Brazil / Argentina: Day 32-33

After an extremely late night the day before, my alarm went off at 7 in the morning. I had to out of the door for 8 so I gave myself as much time as possible to get out of bed. Good thing too, as many head was really hurting. We got on the bus and went to the falls. We first made a stop at the three points, a point that overlooks the borders of three countries, brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. I think it one of few borders in the world that is like this and was interesting to compare the cities on all sides of the border. I was really not interesting in going to Paraguay as I have heard a lot of really horrible things about crime in that country. It was nice to at least see the country, even if it was at a distance. 

Next we went to the park. These is a national park next to the falls, which is full of really cool wildlife. Having no idea that there was also a park, I was very excited to see a number of different monkeys jumping around. 

Once we got more into the park, the guide asked us if we wanted to talk the boat trip. We didn’t know there was boat tour on offer and many of the people with us were mad to find out it was extra to the price. It was cheap, but the boat takes you into the falls, so you can really feel the spray of water on your face. Honestly it might have been the most fun I have ever had with my trousers on. It gets you really wet, as your are dunked under the falls. I know it is a bit of extra money, but it is a once in a life time sort of thing. 
I am going to let the picture tell some of the story and just show you how amazing the falls were. 

The border crossing on both sides was a little silly. Latin America loves to add extra admin and process to ever simple things. You had to have a entry form from when you entered brazil, get exit and entry stamps. Then on the way back, the same process again. Honestly it is less paperwork to get into america. The other thing I was surprised by, is the fact the american and Austrians couldn’t come, as it would cost them, going in and coming back. 

That night, with some new friends I had meet on trip that day, I got very drunk again. These guys were really nice, 27,  28 and 29 responsively Matt, Mark and Amanda were much more my speed. Having seen a bit of the world, these people were much more level headed. The happy go lucky people I meet before, were doing the trip at a different peace. By the time I left on day 34, they still hadn’t managed to get the Argentinan side. The two french girls got so sick of those guys mucking around and not going to the falls, they were on the guided tour the next day. 

That night, we topped it off with a really cool music gig, of Brazilian funk. It is jazzy, rock with a samba beat. It was pretty amazing and the band, who had clearly been playing with each other for years were amazing. The venue kind of zinged us on the way out by charging an entrance fee. This is very common in brazil, telling you after the fact that you have to pay for something on the way out. 

Day 33, was spent sleeting off two hung overs in a row, skyping family and sleeping. I had lunch in a all you can eat BBQ place that you paid for by the weight. It was the last night in Brazil and I had some very mixed feelings about leaving. It has been very hard travelling alone in that country, language was the biggest problem. But it is a country of great beauty. 

Uragane is the next country, onworulds and upwards. Goodnight guys. 

Brazil: Day 30-31

Last day in São Paulo and nearing the end of my time Brazil. With a 6:30 coach to the Iguaza falls, it means I couldn’t go and do much with my day. I went into town again to have lunch in a really cool restaurant I saw on one of the tours. It is a really old fashioned restaurant, with lamp shades and paintings on the walls. It was a very nice way to while away a couple of hours. I had a sausage sandwich for lunch, something I had been craving for sometime. I was a little worried about the coach ride to come, as it was my first time doing a long haul coach ride in latin america, with a ride between the Sao Paulo and the falls clocking in at 17 hours. It was also my first overnight coach, as I don’t sleep well on trains or buses. But it was with some stress, I decided to look at some details on the falls to fill the time before the coach. I really wish I hadn’t looked up in detail. When looking at a travel wiki about the falls, I saw a notice in red, next to bus travel. It read “Updated: 28/08/2016. Don’t take bus route overnight. Bandits have been known to hold up coaches at gun point and rob passengers. Please take other means to get the falls”. To say the least, this panicked me. I went into full panic mode, googling like a crazy man to find another source for this information. After 35 minutes of research I had come up with nothing. I whatsapped my girlfriend in london to ask for her advice. She told me what I was already thinking, it is only one source and that if it really worried me that I should just get a flight. Safety is first and to hell with how much it might cost. After an hour of soul searching and with a heavy heart, I collected my bags and headed to the bus station. It was a 45 minute drive to the bus station, so I took an uber. Even though I had been in the town for over 5 days, I still didn’t get scale of it until I was driven though it. It was massive, high scrapers for miles and road after road. But there was beauty in it as well. The bridge at the edge of the city was beautiful and colourful.

After getting my ticket, which was a pain as everything seems to be in Brazil, I got on the bus. I briefly spoke to two English lads on the platform, but they were sitting on the back of the bus, so I didn’t see them again. The bus was long and I didn’t sleep. I was so worried about bandits that I spent most of the trip looking at the window for passing cars. I got fragments of sleep but this was broken up by driving on raw dirt roads and peroidic stops. The bus would stop every 4 hours in the middle of nowhere service stations. We would all get out and then the bus driver would drive off 45 minutes later. No one ever checked if everyone got back or gave a time limit for the stay. Just when they were ready to go, you better be on the bus. When I got off the bus at the town near the falls, I was extremely tired but managed to get myself a map and directions to the bus station. As I was walking to the bus stop, I saw the two English guys on the way. They seemed very lost, so I asked them if they needed help. They did and I said I could look up their hostel on my phone. They thanked me gratefully and it turned out that their hostel was only a 5 minute walk from mine. I told them to follow me and we could work it out when we got there. We got the bus stop together and started chatting. I told them I was staying in this cool hostel called the tetris hostel that was made of shipping containers. As I was talking about the hostel, a group of three girls turned around said that they were staying at the same hostel. We formed a little group and all got the bus together. It turned out only one off them spoke English, a very nice Swiss girl of 23. The other two only spoke French. After finally getting hostel, the two English guys decided not to bother with their booked hostel and to come in with us. I got the desk first and checked into my bunk. The other got a room together, that the girl, who flirted outrageously with everyone, managed to get a big discount on a shared room. As I checked in before them, I didn’t get this discount and I was in a different room. A fact at the time that made me really mad, but in fact was a blessing. 

After getting washed and changed, I told the guys that as it was 12pm, we had lots of time to do the Brazilian side of the falls done together. I really wanted to get the Brazilian side of the falls done, as I only had 3 days in the area before I flew out to Montevideo. It was 12 o’clock when they agreed to go to the falls, but it took 1 and half hours for the guys to get things together. This was another warning sign that this gang of early 20 somethings really didn’t have their house in order. We managed to get the falls, after a quick bus ride. We paid and walked the falls. Only 20% of the falls can be found on the Brazilian side but if you visit, it is the side you should do first. It is only 20%, but all the wide views of the falls and the true scale can be seen from that side. We walked along pleasantly enough, chatty and telling stories. The swiss girl did that thing that cute girls think is cute, of being cooky, but it felt extremely forced and really got on my nerves. The falls, are amazing and there are not enough photos in the world to give the scale or awe of them. They just keep going and going. You keep walking and walking and there still is more. The only thing that really could distract again from the falls, are the tonnes of local possums, that do look pretty cute, but they steal food and bite tourists. I decided to give them a wide birth. 

On the ride home, the guys talked about making dinner together. I decided this was a horrible idea, as travelling with good friends before I had had big fights about food. I silently decided to give this group a little distance. All of them were below the age of 24 and the difference in life perspective was really making itself clear. In the supermarket, I told the guys I would sort myself out. Getting back to the hostel, the guy started cooking they stir fry, if it could be called that. I made a simple meal of eggy bread and was ready in 15 minutes. However it took them 2 hours to cook. After I ate and while they waited, we talked about getting to the Argentinian side. The Swiss girl, who now was firmly in charge of the group, said renting a car would be cheaper. I said this was a bad idea, as this trip involved a border crossing, a car and insurance would be much more expensive than they think. They disagreed and continued to plan. I went for another beer at the bar and on the way back, booked a guided tour for the next day. I came back to the table and told the guys I booked a tour. They understood but seemed a little upset. After dinner, the drinking began. It was a pretty good night and we ended up in a bar / club. This club played the weirdest music I had ever heard, a mix of samba, rap, funk and R&B. It used riffs from western songs, like sugar hill gang, but different. It was so weird that I really couldn’t get my head around it and felt like the music was just out of my reach. I left club at 2:30 and headed to bed. I had a tour to get up for at 8am the next day. 

That’s all for now, two very long days, but an amazing view. 

Brazil: Day 26-29

Travelling around a lot you start to see that each town or city has it’s interests. What do these people enjoy?  In some place this is hard to find what this is, but in Suo Paulo’s thing is books. There are book shops on every street corner it is seems, really big ones. There are even vending machines in the metro with books in it. It is really interesting to see, that in a world that is more and more focused on putting their heads into phones, that Suo Paulo is going the other way with easy access to books. What is more interesting is what they are reading. Graphic novels are everywhere. Looking at an average news stand you would see on every street corner, you would see some magazine but around 70% of the shelfs are full of graphic novels. All of which was translated into Portuguese but still. The locals seem to be really big batman and superman fans, as this was most of graphic novels. Even saw a copy of the watchmen. Very strange. 

Day 26 to 29 are all a bit of blur, as there is a company that runs free walking tours, I did all three of their tours, one each day. Three things things stand out from walking around the city. First, that the city is extremely run down. Amazing building, beautiful skyscrapers, were covered in graffiti and had been like that for years. It is weird to walk around a city that could easy been from America or Europe, but have it run down to make it look like a third world city. It looked a lot like a city after a zombie apocalypse with things ran down. It seems like no one really takes pride in what things look like, as even the open store fronts, the windows were unclean. Personally I don’t understand this, as it is free to keep things clean. Second thing I noticed is that they don’t really care about history. When going around the city, the guide showed us what the road used to look like. In some places, the building on a spot was the 4th one, as they ripped it down to build something different. Because of that lack of care for the past, Suo paulo doesn’t have a tonne of history and many of the “oldest” buildings were from the 1930s. The third thing I notice is that important that they make things their own. In the centre of town is the opera house and it is amazing. But the guide that showed it to us, wasn’t a fan. “It is a copy of a opera house in france. It is not Brazilian”. It is really important that buildings are Brazilian and have their style. However, in all my time in Brazil, I am really not sure that style is any good or even really what it is. For example, when they opened the opera house, they were going to do an Italian opera, but the people of the city kicked off. So they commissioned a very work specially for it. It is good for the rest of the world, is not good enough for them it seems.

After the second walking tour and with new American friend, we made our way to a famous market. And I was stuck by the surrounding area. Graffiti everywhere, unclear streets and cheap plastic toys made me think I had gone to the wrong part of town. However enter a beautiful turn of the centry building, you are meet with a wall of colour. Market stalls selling, fish, cheese and exotic fruits give the hall a feeling a extraordinary atmosphere. It honestly felt like walking around a market from another planet, weird coloured spikes fruit and all. After walking around the market, my new friend treated me to lunch of sliced pork sandwich which were famous in the area. 

After the third walking tour, I went a did the last of my sight seeing. I went to a beautiful looking library, that looked amazing from the outside. However getting inside, I realised it was a pretty normal library inside. I also went around the mes gallery a beautiful and iconic building in the centre, picture below. However getting inside, the gallery had little interesting art. It is privately owned and just seems like a random collection of whatever they could get their hands on. The art didn’t seem to have any focus and art had no order. Something I don’t normally notice, but I take my hats off to those who sort and arrange galleries going forward. 

I really enjoyed having an Airbnb for this leg of the trip. You miss cooking when you are unable to do it. I have enjoyed my time in the big city. As a londoner, I missed the noise and the people of a city. 

Moving on the tomorrow, onwards and upwards. 

Brazil: Day 25

Sao Paulo is an interesting place. Much is said about it by many people, most of which is pretty negative. So coming to the city, I was a little bit worried that I would be bored. How wrong could people be? The city is amazing, it is full of great galleries, public parks, museums and restaurants. There are also great train links and it is pretty easy to walk a lot of other places from stations. But I think that like most big cities you need to know where you are going. It is not a city where you can stumble upon things by just walking around, you need to know where to go. But there was tonnes of information online and I found the lonely planet page regarding the city extremely useful. It is one of (and some say the biggest) biggest city’s in the world. It has a population of 15 million in the city and 22 in the surrounding areas. To say it is big is an under statement.

The first full day in the town I went to the luz area. This is in the north of the city and is a hub station on the metro so is easy to get to. I went to visit the national gallery there and a interesting park. When I got out of the station, it was pretty dirty and horrible. Walking over an overpass, you could see people selling wallets, phones and watches on the side of the road. I have never seen such a clear selling of stolen goods in my life. I wonder if the sellers even bothered to wipe the phone or if it is was still full of the last person’s data. Starting to worry, I thought I was in the wrong place, I was about to turn back when I saw the gallery and quickly ran to it. This sums up a lot of Brazil in a way, really rich and beautiful things next to dirty horrible poor areas, with little divide. It is weird for a westerner to see, as the divides are much more clear in our cities. The gallery was one of the best I have ever seen. The building was really light and the selection was really interesting. The bottom levels started with very modern art, with video displays and weird photography. But as you got higher in the building, the art becomes older and styles change. It is a great cross section of art in brazil and found some pieces I really liked, like this light piece.

Next to the gallery is a massive park and I had my pack lunch in there. In park is art as well. Made my lunch nice. That is one of the key features of Suo Paulo, is that even though it is a big city, it is committed to having culture and nature as part of every building. To get a permit to build in sau Paulo, you must commit space (normally on the ground floor) to culture. This normally means that the ground floor of all the skyscrapers is a little art gallery, that you can poke your head in for free. It is pretty cool that you can go into these international bank’s head quarters and just have a look around at the art.

With the day running out, I made quick stop off in Su, the centre station. There is located many of the banks, the main square and the church. It is very beautiful but it is ruined by the people there. The locals are either protesting the government, trying to get money off you or shouting about (I guess) god. It is noises and dirty and even important statuses had graffiti on them. The church was beautfiul, but I was unable to take any photos in there as the security guard in the church told I wasn’t allow. Brazil really needs security guards in it’s churchs? but I didn’t have much time in it as there was service on. Taking a tour tomorrow.

Good night folks, more to explore tomorrow.

Brazil: Day 24

Another transfer day, moving on to Sao Paulo. Booked a transfer with greentoad and they picked me up on my hostel and we were away. 5 hours of driving over hills and mountains. I felt pretty sick up the end as I lost count of the number of hair pinned bends. Finally got to Sao Paulo and was dumbed off outside a random hotel. Thinking that I could get away with using uber, I reached for my phone and opened the app. However, when I opened the app, I realised my phone could not connect to the internet. My phone that was working not 5 hours drive away didn’t work in this part of the country. After about 20 minutes of trying to get the thing to work, I gave up. I walked into the hotel and asked really nicely if they would be so kind as to order me a cab. They did and I was on my way. Luckiely the cab was only £3 and go to my airbnb. THis sao paulo I decided not to go with the hostel but to get airbnb. It was a similar price to hostel, but I meant I got the whole flat and it was in a better location. My experience with the hosts were amazing and they were really cool, telling me local places to eat, bars and where the nearest shopping centre was.   
My airbnb was located about 3 blocked for the main paulista avenue, which I can only compare to oxford street. It was massive, with sky scrapers on each side of the road and a different shopping centre every 500 meter. I was a weird feeling to be in a big town again and it felt like home. Growing up in london, an urban setting just feels like home to me. I know for a lot of people, cities are boring, but I love what cities provide, culture, galleries and restaurants. It was a lot a really nice change of peach from smal l towns I have been going to for the last 3 weeks. I explored street, taking in the amazing sky scrapers and shopping centres. While in one of the shopping centres, I found a new prepaid sim from a very friendly and english speaking woman at the carlo store. By far the easiest experience of getting a sim, because why the time I was leaving the store, the sim was activated and getting messages. I even found a comic book shop in one of the shopping centres, which really gave me a boost. Just doing something so normal, as looking at comic books, really made me feel like myself again. The last piece of admin for the day was getting a card for the metro system. This was a lot harder than I thought as not every station sells them it seems. After going to 3 stations, I was really starting to loose it, as no one spoke english. At the 3 place, I acted dumb and repeatedly asked for the card. The woman took pity on me and got her recharge card out of her bag and gave her mine. Really nice thing to do. 

On the way home, I noticed a lot of police around. Walking a bit more, I saw why. Around 2000 people were banging drums and protesting something. I am not sure what, it was likely to do the current problems with the government. I had a feeling it might turn any minute, so I double timed it home. Got some food at a food market on the way home. Peanut butter toast and cereal for dinner. Two things I had be craving for weeks. 

Going to get up early tomorrow and explore more. Really looking forward to it.