DAY 70-71: Iguasu Falls (Brazil)

My last stop in Brazil was Foz de Iguasu, the world famous waterfalls that is shared by Brazil, Argentina and a little bit of Paraguay. It is here.

A 14 hour bus ride from Florianopolis, (and I’ve always had a pretty comfy ride in Brazil) and I get to the city of the falls.

The city itself it not that impressive, small, centred around the tourism and I didn’t get the impression there were much to do except for the falls. A good 2-3 days would be enough.

So the falls. Yes, its amazing! and with crazy amounts of water!

The first day in the Brazil size. Once inside the national park, the decked out bus drop you off at the start of a trail that you can take to the falls. You can also do a hike or a bike ride or a eco truck ride through the national park for an additional cost but the weather wasn’t great so I just did the trail. It started pouring as soon as we got on the open roof bus so it was great to have the poncho for the rain and the water from the falls.

Yes, the falls were impressive with its massive amount of water and power. But the heavy rain kind of killed the excitement for me this day so a few pictures from some key angles and a few overpriced beers at the restaurant with a view and I called it a day.

Water!

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Yay! With my attractive green poncho.

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What was more impressive was the Argentinian side the following day. I booked a bus that takes you to the Argentinian side including the handling of immigrations and a full day at the Argentinian national park. This day was sunny so the experience overall was much more enjoyable.

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Up close

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From the boat

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The Argentinian side does an excellent job to show you the waterfall from every angle. We walked through the trails and looked at the falls from the bottom, from the side, from the right, left, from the top and even inside to the point I was all waterfall-ed out and don’t need to see another waterfall for a few months now. What is worth doing is definitely the boat to almost enter the mouth of the falls. You can get up so close almost under the falls and the thrill of almost being inside and the boat being pounded but eh massive water pressure is crazy cool. I was a screening tourist in fear of getting wet, even thought that is what we are all there for.. but  it was awesome fun.

Perhaps it was the rain, but i definitely thought the Argentinian side offered more options and a full day of fun. Also, its cool to be able to step into another country for a day and get your passport stamped!

What was NOT fun were these creatures.

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They look so exotic and cute at first, I was thrilled to encounter them and followed them around with my camera, but man, they are not!!! There are signs everywhere to not feed them and be cautious because scratches and bites can lead to symptoms of “anger”. Nope we don’t want that.  We sat down for lunch (super over priced by the way) and the coatis were everywhere eyeing your food. One second and they’re on it so you’re constantly on the look out and protecting your food. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience and also there was a guy with a stick chasing the coatis around all day with loud noise, so not a relaxing animal viewing.

The hostel I stayed at was Che Lagarto Foz de Iguasu, closely located to the bus station to go to the falls and convenient. Apparently Che Lagarto is a chain hostel with multiple locations in S. America. Worth a try. This one was by far one of the cleanest hostels I’ve been and looked like it was renovated from a hotel previously so the facilities were well equipped. Was so happy to not sleep in a 2 story bed for a change and have a normal shower head with good pressure 🙂 You can’t imagine how unbelievably luxurious that was to me at this point. Also another perk was the happy hour, where they provide caiperinhas for the whole hour, not just 1! So I’m sure that greatly effected my positive stay.

This was my last stop in Brazil for now and knowing that, I had been feeling “Saudade*” already for the last few days.

*Saudade: It brings sad and happy feelings all at once; sadness from missing something loved and happiness for having experienced the love. – only existing in Portuguese language.

It has been day after day of discoveries and wonders. People from different places, different ages, different stories. And to have the luck to be able to meet and connect with them was the treasure of my trip. I felt so happy in Brazil I am not sure if I will be able to get over it and go to the next country, but for now, I have wrapped my memories and my feelings into this one video. It has given me a great opportunity to summarise and reflect on all the amazing experiences. If you view it, hope you enjoy it and inspire to travel to Brazil and love it as much as I did.

Now to Paraguay.

Day 50: Thoughts so far on travel and Brazil

Day 45 (well, like 50 by the time this is up) :

So its been 45 days, over 6 weeks since I have left home and my journey began.

The first 3 weeks were spent in the cozy homes of my friend and family in the US, baby sitting, hanging out, prepping myself for the journey ahead, and the next three weeks, finally stepping foot into South America. One day of layover in Bogota, Columbia, then 3 weeks of the greatest new experiences in Brazil, my dream.

The route:

New York (1 1/2 wk) -> Baltimore (1 wk) -> New York (1/2 week) -> Bogota, Columbia 8 hrs) -> BRAZIL: Rio De Jainero (4 days) -> Itacare (4 days) -> Salvador (3 days) -> Chapada Diamantina (12 days) -> Salvador (2 days) -> Maceio (4 days) -> Maragogi (1 day)

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It does sound like a lot of traveling! but on the map, its actually only this. Bogota aside (since it was only a few hours) I have probably not even 5% of South American continent. I have a lot more to go…

Taking some time to organise my thoughts about the my first 3 weeks in Brazil. There is so much happening all at once every day; new location, new people, new food new experiences, and I’m filled with thoughts and things to share, but its just happening so fast and so much that I haven’t really had the time to organise my thoughts. But here is a short recap, are 3 thoughts on Brazil and travel.

1. Brazil is ENORMOUS. 

There was one back packer that told me “2 months and you can cover South America!” but I’m not sure how you travel to do that.  I have been here in Brazil for 3 weeks and probably haven’t even covered 10% if Brazil. There is just too much land and too things to do and too much people to meet. At this rate, I will spend the whole year going through Brazil and not even stepping foot into the other countries, but I am completely okay with that because Brazil is just that great.

So far, I have stepped on to the lively and sexy city Rio, from the beaches to the pumping night life to the Christ then to the surfed in the secluded beaches of Itacare, danced and sang to the beats of afro-culture in Salvador, trekked, biked and even rock-climbed in the unbelievably grand scale of plates and rivers and waterfalls of Chapada Diamantin and relaxed and dived in the beautiful beaches of Maceio, Maragogi and Port de Galena. It has only been several hundred kilometres moving up and down the coast like of the mid region of Brazil but I am amazed at the big difference each region has in scenery, culture and people.

Rio De Jainero

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Itacare:

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Salvador:

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Chapada Diamantina:

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Maceio, Maragogi, Port de Galinha:

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There are like 8 0% more of the country I haven’t explored yet, like the south the Amazons, the mid west region and I want to explore more, but if I do take that rathe, I will never step foot outside of Brazil. Its just that big and in no way can be covered, even with a full year.

Rio, was the very image I had for Brazil and probably what most people imagine of this country. Beautiful contrast of green mountains right next to the beautiful turquoise beaches. People playing soccer and hanging out in Brazilian bikinis at the beaches sipping Caiperinas with music all around. Nights are loud with socialising around Brazilian food and dancing to beats of Samba and Brazilian music. People in Rio are called “Carioca” they are generally are relaxed, put the most importance in enjoying life with a mix of some crazy. I’ve been told that the more north you go, the more relaxed (slow) people get and the more south you go, particularly in Sao Paulo, the more serious and fast paced life is. I have seen that as I explore the Bahia region and the beach regions of people being super relaxed (SLOW!) and the attitude is “Tranquiiiiiiiiiilllllllo (take it easy)” for everything. I think the Tokyo in me wants answers and results quickly and it shows in my face, many people tell me “Tranquil” and tell me to relax and don’t worry. The funny thing is, in Japan, I think I am considered quite relaxed and chill, and even described as ” you’re so Latin!” but here, I am just a uptight person here compared to the locals.

Traveling for me is about seeing, hearing, feeling and experiencing these kind of cultural differences and immersing myself in these amongst the local people. I don’t care about hitting the right spots and sight seeing but more value in people I meet of conversations I have. So maybe that is why I won’t be able to cover South American in just 2 months but that’s the way I like it and that is why I don’t own a guidebook (though there are many times I wished I owned one)

Brazil is enormous and I am finding that I absolutely can’t cover it enough, unless I make a living out of it!

2. Brazilians and talking.  

Its funny to me how much people can talk and how much Brazilians talk. At the market, at the hostel, on the street, at the beach, in the mountains, wherever there is people, it is an opportunity to talk and laugh. Not sure yet if this is a Brazilian, thing, a latin thing or just a regional thing, but I find it really impressive on the amount and the length of this happening. Ultimately, I guess its about wanting to connect to people, share stories or advise, being curious about their stories and life, and I think that is a wonderful thing about Brazilians. Though for me and my lack of Portuguese I am often wondering what they have to talk about so much, this long to a complete stranger! but maybe it because I am from Japan and its not a common thing there to just strike up a conversation everywhere. For now, I am just taking in the talk talk talk like music to my ears because it is always there and it never stops 🙂

3. 1:3 the ratio of helpfulness

There are some people that will go extremes to help you out and be so incredibly kind and I have been very blessed to meet people like that so far. However to get to those people I feel like I also met a lot of people that are just the opposite. That’s not an uncommon thing at all, but what I found pretty shocking was the extreme of their rejection to the point of being almost comical. I try with my best efforts to speak in Portuguese and in gestures, but the minute they know you don’t speak Portuguese, some just shut off, or literally turn away, or look away and pretend like they are busy. And I’m thinking, “ oh come on!! You were not busy just a minute ago!!!”

Understandable for this to happen in local shops, etc where they can’t be bothered with tourists, but it also happens a lot in tourist places such as airports, air line counters and tourist attractions. Now, I’m not saying they should speak English, I’m just saying, hey let’s try to just give it a little bit of an effort, and at least hear me out. But many times they have a few tactics of bluntly ignoring or being super busy all of a sudden in hopes that the foreigner will give up and go away. Maybe I’m just sensitive to this because I come from Japan where good service is a given and even excessive that I’m not used to getting no service.

Speaking to some Brazilians, they said, there were issues for the World cup on foreigners not being able to make their way due to these situations and it is probably be an issue for the Olympics coming up. Understandable. Hopefully for the Olympics, there will be a bit of improvement in the service.

Though I should note that the incredibly awesome people and friends I have been lucky to encounter have wiped any negative impressions out and I would say that the ratio is quickly changing to 1 incredibly person : 3 unhelpful (or just unresponsive) person. I’m sure the more Portuguese I speak the ratio will go down.

So some quick first thought on Brazil for the first 3 weeks. There are a million different thoughts and findings in my head, and once I find the time to myself, (which has surprisingly few considering this is a solo trip) I have much more to share.

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I love Brazil  and I can’t say it enough.

The 3 weeks so far has been unbelievable and I can’t imagine how fulfilled I will be by the end of the trip if just 3 weeks has brought me so much excitement and happiness. I would say it is one of the best decisions I have made in my life.

Thank you Brazil, and thank you to myself for taking myself out of my normal life and taking the leap into this adventure.

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(日本語)

日本を出発してから一ヶ月半。45日がたった。

約6週間。最初の3週間はアメリカで家族や友達と幸せでぬくぬくした時間を過ごし、いよいよ南米入りをして3週間。コロンビアに乗り継ぎで1日とブラジルですでに3週間。毎日様々な体験が詰まっていたのでであっという間に過ぎちゃったというわけでもない。しっかりと1日1日味わってきた実感はある。

ボゴタ、コロンビア(1日)→ リオ・デイジャネイロ(4日)→ イタカレ(4日)→ サルバドール(3日)→ チャパダ・ジアマンチナ(12日)→ サルバドール(2日)→ マセイオ (4日)

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3週間で結構忙しく移動しているな。

最初は友人が一緒だったのでペースも早く、観光をしっかりと抑えた感じ。
サルバドールで友達とお別れをして、本当に一人になったのは結局チャパダから。

最初は警戒心バリバリだったけど、幸い良い出会いもたくさんあり、一人と感じることはあまりなかった。チャパダの壮大な自然に包み込まれてチャパダが大好きになり、結局12日間も滞在することに。まだまだずっといてもいい、と思ったけどこのままだと南米を達成できないと思い、重い腰を上げてまた旅をスタート。サルバドールに忘れ物を取りに戻り、今度はマセイオのビーチタウンへ。これからは海岸沿いを北上予定。

振り返って思うこと

1. ブラジルはとにかく広い!

ブラジルは国土が世界5番目。本当に大きい。精力的に移動している感じだけど、実はブラジルのほんの一部しか回っていない。中部〜中東部のごく一部。まだ南部やアマゾン地帯がある北部や中部、最大都市のサンパウロにも足を踏み入れていない。まだまだいるところがいっぱいあるのに時間がいくらあっても足りない。ブラジルをみるのには丸一年あっても足りないんじゃないかと思うぐらい。日本で「南米は2ヶ月あれば十分回れるよ!」といったバックパッカーがいたけど、絶対無理。どんな飛ばし方をすればそんなこと可能なのか。ブラジルだけでも私は1年欲しいところ。

また、この広いブラジルの良いところは各地域の特製があること。人の特徴、性格、ローカルな文化、食べ物があり、日本の都道府県のようにそれを楽しみながら回るのが面白い。リオの人は「カリオカ」と呼ばれ、陽気で人生を楽しむことを最も大切にするクレージーな人たち。北に行けば行くほど(暖かくなればばるほど)人はのんびり(のろく)なり、仕事の量もスピードも落ちるとのこと。たしかに。お店にいっても料理が出てくるのに時間がかかるし、効率性とかは関係なさそう。

そんな違いを話し聞き、感じながら旅をするのは文化を吸収している気持ちになり、ガイドブックで勉強するより私にとっては価値がある。

今はアラゴアス州のマセイオに。まさにビーチタウンでこちらもまたまたのんびり。天気も良く海や外にいることが多いせいかな、ランニングやビーチサッカーなど、運動を活発にしているよう。

2. ブラジル人はおしゃべり!

とにかくブラジル人はしゃべるのが好き!なだ他のラテン系をみていないから大陸全体がそうなのか、国風なのかわからないけど、とにかくだれとでもしゃべる。そして喋り続ける。スーパーでも海でも山でも。とにかく人と話す機会があれば逃さずしゃべりまくる。私は大抵ブラジル人たちが話している横でわかる単語を数個ピックアップして静かにしているだけだけど、なにか理由をつけないと喋りを止めない。今私は会話に加われなくてとてもさみしいけど、いずれかは同じように会話に参加して何をそんなにコミュニケーションしているのか理解してみたいもんだ。きっとどうでもいいことなんだろうな。

でもそんな人と繋がろうとするところが好き。時々「また〜?」「まだ〜?」と思うことも多々あるけど、それでも人と繋がろうと、笑い合おうとすることはとても素敵だと思う。

3. 親切心と拒絶

ブラジルでは旅人の私に対して信じられないくらいの親切心と愛情を注いでくれる人がいるけど、その反面すごい勢いで拒絶する人もいる。その割合は10%:90% ぐらいかな?今まで私はその10%の人たちの親切心に触れて言い表せないぐらいの感動と深い思い出をつくってきたけど、その人たちにたどり着く前に90%の拒絶も感じてきた気がする。

それは外国人に対する拒絶というよりはポルトガル語を喋らない人に対するやる気のなさかな。「英語はなさないから無理!」とすぐにシャッターを下ろしてしまう。「え〜私もポストガル語で頑張るから、少しトライしようよ〜」とねだっても無理。横を向いて見えないふりをするか、忙しいふりをする。笑。日本でもそうかな?一応義務教育で6年間勉強したから分からなくてもトライしようとするんじゃないかな?そこはブラジル人、すごい勢いで努力しない気がする。自分の正直というか。。。無理なものは無理!と開き直る感じがあって最初は相当ショックを受けたけど、最近は別にショックも受けずに他の人を探すだけ。

何人かのブラジル人とこの点について話したけどW杯でも海外旅行者が困ることが多くあったとのこと。そりゃそうだ。オリンピックまでに少し意識改革があるといいね。なんて。