From-The-Road Scribbles Of Travel Through Parts Of Latin America’s Largest Country
Igauzu Falls, Brazil. September 12, 2015
Brazil (September 10-18 & December 8-14 2015)
Officially the Federative Republic of Brazil, this is the largest country in Latin America & the largest Portuguese speaking country on Earth. The world’s fifth largest country, Brazil has a coastline stretching for 7,000 kilometres, plenty of room for all those wondrous beaches on which to showcase all those wondrous beach bodies and football skills. From the enormity & remoteness of the Amazon Basin in the north to the hedonism of the flamboyant city carnivals, seeing all there is too see in Brazil would take a lifetime. Maybe two. My travels in Brazil were limited to the lower portion of the mostly tropical country as part of my wider South American adventure during the second half of 2015. I didn’t see as much of Brazil as I wanted or had planned to see at the outset but this is where I went & what I saw when there.
Archived Postings From The Brazilian Road (In Chronological Order)
FOZ DO IGUACU & IGUAZU FALLS
Having crossed over the relatively short distance from Paraguay, my first stop in Brazil, Latin America’s biggest country, was Foz do Iguaçu, the largest of three frontier towns within a stone’s throw of each other – the Argentine town of Puerto Iguazú and the Paraguayan city of Ciudad del Este are all within spitting distance – & the one I chose to use as a base for visiting nearby Iguazu Falls. Situated on the border of Brazil & Argentina, the falls, surrounded by lush tropical forest, are easily one of the world’s greatest natural wonders and the probably, after Christ the Redeemer in Rio, Brazil’s biggest draw.
Iguazu Falls || A New7Wonder
Chosen as one of the New7Wonders of Nature in 2011, Iguazu Falls, meaning rather aptly ‘Big Water’ in local Guaraní, are the spectacular, wow-inducing centerpiece of the bi-national (shared with Argentina) UNESCO-listed Iguacu National Park. ‘Discovered’ in 1542 by Spaniard Alvar Nunez Cabeza, the falls, comprising 275 individual thunderous walls of water, are formed by the Rio Iguaçu tumbling over a 3 kilometre-wide span of 80 metre-high cliffs. Needless to say the spectacle of the falls, billed as a natural miracle, is quite impressive.
– UNESCO commenting on Iguaçu National Park
Iguazu Falls || Brazil Vs. Argentina
The best overall albeit somewhat distant view of the falls, via a 1.5 kilometre cliffside trail with many viewpoints, is on the much smaller Brazilian side. The Argentine side, which lays claim to the majority of the falls, offers more extensive hiking/walking trails & closer access to the individual walls of water. Some say the only true way to experience the falls is via the river itself. Options for doing so, and getting royally soaked in the process, are all from jetties on the Argentinian side, clearly visible from the relative dryness of the Brazilian side.
– Eleanor Roosevelt upon seeing Iguazu Falls
With so much water in these parts there was bound to be a dam hiding around here somewhere. Twelve kilometres north of Foz do Iguaçu is the Itaipu Dam, a gargantuan wall of concrete straddling the Brazil-Paraguay border that brings a tear to even the widest of wide-angle lenses.
Construction started in 1974 and it took a total of 40,000 workers a decade to build what is today one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World as chosen by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The dam started generating electricity in 1984, reached 90% capacity (18 turbines) in 1991 & only hit full capacity in 2007 – its full 20 turbine/14,000 MW output is second only to the 22,400 MW of China’s Three Gorges Dam which I visited way back in 2004 when it was nearing completion. Costing a whopping US$25 billion & using about 15 times more concrete than was needed to construct the Channel Tunnel, the gargantuan dam straddles the Brazilian-Paraguayan border. The structure itself is an impressive wall of concrete almost eight kilometres long & nearly 200 metres high (196 metres to be precise). The whole thing is ten times as heavy and eighteen times the size of Hoover Dam with a spillway able to accommodate a flow of water 40 times greater than that of the Iguaçu Falls. A feel-good initiative between the two South American neighbous, the dam supplies between 80 & 90% of Paraguay’s & some 19% of Brazil’s electric needs.
ILHA DE SANTA CATARINA
I’m a couple of months early here sampling the seasonal delights of Ilha de Santa Catarina, a small subtropical island on Brazil’s Southern Atlantic coast, one renowned throughout the country for its beaches, tranquil fishing villages & general laid-back Mediterranean vibe, all despite its built-up, developed status.
It’s only mid-September; it was yesterday when I arrive and it still is today. The sun comes out, things hot up, & the beaches, roads, accommodation, restaurants, cafes & bars really fill to capacity come November, the onset of summer down here south of the equator. But right about now this Brazilian resort island is rather sleepy. Chilly & a tad damp too, despite the high 20 degree Celsius temperatures I’ve experienced over the last few days. If I were a beach person I probably wouldn’t have bothered coming here at all this time of year. I’m not – a beach person – so I did decide to swing by en route down the Brazilian Atlantic coast to Uruguay, mainly because it was a convenient break in the journey from Foz do Iguacu further north & because I hadn’t seen the sea in almost 2 months – I’m not particularly fond of the sea but having grown up beside it means I like to lay eyes on it every now and then, if not get into it.
Centrinho da Lagoa
Ilha de Santa Catarina’s Centrinho da Lagoa is the island’s ground zero, a bustling little town on the shores of the island’s Lagoa da Conceicao, it’s central lagoon and most predominant feature.
Full of places to stay, shops, bars, restaurants & cafes, Centrinho da Lagoa makes a convenient base for exploring the rest of the 54 kilometre long by 18 kilometre wide island. From my base Centrinho da Lagoa I walked & bused it to various parts of the island, all in a bid to sample the island’s advertised charms, namely its remote fishing villages & beaches.
Costa da Lagoa || Fishing Village #1
Costa da Lagoa is a small fishing village that’s accessible only via boat or a 6 kilometre (one-way, 12 kilometre round trip) walk along the shores of Lagoa da Conceicao from Centrinho da Lagoa.
Barra da Lagoa || Fishing Village #2
A short bus ride from Centrinho da Lagoa is the sleepy village of Barra da Lagoa, somewhere that feels far removed from the tourism frenzy griping other areas of the island.
Praia Mole || Beach
Billed as one of Brazil’s best beaches, Praia Mole (Mole Beach), located on the island’s east shore south of Barra da Lagoa, is a classic seasonal beach – popular with swimmers in the summer and surfers in the winter. Needless to say this time of year there are very few of the former and a healthy sampling of the latter.
Coast to Coast || Atlantic to Pacific
It had been a while so I can only assume I was excited to see it. I got a bit too close to the Atlantic water this morning when photographing the surfers braving the Praia Mole waves. From here, and beginning today, I start a 10-day, 3,000 kilometre overland east-to-west dash across the continent, via Uruguay, in a bid to get to Santiago, Chile (where they’ve just experienced an earthquake), by September 27, in time for my flight to Easter Island. Best get moving so. That’s it from Brazil for now but I’ll be back in a couple of month. Hopefully it’ll have warmed up a bit by then.
The oppressive temperatures mean it still may not feel like Christmas is around the corner but in parts it certainly looks like it.
I still have difficulty believing that I was freezing my you-know-what’s off while smiling at penguins in Antarctica mere days ago. Here in tropical Brazil the White Continent feels a long, long ways away, maybe because it is. I’ve really been moving of late. A flight from the Ushuaia at the End of the World to Buenos Aires, where I spent a day, followed by a combination of ferry & bus journeys from Argentina & through Uruguay has me here in tropical southern Brazil, somewhere I last was back in early September when it was nowhere near this warm. I’m one bus ride shy of Rio de Janeiro, the penultimate stop on my mammoth 2015 itinerary. I’ll spend the next 24 hours on a bus getting there, an iconic world destination I’ve longed to visit for as long as I’ve longed to travel. And I’ve even put some Christmas music on my iPod to help pass the journey. Oh yes, it was late coming but I’m in the Christmas mood now alright.
For more pictures & insights from my time in the city, check out my dedicated Porto Alegre posting.
RIO DE JANEIRO
It has been a manic last few days here in Rio de Janeiro, an iconic worldwide destination I’ve wanted to visit for as long as I’ve travelled. I’ve kept busy. I’ve scooted here and there, pointing my camera at this & that. Conclusion – iconic Rio is much better viewed from on high.
There’s no doubt Rio is alluring, boasting as it does one of the most enviable settings of any world metropolis, easily its biggest plus. World-renowned place names like Copacabana and Ipanema & a few iconic landmarks, both natural (Sugarloaf Mountain) & man-made (Christ the Redeemer, the Maracana), add to the aura. Beautiful weather & an equally beautiful people with a lust & verve for life, one that reaches its zenith during Carnival, combine for quite the package. Yes Rio is cool. Rio is beautiful.
Cool & beautiful Rio may be but it’s not the utopia it seems from elevated vantage points. Now is not the time or place to elaborate on the obvious Rio negatives – the dishevelled look to the place, the heat, the noise, the repugnant smell of feces & urine, the homelessness, the need to be alert, be on your guard at all times. Nope, now is not the time. Now is the time to get ready to leave the city. I’ll do so in the morning when I’ll retrace my steps of a few days ago as I head back to Sao Paulo, the biggest & probably the most daunting city on the whole South American continent. I only passed through a few days ago en route to Rio but I’ll spend the night there tomorrow ahead of my flight home the day after. Yep, the end of this epic year of travel is nigh. Which is fine. I’m about ready for home at this stage. More to come from Rio, eventually.
For more pictures & insights from my time in the city, check out my dedicated Rio de Janeiro posting.