A Dance with the Devil’s Throat
I think we named our blog about New Zealand “The Gift that keeps on Giving” but I can firmly say that Brazil also falls squarely in that category. Since we last posted about Carnival, we have explored further into this vast country (and when I say vast I mean absolutely MASSIVE), and it is colourful, loud, friendly, scary, exciting and everything in between.
So, after being rained on for almost six days straight, we decided to give flying a break and test out Brazil’s infamous bus system to get from Floripa to Iguazu falls. This journey would entail 15 hours or more on a bus overnight and we weren’t really sure what to expect or what the conditions of the roads would be like (having had some pretty horrendous experiences of long-haul bus travel in Asia). Well let me tell you that our first bus experience in Brazil was nothing like that at all – it was actually pure luxury, making us feel like we were in first class on a plane. We paid a tiny little bit extra for some really comfortable seats that reclined fully into beds, given soft blankets and pillows and (very importantly) snacks, and the hours just flew past! We even managed to get quite a bit of sleep, which was a huge bonus given that I am usually terrible at sleeping whilst travelling. A huge thumbs up to the Brazilian bus network (be sure to go with a reputable company, we chose Catarinese which was awesome), and we did in fact use them again they were that good! Plus, being the savvy travellers that we are, taking an overnight bus = saving on paying for a night of accommodation, so hurrah!
The purpose of this journey was to visit Iguazu falls, from both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides, each of which can be done in a day or less. We made our first stop to the Brazilian side which was beautiful, as you really get to appreciate the magnitude of the waterfalls, (whereas the Argentinian side allows you to get up close and personal with the “Devil’s Throat” which is, well, truly terrifying (see photos for confirmation of that fact)). What also added to the terror was the fact that the heavens opened just as we were walking the trail towards the main event, and there was just water everywhere, everything was soggy and it felt as though the world was going to end as we trod carefully along the slippery boardwalk hoping that the strong winds and rain didn’t knock us over the railings into the thundering waters below. Thankfully we made it safely to tell the tale and it was well worth the journey, just to see one of the most stunning achievements of Mother Nature we’ve encountered on our trip so far. We also made a quick stop at the Marco das Tres Fronteiras, which is essentially a viewing point from Brazil of the point at which three countries (Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay) meet. It was a unique experience but again, we didn’t hang around too long due to the torrential rain!
After another (even longer) bus journey, we found ourselves in the behemoth of a city that is Sao Paulo. We approached with a bit of trepidation, given the things we’d heard about the city in terms of safety, charm and things to do and the fact that it has a population of 20 million people (twenty, yes you read that right!). Nevertheless we jumped straight in, being city dwellers ourselves we were not phased in the slightest. We explored the city’s historical centre, mingled amongst the locals in the district of Vila Mariana, admired the cool graffiti art along Beco de Batman (graffiti seems to be a “thing” in most big South American cities, where it is fully embraced as an art form), and drank with the other gringos (Spanish term for “foreigner”) in the super cool district of Vila Madalena. All in all it was a few days well spent and we would really recommend seeing this city if you have time.
We continued north with a flight up to Bahia state, to the historic city of Salvador. I have to say a huge WOW to this place, it almost felt like we were in a completely different country to the Brazil we had been exploring up until that point. The city was historically the centre of Brazil’s slave trade and there are hints of it everywhere in the buildings and monuments. However, it is now a thriving city full of culture, capoeira, caipirinhas and c-hamazing people who love life, party on the streets all weekend and generally make you feel like you’re in a happy place. We stayed in a hotel that had been converted from a convent which was cool but creepy (particularly when we decided to venture into the hotel’s reading room in the middle of the night, which was pitch black and contained the remnants of a confessional in one corner), but it added to the atmosphere and paid a wonderful homage to the city’s history. We ate delicious sea food (moqueca, google it), witnessed gorgeous sunsets and soaked up everything the place had to offer. If you are ever travelling to Brazil, Salvador is an essential visit.
Another place of interest (and quite possibly one of the prettiest beachy places we’ve been to so far) was Morro de Sao Paulo, a choppy two and a half hour boat ride from Salvador. It is known as the Ibiza of Brazil, but is far more laid back, in the way only Brazil can be, and we spent several days soaking up the sun by the sleek infinity pool, eating more sea food, and having a little rest from all the travelling we’d been doing. I know what you’re thinking, but travelling for this length of time is actually pretty hard work, and we all need some rest and relaxation from time to time…
We’ve still got more stories from Brazil to tell but we’ll save those for next time, where we head further north to the dangerous shark capital of South America, and bring out our inner Tarzan/Jane as we trek into the depths of the Amazon Jungle.
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The Resignated Survivors
Lowlight of the week: Throwing up for almost two and half hours straight on the boat back from Morro de Sao Paulo as the water was so ridiculously choppy. The scene involving almost all the other passengers on the boat resembled something from the early stages of the Walking Dead.
Other notable things: Shout out to our friend Nelly who jumped on a plane from London town and met us in Salvador to spend a wonderful week catching up and for bringing us treats from home, courtesy of our families (Yorkshire teabags anyone?!). And for bringing an empty suitcase to take half our stuff back with her. Dare I say that after almost seven months on the road we’re getting a little homesick?!
Lessons learned: Not surprising really, but I heart Brazil.