rain the first day but forgot to bring my raincoat and so got soaked. I wasn't going to get caught out on the second day and so forgot my raincoat again! The lightning right over the Falls and rumblings of thunder above competing with those of the Falls below combined to make it a very atmospheric experience.

Despite it being so dry, you still couldn't see the base of the Falls with all the spray created by the water. Normally you can do a thrilling boat ride up to or even behind the Falls but the river was so low there were no boats running. It's quite hard to believe that a river as shallow and wide as the one above, one that just pootles along as slow as a Sunday driver, can suddenly roar into action and become this thunderous pounding force so strong that it can erode rock away! It would be interesting to come back some day and compare how it looks now with when it is it's normal raging torrent.

The view you get from the Argentine side is the closer picture while that from the Brazilian side is a broader more panoramic view. While I didn't get to see Angel Falls from the top (in fact, hardly at all if I remember correctly as I had the misfortune to have fog on the day I was there) I would definitely say this was better.

A day or two later I headed off to see Curitiba which initially I had crossed off my list of places to visit. Having spoken to some Brazilians in Foz they said I should head there for at least a day. It is supposed to be the greenest city in Brazil and also their model city. They have "recycled" old quarries and turned them into parks, there are recycling bins for everything and they certainly know how to preserve their buildings from the past.

After this it was really just wandering around in an attempt to find something to do. I must admit, I was feeling a little lost for what to do what with having no mountains on my list of things to do until I get to Mendoza. After having spent over three months carefully building up those red blood cells I didn't want to come back down to sea level and lose it all again. It seemed I was just wandering from place to place just because the guidebook said it was interesting. It was too cold in Florianópolis to make the most of the beaches although the high tide was rather spectacular as it was a full moon when I was there. Not being a beach babe even in summer I headed inland to see the Capital of Canyons, Praia Grande. The Itaimbezinho Canyon is best accessed from this side of the park. There were two people already set up to head out the next day so I stayed around to join up with them. It would seem the weather gods had just come back from an eight day trek and took a verrrry long shower as it rained all night. With the canyon being rather dangerous in terms of sudden rushes of water after rain the outing was cancelled. Instead I headed to the viewpoint from the top of the canyon with two Brazilians I had met in the hostel and boy was it spectacular! It is supposedly the biggest canyon in South America at 5800 metres long, 2000 metres wide and 700 metres deep.

Having just wandered from place to place feeling lost for what to do I decided to go to Canela (well, it was in the guide book and supposedly had lots of adventure activities). On the way, I had to overnight in Cambará do Sul as there were no same day bus connections. Not the most beautiful of towns but I met one of the most flamboyant characters of the whole town, the owner of the cheapest hotel in town. When she saw me it was hugs all around and "come in come in for a cafezinho" so we had a chat. Then when I said I was staying it was "right, which do you prefer, pasta or rice", obviously with all the rice I've been having, pasta was the one to go for, "right, I'm off to buy some chicken and pasta and we'll have a knees up between you and me with some lovely wine aswell". How could I possibly say no??? It seemed Irene knew everyone in town and all in town knew her.

She was like your mother, grandmother, aunt and neighbour all rolled into one. She was also very sneaky as she tried to set me up with the guy next door, Edy, the owner of a shoe shop. And what's more, she invited him to dinner aswell. Instead of eating in the restaurant section where people would normally eat we sat in the back kitchen with the pots propped atop a Stanley equivalent, just twice as big. It's a really old hotel with wooden panels between the rooms. Some of the panels aren't holding that well together so you have to make sure you don't have some perve next door peeking through but luckily there was no-one either side of me.

Irene did her hardest to convince me to stay longer but it was too cold and my twiddling tango toes wouldn't stay still so I headed off next day to Canela. As you can guess with it being winter, there weren't that many tourists there who were too keen on doing rafting and such like so I had to resign myself to eating chocolate. This town is just absolute heaven for wine, cheese and chocolate (especially fondue) lovers. Unfortunately too much of a good thing can distract you but I still had one eye on tangoing the nights away in Buenos Aires with a gorgeous hunk, holding a rose between his teeth. And so I headed off for what ended up being a long and frustrating trip down to Salto (Uruguay) via Uruguaiana and Bella Unión. As it turned out no-one knew what they were doing and I exited Brazil without getting a stamp (Ed - writer's block means that Ms Dalton fails to advise that, unlike the Paraguay crossing where she spent endless hours getting the necessary information, she failed miserably in researching this one sufficiently. Brazilian immigration for the border via Bella Union is in Uruguaiana.). Fingers crossed this doesn't mean I can't get back in.

NEWSFLASH
I have now become an international photographer! Click on the photo below and what's the very first picture you see? Click on the picture in the new window and what's the biggest picture on the page? Vanessa and Roger allowed me to copy my photos to CD at their place in exchange for the use of my photos if there were any good ones. Check this link out!

Notes

Southern Brazil

Southern Brazil is quite different from all other parts of Brazil I have seen so far. It compares rather well with Europe with all the shopping centres and quality of life. Unfortunately it also compares well with the price of Europe. I almost fainted when prices took a jump and accomodation went from three to ten dollars a night while internet went from twenty-five cents an hour to over two dollars and hour! I would have to cut back on all those hours spent on the internet!

Having said that, bus travel is such a luxury here. The bus journey between Foz and Curitiba was like having a massage by Mr Darcy, quality and gorgeous all in one. I had a bus with large, single-pane windows that didn't open. There were no broken catches making you have to keep closing the window every 3 minutes, the road was paved and there was free water on the bus!

Their choice of music was also very European as the all familiar chords of U2 songs could be heard everywhere. When I first arrived back in February they had just done a concert in Río. They seem to be one of the most popular bands around here. Not a bad choice methinks.
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