Saturday, November 26, 2011

Expectations and discoveries. The first 9 days in Brazil *

*A completely dogless post and a bit of a whinge.



From Buenos Aires, we flew to Iguazú [Misiones, Argentina] where we took a van to Iguaçu [Paraná, Brazil].

We crossed from Argentina into Brazil right here.
We have a lot of pictures of Iguazú/Iguaçu. Unfortunately, they mostly look like this.

This is Iguazú from the Argentinian side.

You can get really upclose and personal [and wet and cold] at the falls here.
This is Iguaçu from the Brazilian side.
It has a good panoromic view of the falls.
We met some friendly natives.
Which made us think that a lot of people must be ignoring these signs.

Back at our hotel, I made 2 exciting discoveries about Brazil.
It has very comfortable cushioned toilet seats.
And they're not scared of a little sugar in their breakfast.

From Iguaçu, we flew to Cuiabá, the capital of Mato Grosso where we found signs that Brazil is not so different from Australia.
The banks remained on strike for almost our entire holiday and we made a 3rd important discovery. Never! ever! ON ANY ACCOUNT! bring travellers cheques to Brazil. [The Other Half tells me I may be the only person on the planet who still travels with them anyway.]

From Cuiabá, we travelled by road to Chapada dos Guimarães.
Shortly after this picture of an industrious ant was taken, we saw the car we'd be travelling in for the next 6 days. It was old, the guide's luggage and water bottles took up more than half the boot space and back seat, the doors wouldn't close properly and the airconditioning didn't work.

It was 40C in the sun. The air felt bone dry. We instantly had a sense of impending doom.
The Chapada waterfalls were a little smaller than those at Iguaçu.
Every other site that we had travelled 15,000km to the Chapada to see, was closed [or so we were told, though there was some dispute between the locals and our guide over this].

Luckily, there was a gorgeous lookout with a beautiful sunset at the end of the day.
We stayed in the little town there.
The pousada had a frightening set of rules.
But the ladies who ran it turned out to be lovely.

That night, unexpectedly, it rained very heavily. 
Since the doors couldn't close properly, the car flooded and we spent the next few days sitting on plastic bags so our bums wouldn't get soggy. We promptly forgot how to be tranquilo and started to squabble.

Did I mention that the guided tour for this part of the trip cost USD290 a person, a day? I don't know what I expected for that princely sum. Maybe a car that worked would have been nice.

I won't name names here, but if you're planning a trip to this part of Brazil and would like a report, you only have to ask.

Our next stop was Nobres.
  It took a few hours of bouncing on unsignposted dirt tracks to get there.
Which is when we discovered the suspension in the car was gone as well. "It's part of the adventure!" our guide assured us, as our heads tried to dislocate from our cervical bones.
In prepration for the World Cup in 2014, there was a lot of road building going on.
Not to mention, some last minute futebol practice.

In Nobres, we went snorkelling with fishies in pools of crystal clear water.   
It was gorgeous and I wanted to eat the big fat fish. Fortunately for them, they were all protected.

Sadly, the caves that we had travelled there to see were also closed.

This horse belonged to the pousada where we stayed. Hands up if you think he's a bit skinny. 

Strangely, the owner didn't think so.
We tried giving the horse an apple but he wouldn't eat it. We were told he only eats grass and corn.

Lagoa das Araras [Macaw Lake] in the small town of Bom Jardim was lovely, even if we didn't see too many macaws.
The next day, we left for the Pantanal.
We knew we'd arrived when we saw these exciting road signs!
Sometimes, we even saw the animals depicted on the signs.

One night, we went on a safari! We didn't get too far because the search light wiring caught fire and we had to make a mad dash out of the [old, cramped, soggy, musty, smoking] car.
We saw these animals. Don't ask me what they were. "Success!" our trusty guide exclaimed.

The Pantanal looked nothing like any picture I'd ever seen of it.

 This picture was taken from this site.
Being dry season, this is what the Pantanal looked like when we were there.
Though it didn't look anything like the wetlands of my childhood geography books and imagination, it was beautiful in its own way.
We tried some native fruits, which were about as delicious as they look.
This is Jaca. He worked at the lodge where we stayed and was the highlight of our time in the Pantanal.

Besides having amazing eyesight that could spot an iguana on a tree on the riverbank from the boat, he had some neat party tricks.

It was horribly touristy and we loved every minute of it. I tried to forget that I had called the tourists who fed the coatis at Iguaçu stupid.   

Jaca took us fishing too......with these simple homemade bamboo fishing rods.
We caught a bucket of piranhas and brought them back to the lodge where they made yummy sopa de piranha for us. The Other Half drank 2 bowls of it. We found out later it was an aphrodisiac. [Please take your mind out of the gutter - we were told that.]
On our last day in the Pantanal, we went riding. It was our last chance to find a tamandua. Look at the great saddle on the horse!

I think it's homemade, don't you?
We saw a lot of anthills.
But not a single giant anteater.

I was very glad when it was time to leave our old, cramped, soggy, musty, singed car with no suspension, bad airconditioning and doors that wouldn't close properly...
...and move on to the Amazon.



Jean B said...

Wow - you are far more adventuresome than I am! I would have been heading home on the first plane after one look at the soggy, cramped, malfunctioning car. I'm happy to see the world through your blog though - very interesting tour!
As for that skinny horse.....that makes me cry. Poor horse, slowly starving to death.

houndstooth said...

That does sound like quite an adventure, perhaps more than you were hoping for at times!

To answer your question, no fresh cut trees don't dry out before Christmas if taken care of properly. We make sure to keep it watered and add aspirin to the water to help keep it drinking. We generally don't keep it past New Year's because that's when tree pick up happens and it's easier to let the village pick it up.


bermtopia said...

What an amazing trip. Brazil is on our "to do" list. Must get your itinerary! and the name of your guide with the funky car. Not.

What Remains Now said...

What an adventure! Can't wait to hear more. You are a great travel writer. Why did you decide to go to Brazil?

georgia little pea said...

thanks houndstooth - aspirin! i always wondered how people kept their fresh trees alive. in the rare year that we have a tree, we use our old faithful paperish one. with all the lights on, it looks pretty real. sort of. if you don't look too hard ;p

- Queen! i would love to give you my itinerary but i suspect you're going to be reading all about it for the next 3 or 4 posts! poor Georgia - i'll be kidnapping her blog for a while. you SHOULD get the name so you know who to avoid. hint - it was actually the #1 listed pantanal tour company on tripadvisor [when i was googling for info]. scary eh?

thanks WRN :) - i have to say Brazil was never on my bucket list. but i train capoeira and it's a "pilgrimage" we make at some point or other. of course, most capoeiristas go there to play capoeira. i just went there to eat and have fun!

Pamela said...

Beautiful pictures. But are you telling us you had nothing to do with capoeira the entire time you where in Brazil?

Or is that coming later in the trip.

Jan said...

Love the variety of your pictures. Brazil is a place I never would have thought of exploring but we understand the appeal.

Elizabeth said...

Hi. I'm leaving this comment to let you know that I'll be back tomorrow to leave a REAL comment. Too tired to type and read properly. Eyes crossing. :)

georgia little pea said...

Pamela -
no, i won't be writing about capoeira because i managed 1 class the entire 6 weeks, not from lack of trying i might add. it wasn't anywhere as prevalent as i thought it would be. definitely less popular than soccer! i never saw anyone play it on the streets or beaches. i couldn't even find a class to attend until i got to Bahia. and i only met 1 person the entire holiday who had trained capoeira - a very long time ago! so there you are....that's my capoeira-in-Brazil story!

elizabeth -
too much pumpkin and turkey i bet. and i don't mean JF and D! see ya :)

Greyhounds CAN Sit said...

Oh dear, it sounds like this part of your trip was memorable for all the wrong reasons! Just goes to show that no amount of planning can make things perfect. Or maybe it was perfect because it wasn't? It will certainly give you lots of laughs over the coming years:)

I thought piranhas eat people, not people eat piranhas?

You sure had an adventure:)

Friko said...

Well, your trip has certainly given me much pleasure! I am chuckling away here like a good'un.

Karen Friesecke said...

I can't believe all the wildlife that you got to see! I am Jellus of your snorkeling adventure!!

Elizabeth said...

Okay, I'm back. I think I would have laughed like a hyena at the car catching fire. That's what I do when things like that happen. Keeps my head from exploding. :)

I'm amazed that you planned all this sight unseen from so far away. Aside from the nearly $600/day you donated to a few unscrupulous Brazilians, it might have been worse, right? :) (sorry)

Seeing the giant guinea pigs and skinny red raccoons would have been worth the trip for me. That's awesome. Can't wait to see more!

georgia little pea said...

GCS- i'm actually already laughing at the experience :) it'll give us fodder for whingeing for years!

oh, and piranhas eat people only in hollywood ;p

Elizabeth - this was 1 of only 2 scams that we encountered on the entire trip. In fact, we found Brazilians to be very honest, helpful and friendly, especially in the small towns and countryside. not at all the criminals they're often made out to be in guidebooks!

Anonymous said...


now that is an adventure!
You are very brave doing that .. no place for the princess tiara there..

prabbie said...

"The Other Half tells me I may be the only person on the planet who still travels with them anyway."

so true last time I travelled with travellers checks was 13 years ago :)

sagechronicles said...

That's quite the adventure! Something you definitely will remember--there's always something that will go awry but that's the beauty of a trip. Well, usually. I loved the waterfalls--the one at Iguaçu reminds me of Niagara Falls here in the US.

Anny said...

I am laughing at the frightening set of rules @ the pousada... so didya get fined for using towels?

Anny said...

sopa de piranha... yummiessssssssss... ^.^ (my mind jumped into the gutter)

Mike said...

Wow. What an adventure. I must say that I gave up on traveller's cheques in 1988 after trying to use them in New York City and finding hardly anyone would take them!

georgia little pea said...

1988??! The Other Half is having a good laugh. I'll never live this down.

sonia a. mascaro said...

What a great adventure! I am really amazed with your pictures and observation. I love seeing Brazil through your eyes! Brazil is so big, a continental country with a variety of places, cities, peoples, habits, landscapes, culture etc. I am Brazilian but I never had been in Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Foz do Iguaçu, Chapada Diamantina, Pantanal...
I will come back to read again this post for sure. I congratulation you for this great reportage about my country.
And I am glad to read this: "In fact, we found Brazilians to be very honest, helpful and friendly, especially in the small towns and countryside."
Again, CONGRATULATIONS for this GREAT post!

georgia little pea said...

Sonia, I am so glad you finally got to read this. Muito obrigada tamben for your kind words. It means a lot to me to have a Brazilian response lol :) I have more stories and will email you the links later so you don't miss any! Brazil is a fascinating place, very different from what I expected and much more than capoeira!
Abracos e beijos x