05.01.2010 - 05.01.2010 36 °C
written earlier today.....
Brazil – our final thoughts
Yesterday was a lazy day around the pool. But after three hours of MORNING(if 1130 to 1440 is morning) sun we were fried. The heat is very intense and we spent the afternoon in our room packing, relaxing and catching up on email (since we had solid wifi). We have an hour delay at the Iguazu – Argentina airport, so we thought we would take the time to share our final thoughts on Brazil.
As you read earlier our passport hassle had tainted our initial views on this country. However, after spending two weeks touring we are overall very impressed with Brazil. The people genuinely try to assist where possible and our travel phrase book and iphone Portuguese application worked wonders. They are always working a scam for fun and business – but a little laugh and hey hey, and they know you see through them. Similar to the middle east, they give a gift at the end of a deal or a good firm handshake depending on how much you paid for an item. Murph/Darcy ,the best we were able to do was get a key chain from one vendor, so we think we may have paid a good price for our souvenirs (ha ha).
One habit we noticed was they do not give right-away for anything, whether it’s driving or lineups or when walking on the sidewalk. This was evident on our flight from Rio to Iguazu. Darwin and I sat in row 2 for the flight and when the plane had stopped, everyone was out of their seat trying to get to the front of the plane. It was amazing. I had to literally stop a woman with my back pack so I could get out. Unreal. At a train queue at Iguazu thyey jump the queue and Darwin stopped this lady -Yet, they walk so slow along the streets and do not make way for folks trying to pass them. This we obviously found unusual.
You could not really tell who was from Brazil as all nationalities and colours were evident. The Afro-Brazilians (Darwin is cringing at the political correctness of this as the sun tan lotion companies have stations on the beach that show the temp and uv index digital and match a sun block level with whether you are negroe / malato, blanco or caucasiun) are very attractive.
The country is beautiful (muito bonito), has excellent roads and good vehicles. The traffic lights are on the wrong side of the intersection (the near side) and you cannot see it turn green. However the crosswalks were located about 20 metres back from the cross street and this is a good thing because they take the corners at a high a speed as possible. This fits with their entire idea that Brazilian driving should qualify them for the grand prix. Even on the freeways police are in look out towers just like a judge for the final flag of the Indy 500. And further, on Avenida Atlantica, the gas stations are set up on the centre median like pit stops complete with the gas attendants uniform.
The density of the cities are not unlike areas of the world that have been long settleds such as Europe and Africa where the temperature is moderate and they don’t have to spend too much time inside. So therefore many of the places are 600-800 ft2 with two rooms a bath and kitchen. The Favellas (slums/ghetto/shanty) it looks like the 400 ft2 range with two rooms and party walls, roofs and floors as the chaotic method of building dictates. In any event the density is way more than we are used to and is likely why their system is more sustainable.
Washrooms (baneiros) for the most part were very clean and you did not have to pay to use public washrooms. However, other than your hotel/pousado rooms, I had to put my toilet paper in the garbage can, and not down the toilet bowl. We think this is an old custom. Darwin could not figure out why you HAD to do this.
There is a huge difference in poverty here compared to home. One of the Norweigan women we talked to on New Year’s Eve had lived in a favella for 6 months, teaching English. She was telling us that most people who live in these areas never leave their own favella. One day she took 10 kids on the bus into downtown Rio and Copacabana Beach and they had never been outside their favella. That is very sad. These favellas all operate differently and have a sheriff (drug lord) for each one. The security and severity of these favellas is dependent on each of these sheriffs. The police don’t even enter these and rarely do municipal bylaw officers check to ensure building codes. Thus, they continue to grow up the hills and are susceptible to landslides as we just saw on the news this past week.
Our top 5 list for Brazil
- 5- Iguazu Falls
- 4- New Year’s Eve
- 3- Paraty
- 2- Christmas Eve Dinner on Beach
- 1- Itaipu Dam
- 5 – Gem hunting
- 4 –Paraty
- 3-Ilha Grande snorkelling/Xmas eve on beach
- 2-Iguazu Falls
- 1- New Year’s Eve fireworks
Without question, the guides do make a big difference to get around the country. We highly recommend the phrase book handy at all times and the iphone made a HUGE difference. We felt four days was enough in Rio. Because we did the major tour attractions with Kim/Kev earlier, we could have left a day early. But due to New Year’s Eve, hotel bookings were a minimum of four days. We did not put Christ the Redeemer on our top 5 list because we were a bit disappointed that you cannot get the famous shot we all see from our tours. That photos is taken from a helicopter or the communications hill located further away from the Christ statue and not available to public. We like to take these famous photos on our own, so won’t have this in our collection. But, we did have a clear day for these visits. Had Darwin and I done the tours on our own when we returned, we would have been socked in by clouds due to the rains that occurred when we were there.
We did not see enough of the jungles of Brazil to catch their wildlife, but we also missed the snakes and mosquitos which is ok with us. We thought the jungle tours would have been similar to Costa Rica. Yes the Amazon would have been neat to do, but it is a long way from where we were.
We think our itinerary worked quite well. Ilha Grande is very much a hippy style area. Very laid back and beautiful scenery. From there you travel to Paraty where your accommodations are much better, so you think you have travelled to a five star area. Yet, they have done a remarkable job of maintaining the 16th century colonial town, while providing modern essentials.
We could have travelled directly from Paraty to Iguazu if we did not have New Year’s Eve. But we are sure the flight from Paraty (yep they have an airport) would have connected through Rio anyhow. The drive from Paraty to Rio is 4 hours but it is beautiful scenery and well worth doing.
We liked the fact that we saw the full panoramic view of Iguazu first and then went to Argentina to see the falls close up. One thing we could have changed was to move to the Argentina side after our hike. It is an hour drive back to our hotel in Brazil (plus border crossing time) and we could have used a swim after the hot hike. The Sheraton Hotel is at the Argentina Falls so only 10 minutes away. So we would suggest to Kim that you spend 1 night in Brazil and then 2 nights in Argentina (unless you have to see the Itaipu dam on a separate day. We were lucky we saw the dam the same day we arrived).
That’s about it. The security gate has now opened for our flight, so need to go.
Tchau Tchau (bye bye) Brazil......
Hola (Hello) Argentina....