Okay people. We need to talk about hostels and hotels. I know I can be a bit picky. And also a bit unreasonable sometimes. But during this trip I’ve learnt that you don’t die in hostels and it can be pretty nice. Yes people are weird, there is always someone sleeping at all times, making noises, turning down the air-con to freezing and are being drunk, all the time. But you learn to handle it. As long as the building is clean, the beds are comfy and the staff is cleaning the bathrooms.
The first stop after the border crossing into Brazil was Corumbá. The plan was to stay there one night before visiting the Pantanal. A bit (very) tired after the long wait at the border we were starving. With the Spanish couple we met in the queue we grabbed some lunch before we were off looking for a place to stay the night.
First hotel we bumped into was “El Shadday”. We asked about the price and it was cheap, €12 for a private room with shower. No air-con but a fan. “Do you want to see the room?” they asked – we said no. In retrospective maybe we should’ve seen it.
Even Jon admitted that this was the worst place we have been to so far. But he fell asleep pretty fast. So many insects and cockroaches, just close your eyes and pretend you never saw it.
Just one night was enough and we were off to Pantanal the day after.
When we arrived in Puerto Quijarro we took a taxi directly to the border, the “frontera”. The taxi was supposed to cost €1,20 but the driver doubled the price by telling us it was per person. As we were exhausted we only made a small attempt to complain about this but didnt get anything for that.
Well at the border there was a rather large queue forming. And after consulting a note on the border office for the Bolivian side we could see that the crossing did not open until 08:00, and the time now was 06:50. We stood around and started to converse with the Spanish couple after us in the queue. After the office opened and the queue started to move it became apparent that people were not really respecting it. And it got even worse when the rain started to pour down and the queue was compacted under the small roof. The slow family in front of us gave people in the adjacent line perfect opportunities to skip in front of them, and all the others who where in between.
When we finally arrived it was a quick process to get the stamp and go off to the Brazilian side of the crossing. Just 3 hours of queuing later.
We thought that the Brazilian side would be a bit quicker, both since they are more of a developed country and because the Bolivian check should give them a steady flow at a not too high pace. WRONG!
After queuing for 3 hours during which we fended of a lot of people who thought it to be clever to try and skip the line we were approaching the office in which the treasured stamp resides.
Just when we were meters away from the entrance a Bolivian woman shows up in front of us in the queue, apparently her son had waited and saved this place for her, and her baby she had on her back.
Okay, a bit foul play, but okay.
A few minutes later though, her aunt(?) and mother(?) arrives and are supposing they can too stand with her. This is where we, the Spanish couple and most others drew the line. All of them were sent to the end of the line. However the Bolivian lady who had her son keeping the spot went around the office and in through the back door, occupying the border official who where assigned to stamp the passports of Brazilians. This made the wait even longer.
When we finally arrived and we let in through the door we got our stamps in a matter of seconds. The only question we were asked was for how long we planned to stay in Brazil. No proof was required, just an answer to the question. So, 6-7 hours of queuing and 2 minutes in the offices later we had our stamps and were now officially in Brazil again!
Suddenly it was everywhere in social media; first of advent. Inspired by that we decided to make saffron buns! We went to the supermercado in Foz do Iguacu. We first started to look for the most critical ingredient: saffron. We found something they called saffron but it really wasn’t, more like some kind of curry powder. We bought ingredients to make “chokladbollar” instead but ended up watching three episodes of Criminal Minds.
In the last minutes of our trip to Paraguay the day after, Jon spotted saffron in a pile of spices brought around by a walking salesman.
We spent quite some time finding fresh milk in the store, UHT is the standard here, and fresh milk only comes in plastic bags like the one to the far left in the picture.
But we found everything at last – Let’s make it.
The result was pretty good and the hostel staff liked it.
After visiting the falls and the bird park there is not much more to do in Foz do Iguacu, except for the Itaipu dam. Until two years ago this was the worlds biggest hydroelectric plant considering the power it collects. Now the Chinese have a bigger one.
We chose to take a day to visit this plant and take one of the tours offered. Some quick research let us know that the “Panoramic Tour” is the best value for your money and also the one that contains everything necessary.
To get there we took bus 102 from the TTU terminal (101 is also supposed to take the same route), and after 25 minutes we arrived at the visitors center. The tickets are something like €6 and includes a short movie letting us know how amazing the plant is!
The bus that the panoramic tour consists of takes a tour with three stops, the first one is this view above of the flood ramps, they open these to let out excess water from the reservoir, at full speed they let through more that 40 times the water of the falls. We were apparently lucky to see this, as they only open them 10% of the year.
An interesting fact is that the dam is owned by both Brazil and Paraguay, and the land it sits on is more or less both Brazilian and Paraguayan. It produces 80% of the electricity used in Paraguay and 20% of the Brazilian consumption.
The above picture shows the dam as the huge 70s concrete structure is it, it reminds of something one might find in Ukraine, build before the fall of Soviet. Gigantic, concrete and functional but not too beautiful. It is an amazing structure, and the trip is well worth it if you have the time while here, and the guides on the Brazilian side speak Portuguese, Spanish and English!
After visiting the waterfalls which were a 30 minute bus ride away from the bus station inside the city of Foz do Iguacu there is the possibility to also see some birds. Right across the street from where the buses leave from the tourist center is Parque das Aves, a bird park of 17 hectares containing over 250 different bird species.
At around €7 for the entry we thought that this was a good thing to do after viewing the astonishing waterfalls.
This is where I should put the names of the different birds, but that would require me to know them, which I dont. On another note: Linn was a bit ambivalent about being so close to all these flying pest-carrying creatures. I told her that it would be no problem, it wasnt, until one bird found it a lot of fun to briefly land in her hair before continuing its flight.
This was my favorite, a Toucan. It not only is a beautiful bird, it also has a very nice temper, at least the ones we saw in the park.
Some sort of yellow parrots, apparently very curious as the sign warns you of putting fingers through the web of the cage.
More colorful parrots, apparently the colors confuse animals who hunt them. I learned this after googling the fact after our visit, I could not understand the sense in being as colorful and living where many animals would like to have you for dinner.
Okey, let’s be honest: this waterfalls are worth their own trip! And it is most likely more fun if the weather is clear. We were on the Brazilian side yesterday, cloudy but no rain and it were amazing.
From a bit distance.
Never been much of a nature person but this really caught me. Most of the people just took pictures and walked further.
The falls were extremely big and there were many small falls on the way, like the one above.
In a couple of days we gonna go to Argentina and see the same falls from the other side and take a boat into the falls. But first we plan on doing a day trip to Paraguay.
This pic is very describing of the experience at the falls: wet, windy, wet but good.
A comfortable bus took us to Florianopolis to enjoy some days of beach life. Said and done – we have had great days here: enjoyed the beach (used sunblock – except for on the eyelids, and Jon got burned on them). The hostel where we stayed had surf boards, body boards and some other beach toys for us to use for free and we tried to surf and Jon were able to stand up after a while – we both really liked it and had a great time.
And maybe the best thing during this time here: horseback riding!
Jon was a bit scared when we started but he did very well. Classic horse pic =)
And yes, we know that you should have a helmet, but none were supplied! My horse were cute and very strong. In the woods me and the horse lost a battle with a tree and I fell off. But not to worry, all went very well and I didn’t hurt myself.
Pretty cool to gallop by the beach with this nature as backdrop.
Jon did very good all the tour. We might do this again because of all the fun it was. I also learnt a lesson from yesterdays adventure on horseback: do not do horseback riding in suit trousers.
Today we both have a massive muscle soreness and are a bit hung over. T0morrow evening we leave for Foz do Iguacu. The first night bus is booked! Its a 14 hour trip with the bus company Catarinense, the same that brought us to Florianopolis. We took the leito seats which are more expensive, but you are more or less able to recline into a fully horizontal position – a review is coming later on!
After reading on Wikivoyage about a train ride from Curitiba to Morretes that is supposed to be amazing we decided to try and find a solution to squeeze this into our schedule. With the weather report somewhat ambiguous about if it is going to rain or be sunny in Florianopolis which is our next destination we decided to book an extra night on our hostel here in Curitiba and do the daytrip to Morretes.
Online sources gives that the train is cheaper on the way back from Morretes (more on this later), there is a bus that takes about 45 minutes and is very cheap and last but not least it is important not to miss eating the barreado which is meat that has been cooked in a clay pot for about 24 hours. Also it is possible to go down the river in the village by the means of inner tubing (riding a larger inner tube).
We read that a bus is available at 11:00 from Curitiba and it costs 17 BRL, when we arrived at the desk to buy the tickets we were advised that the ticket is 21 BRL, the trip takes 90 minutes and it leaves at 12:00. This meant arriving in Morretes at 13:30 and taking the train back at 15:00. The train is supposed to be the main attraction here, so we decided to do it anyway. So, we bought tickets for the bus.
Next up we arrived at the ticket desk for the train that was supposed to cost 55 BRL back to Curitiba in economy class we were informed that the tourist class is the only available one today. Not much to do, we already bought bus tickets and an extra hostel night. 79 BRL later we had tickets for both transports and one and a half hour to waste before the bus were to depart. If it departs on time!
We spent the time wandering through a nearby market hall that had all kinds of food for sale, and also a large organic section in which Linn found these beautiful vegetables.
Finally it was time to get to the bus, which departed perfectly on time! The bus took the road BR-277 which has some very beautiful scenic views.
We walked from the bus stop into the old part of Morretes where we found a restaurant serving the famous barreado.
We ordered the “tourist plate” which apparently is everything on the menu, and about three servings of each. The barreado was a good meat stew, but nothing that we felt was that extraordinary, maybe we were at the wrong riverside restaurant. We did have a really good time trying to figure out how anyone could imagine that we would eat all this food. I think we gave up after about a 10th of all of it.
Next stop: The train ride back to Curitiba!
The first hour of this train ride is both amazing and (for me) nerve-racking! This is a trip through a biotope known as atlantic rain forest which is very scarce nowadays. The train starts on an altitude of only a few meters above sea level, and reaches Curitiba at an altitude of almost one kilometer. Being afraid of heights as I am, the words “amazing view” always has a bitter aftertaste as it always means being faced with what can easily result in certain death. This said, this trip is totally worth it!
It is very hard to capture the fact that the train is passing a bridge, you feel like it is almost flying and you see amazing scenery for miles!
An amazing ride, a must if in Curitiba! It might be a better idea to take the more expensive train from Curitiba to Morretes and not the other way around, it is a three hour trip, and the hour closest to Curitiba is the least exciting. The dramaturgy would have been better with an ever increasing quality of views and excitement, and also me getting used to the heights!
Before we went to Sao Paulo we had heard different opinions about this big city. “Built up city” and “you only need one, maximum two nights”. And of course people who loved it. We like this city and it’s much more like Europe than Rio. They also have proper roads and cars, much less chaotic.
Yesterday we went to see some famous graffiti spot called Beco do Batman. Jon was still a bit sick but much better, so we explored the neighborhood walking.
We found a charming deli-store but couldn’t buy anything, everything need to pass “is this really worth to be in my backpack?”
Tomorrow we are leaving and going south towards Curitiba and Florianopolis.