Iguazu Wonders and Wildlife

We were at Iguazu for a few days. We stayed in Argentina and just across the river Iguazu were Brazil and Paraguay. It was wet and jungly rainforest which we hadn’t seen for a while after being in the Andes. Each day we were in a different country. We crossed the borders about 10 times in a week!  Here are some of my highlights and favourite pictures and wildlife!

Brazil

You can visit the Falls in Brazil and Argentina. We started in Brazil.  This was pretty much my first view of the falls. It looked amazing but even more amazing when we got on the boat a few days later. We could see the boats down in the river going under the falls!

Me at Iguasu!

Me at Iguazu!

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Iguazu Falls – where Argentina meets Brazil and Paraguay

Iguazu Falls panorama. Showing just a fraction of the Falls which includes 275 indivdual cascades amidst multiple islands.

Iguazu Falls  – just a fraction of the Falls which includes 275 individual cascades amidst multiple islands.

Iguassu (or Iguazu, or Iguacu Falls) is so incredible it deserves its 3 spellings, or more, if you include versions with or without accents. Then there’s Puerto Iguazu in Argentina and Foz do Iguacu just across the border in Brazil, the towns and airports in the midst of the rainforest, stopping off points for the Falls.

About to get under the Iguazu falls!

About to get under the Iguazu falls!

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Nine months, nine countries – South America in photos and stats!

11th April 2013. Nine months today since our family of five touched down in Rio de Janeiro on a BA flight from Heathrow, London to begin our Family Gap Year travelling around the world.

Our journey so far…

We’ve almost done a (kind of squashed) figure of 8 around the continent, flown or boated to islands in the Pacific and Atlantic and are now in Santiago, enjoying our last days before flying to Easter Island (part of Chile) and then on to Tahiti in French Polynesia.

Nine months, Nine countries. Our Family Gap Year journey so far...

Nine months, Nine countries. Our Family Gap Year journey so far…

We’ve been to More

Me Gusto Mucho Papas Fritas! (or ‘Chippies vs Chillies’)

Being four and three quarters and the one child in the family who inherited her Mum’s fussy streak instead of her Dad’s more adventurous, gluttonous one, it was interesting to get her thinking about her favourite foods in our first three months and four countries in South America!

Mo’s cousin Val is a head teacher and the children at her school have been hearing about our adventures in their assemblies. They sent us some questions and Lara’s was about her favourite foods, so we decided to do a Lara interview to try to answer this one!

Mum : So Lara, what’s been your favourite food on our journey so far?

Lara : Fizzy Orange! You can’t get fizzy drinks in England can you?

Mum : of course you can but we don’t have them very often and you’ve had a lot more whilst we’ve been travelling !!

Lara : Yep – I’ve had coke and fizzy orange (that’s my favourite) and Inca Cola in Peru which was bright yellow and Guarana in Brazil.

And I learned how to ask for a straw in Portuguese  – it’s a ‘Canudo’ – and now I have to ask for it in Spanish and its a ‘Popote’

Happiness is drinking through a canudo!

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Amazing Amazon – Diary Days 12-14 In and Out the Jungle

Its our third day in the jungle. Sami has inspected Lara’s foot which is looking a lot better and he says he’ll treat it with jungle medicine. He collects a large seed bobbing in the water which he opens and scrapes the green, wet, highly pungent centre onto her foot. He says this ‘Fava’ (we later discover means ‘bean’) will kill any worm in her foot!!

Jungle Medicine

Sami puts the ‘Fava’ on Lara’s foot

We head off after breakfast and all of us feel just too hot!! The kids moan and no one is too bothered to concentrate on spotting monkey or sloths! More

Amazing Amazon – Days 10-11 Into the Jungle

We checked out of Chez le Rois at 7.30am and were picked up by Joaquim to head out to the port. There is a huge fish market with the biggest fish for sale and we jump straight on a little speed boat to head across the Negro and the Amazon.

Speedboat from Manaus across the Rivers Negro and Amazon

Soon we cross from the Negro River, where Manaus actually sits on the Amazon and see the famed black and brown meeting of waters – much like we saw at Santarem. We dock soon at a small, muddy, busy, riverside town where Joaquim looks for our transport – More

Amazing Amazon – Diary Days 7-9 Manaus

I’m woken very early to find people talking and getting up and taking down hammocks. It’s still dark but I get up and see we are already approaching the city of Manaus.

I go upstairs to our cabin, wake Martin and check the time, it’s nearly 5.30am (Manaus time, GMT-5) The satellite location on my map says we’re 6km from our destination!!

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We carry Lara back up to the cabin to carry on sleeping and take down our hammocks, email the Amazon backpacker Tour folk who are due to meet us – but not till our expected arrival much later in the afternoon – we’re not in a rush to get off the boat!!

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The Amazon Star sails into Manaus – its amazing to suddenly arrive in a city… More

Brasilia and Salvador – City hopping with kids

We’re in the idyllic island gem of Boipeba. Mum and Lara, age 4, are swinging in the hammock… its a far cry from the two cities we’ve just spent the last 5 nights in…

Lara : Mummy I want to do a blog

Mum : Ok, let’s see of you can remember about Brasilia? Tell me about losing your hat?

Lara : I losed it at that church and it was really nice it was the dark pink one that I always took to school on a sunny day

Mum : What was the church like?

Lara : Don’t know

Mum : Remember what the walls were like?

Lara : No?

Mum : They were all made of blue glass

Lara : Oh!

Mum : Don’t you remember? it was huge, square and really beautiful with the giant light with hundreds of crystals in the middle that Daddy paid R$10 to light for 1 minute!!

Ben :Mum  – it was two minutes. They said one minute but we got two, remember?

Santurio Dom Bosco lit for two minutes by the 2.5 tonne chandelier with 435 crystal lightbulbs!

Lara : Oh yes – I really liked it though. It was a lovely hat – why didn’t you tell me to pick it up?

With Billy Deeter our Brasilia tour guide

Mum : Lara,  do you remember going on that tour with Billy who drove us round?  What would you like to tell your friends about it?

Lara : Nothing, can’t remember anything!

Mum : What about the little church that was the first one in the city. Billy told you the first time you go in a church you can make 3 wishes so we all did

Lara : Oh yes!

Mum : And that little church was 50 years old which is really old for Brasilia and we said that’s funny because our house is nearly 100 years old back home… !

Kicking up leaves outside the oldest church in Brasilia – last recorded sighting of Lara’s hat!

Brasilia is a fascinating capital for a short visit, just maybe not for a 4 year old! I’d compare it to Canberra – a purpose built  seat of government but with better architecture. Built up from nothing in the central plateau of Brasil, it was only founded in 1960 by President Kubitschek, having been built in just 41 months – by architects, city planners and landscape designers according to the winning entry of a competition for best design! It’s shaped like a bird or an aeroplane body and is organised into living sectors along the wings and government, banking, hotel and entertainment sectors through the central body.

The winning design

There are no street names as the locals are proud to tell you, instead there are futuristic codes that indicate different sectors, South or North, that takes some getting used to and apparently confounds Sat Nav!

Brasilia Model City

Brasilia is, apparently, the only city in the world built in the 20th century that  has Unesco World Heritage designation, but it was planned since the early 19th century and its location fixed after Italian priest Dom Bosco prophesied that a new civilisation would emerge in Brazil between the 15th and 20th parallels!

There is a huge beautiful lake hugging the nose and the front of the wings! We had a brilliant half day tour with Brasilia tour guide Billy Deeter, who moved from the US as a boy and has seen the city develop from it’s early days. He told interesting stories of the city and showed us the best sights, making it great for the kids as well as us – well…maybe not quite for our 4 year old, who was pretty eager to stop for ice cream and nothing else really mattered to her that afternoon. But Ben and Zoe were fascinated.  Between visits to different parts of the city, the kids had a fab time in the hotel pool.

Had the Manhatten Plaza pool to ourselves, fantastic view of central Brasilia

We stayed in the North Hotel Sector after a complex negociation in the hotel originally booked in the South Hotel Sector decided it was against the rules to let us stay in a 3 bed room and we must be moved to another hotel. Since the girls have become accomplished at sleeping ‘top and tail’ and we are equipped with a couple of sleeping bags and mats, we would have been fine but we ended up in a lovely suite at a 4 star hotel with a significant discount so no complaints about the rules! We had a brilliant view from our balcony along the ‘centre’ of the city.

Brasilia night fall from our hotel balcony
Brasilia night fall from our hotel balcony

The Cathedral, Palace of Justice,  National Congress and various memorials are all carefully positioned and designed in spacious contemporary styles.

Exhibition Centre with Cathedral Metropolitano to the left
inside the beautiful Cathedral Metropolitana

On our second day, we headed to the Banco Centro Do Brasil housing the money museum which we all loved! Great displays showing the origination of money in Brazil and worldwide, with English transation leaflets, a display of currencies from every country in the world and alot of gold bars!

So much Gold!
At the Money Museum, Banco Central do Brasil

Ben : Oh yes! Mum, I really wanted some of that shredded money. Billy said they gave it out in a little bag when he visited…but we did get some coins!

There is a display of shredded notes, each denomination separated in different glass cabinets,so you see all the different colours. It represented   a fortune of money. Again the kids were facinated!  Our day ended with a trip up the tv tower to the viewing platform right in the city centre where we watched the sun set, then headed down to the huge water fountains where the kids raced around and got drenched!

With the Kubitscheks – beside the tomb of President JK
National Congress – the ‘dishes’ are the Senate and House of Representatives
Looking towards the Government Sector from the TV tower

We had read that Brasilia is a bit of a foodie’s delight and quickly checked out the best reviews on Trip Adviser. In the end we stuck  with the simpler dining options in the shiny shopping mall nearby, as an expensive cab rides out to the lake for a la carte dining on the shores seemed over optimistic with 3 kids under 10 after a day in a hot city and all dressed in our hippy traveller attire!

On the way to dinner at the Mall, Brasilia!

Mum ; Ok, so what do you want to talk about for the blog then ?

Lara : Don’t know! Mum where are my Barbies?

A little later….

Mum : who remembers where we went after Brasilia and how we got there?

Zoe : We went to Salvador and we stayed for one day. The first night we looked for a sushi restaurant but it had turned into a different
restaurant so we had pizza there!

Ben : we went to the city – I remember we went in this huge elevator from the old high town to the port and then straight back up! And the town was all cobbled streets and really old – its one of the oldest cities built by the Portuguese. We got a bus to the old city and a taxi back – the man said 20 Real but Dad asked him to use the meter thingy. It came to 18 real and Dad gave him 20 Real with the tip!

I watched the meter going up  the whole time and I thought we would have to pay more – in the end Dad said it was still better because he would have to pay him a tip on top of the 20….!

Mum – Lara do you remember in Salvador ?

Lara – Can I go swimming?

[Salvador is a huge city. We flew in late afternoon – an easy 1 hour flight from Brasilia.  We immediately noticed that we were in a warmer climate, each stop we’ve made since Rio, it gets a bit warmer, we took a £35 taxi through the sprawling city to the smaller city beach resort of Barra, said to be one of the few ‘safe’ districts in Salvador and to a small simple pousada tucked away and securely gated.

We had just two nights before we had arranged to head south to Boipeba so the following day decided we should look at the city. The obvious destination was Pelourinho, the colourful, cultural, centre,  another Unesco declared World Heritage sight. Very different from Brasilia. Lonely Planet describes Salvador and Pelourinho as having an energy and unadorned beauty that few cities can match.  It also lists under ‘Dangers and Annoyances’ the city’s reputation for theft, mugging and pickpocketing, so we were a little paranoid and after leaving everything bar a little cash back at the pousada we set off somewhat nervously to catch a bus to the ‘Pelo’.

From what I’d read, I expected music & dancing on every street corner, huge bustling noisy, colourful crowds. But it was deserted – turned out it’s quieter on Sunday’s but it was also Fathers day!  Police presence still quite high, perhaps more noticeable due to lack of crowds and after a wrong turn that look us into some too quiet streets and rapid u turn, we felt much more comfortable wandering around, but like we missed out on the real experience.

The highlight was looking around the Igreja e Convento Sao Francisco, completed in 1723, simply dripping inside with gold and with a simple convent courtyard with a series of fresco where Martin, Ben, Zoe and I spent a while working out the proverbs and wise sayings  and searching for the distorted faces of cherubs and angels with dubiously large ‘organs’ painted by disgrunted African slaves who were prohibited from practicing their own religions.

This is a city that needs more time or might be easier to get to know without kids. We didn’t give it that much of a chance, although chatting and emailing with new friends with young children who we met in Boipeba who stayed in and around the Pelo before and after their island getaway, its possible to enjoy alot more!

After that R$20 ride back to Barra, we wandered along the unbelievably crowded city beach – I think many of the folk normally in Pelo might have come out for Fathers day! We went into the oldest fort and lighthouse in Brazil containing a small museum of Brazil’s nautical and lighthouse history – Ben fascinated and eager to look at everything and the girls happy to run around and play hide and seek. Another brief paranoid moment for Mum and Dad when they strayed briefly out of sight!]

Mum: The next day we had a long  journey – who remembers that?

Ben – taxi – then ferry – then car –

Leaving Salvador on the ferry to Bom Depacho and on to Valenca and Boipeba

Zoe – Mum! Remember when we saw that cow and you said ‘I think it’s actually buffalo’ and Lara sat up and said  ‘Where’s the Gruffalo?!’

Mum – and the lovely speedboat ride was after that?

Lara – yes, I was standing right at the front!! Mum pleeeeeease can we go swimming now?

Speedboat from Valenca to Boipeba through the Mangroves

Drowned Rats – Boipeba to Morro de Sao Paulo

We expected our gap year to feature some excitement but as so often with these things it can come at unexpected times. Super relaxed after a week on peaceful Boipeba staying at what could easily be the best pousada in Brazil and looking forward to our next stop in Morro de Sao Paulo we boarded our speedboat and waved goodbye.

Waving goodbye to Boipeba

Bye Bye Boipeba

The weather was overcast but this often clears quickly and we were impressed with the speedboat. Bigger than the normal motor launches it looked the business and we were sure Charles was right and it was the most comfortable boat around and at R$200 a bargain as they were picking up more guests in Morro!

On the way down to Boipeba we took the route through the mangroves from Valenca and expected to go this way again as most boats arrive this way. It is lovely and calm but about twice as long as the sea route if you look at the map. As often is the case ‘assume’ makes an ass out of you and me and our skipper headed straight out to sea. More

Lara loves Boipeba

It’s 8.30am. We’re in Boipeba. Mum and Dad are upstairs and there are no children in their bed because there’s a little spiral staircase leading from the kid’s bedroom up to theirs which could be quite dangerous in the dark so it’s out of bounds. All being tucked in under our mossie nets helps! Zoe wakes first and is allowed to come up for a cuddle, then Lara…..

Windy stairs to Mum & Dad’s room!

It’s like we’re snuggled in a big bed in a lovely wooden tree house in the jungle.

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