Our bus journey from Rio to Paraty (pronounced “par-a-chee”) was the most beautiful transit yet. Driving out of Rio we recognized how huge the city is, it seemed to go on forever. Big box stores sandwiched between hills plastered with favelas, then flat green as we turned back towards the coast heading south. Winding roads and rolling hills along the coast kept our attention for almost the entire ride. It reminded me of home – Vancouver home; the sunshine coast to be specific.
Paraty more than doubles its size this time of year as it fills with elite Brazilian tourists on summer vacation, causing inflated prices and a crowded beach. We were lucky to find the place we did for R$100 per night in a private room. Everything else was full, unless we were wanted to fork out R$300 per night, which we didn’t. Despite the overloaded streets, the town had charm. To avoid breaking a toe or two walking in Paraty’s historic centre, the only place to look was down. Different than cobblestones, these streets are built with much larger rocks, many of them still round, we needed to pay attention to our next step, one missed stone would slide you into a hole surely leading to an ankle tragedy. In addition to the typical Brazilian fixed plate of chicken or fish, rice and beans, we had to indulge in the biggest, most enticing Pastel we had seen yet – something we’d been trying to avoid. Pastel is like a massive egg roll; a thin deep fried pastry filled with a variety of fillings makes this typical Brazilian fast food. Good going down, not so good 15 minutes later, but what fun would life be without a little deep fried awesomeness?
Because it rains every night in Paraty, while hunting steroidal mosquitoes, we tucked in nicely to finally watch Dexter Season 6. Now, if you’re a Dexter fan, you can imagine our feeling when we finished watching the season finale. OMG, and now we have to wait months to find out what happens. If you’re not a Dexter fan, then you should be.
Getting to Sao Paulo from Paraty wasn’t as cut and dry as we thought. Everything was totally sold out for the next 2 days. Normally, it wouldn’t be a big deal to hang out somewhere for another few days, but we had a deadline. We needed to get to Sao Paulo for Dale to write a scheduled exam. It’s a good thing we speak enough Portuguese to somewhat figure things out. Finding another route, we hopped a bus to a small town further up the coast where we connected to an empty bus headed for Sao Paulo.
We were in Sao Paulo for one reason – Dale’s exam. Otherwise, we most likely would have skipped this monster city of nearly 20 million inhabitants, over 17,000 city buses, 5 metro lines, 2 airports and severely disorienting road networks. Driving is only advisable for those with strong nerves, as is crossing the street on foot, even on a green light. Sao Paulo is Brazil’s business center, which doesn’t leave much to offer travellers except some amazing pizza and great accommodation. We found both. 3 Dogs Hostel was one of our favourites so far, as were the supermarket only 3 blocks away and the over-the-top cheap ass pizza we scored. One day of walking up Av. Paulista was enough of sky scrapers, consistent buses, dodging people and overwhelming heat. As soon as Dale finished his exam, for only R$30 more than a 14 hour bus ride, it seemed logical to fly to Foz do Iguazu.
Although the climb rate and aggressive turning of our pilots made me a nervous flyer for the first time in my life in clear weather, we arrived unscathed in Iguazu. We happily stayed between the city center and the reason we had come – the Cataratas (waterfalls). Totalling 275 waterfalls, with a flow capacity 3x Niagara Falls, 15km north of the city, this is a must do for anyone visiting South America. The city borders both Paraguay and Argentina, and the falls are viewed from both Argentina and Brazil. We planned to visit both sides, starting with Brazil.
Unlike Niagara, you have to pay to see the falls which are surrounded by a National Park rather than on a main tourist drag. Amidst the green, wide concrete trails lead to the main event – Garganta do Diabo (“The Devil’s Throat”). Along the trail, viewpoints of smaller falls (all of which are a part of the overall Iguacu), progressing in size, give you a good tease. We started to doubt the value of our R$80R pp park entrance, when WHAM! , through the trees the roar of Devil’s throat drew our eyes through the trees to the enormous rush of water. “That’s what I’m talkin’ about”, Dale said, as we got showered walking the boardwalk built upon the pool at the base of the Devil’s Throat. Totally worth it.
We had for the last month planned to back track a bit east then head south through the remainder of coastal Brazil. But our last day in Iguacu, it just didn’t feel like the thing to do. We wanted to be in Argentina, so why not go? Besides, la frontera (the border) was only 15 minutes away. Done. Bye Bye Brazil, Hello Argentina.