Iguazu Falls and first days in Brasil

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Our detour through Brasil enabled is to see the Iguazu Falls, one of the most visited sights not only in Argentina but also in South America and it certainly lived up to its reputation. Located on the border between Brasil and Argentina in the Misiones region in the north east, it is a worthy candidate for the 7 natural wonders of the world and was the perfect stopping point en route to Brasil. Despite the downpour of the day and the pending stormy weather, the views were spectacular. At one point, we were surrounded by 260 degrees of waterfalls.    

Some wiki facts on the falls ..

# Consists of 275 falls over an area of 2.7 km
# Highest part of the falls reaches 82 m into the air
# Greatest average annual flow of water in the world. In terms of surface   water flowing over the falls, Iguazu Falls is more than twice as large as Niagara Falls.


Some wildlife from the falls area…

A Toucan

We based ourselves at Puerto Iguazu during our visit to the falls and found a gem of a campsite set in a jungle of wildlife with owls, toucans and frogs in the garden. It was also full of colourful characters including Peter, a czech cyclist who started out in New York and had taken his own customised route to Argentina. He had clocked up 32,000 kms on his bike. He liked to take the ‘off the beaten track’ route and so Ushuaia was not his final destination. Brasil was to be his final country. He had more energy than 10 bottles of red bull!

There was a storm brewing as we cooked that evening at the hostel which accentuated the already electric atmosphere of the place. At one stage I looked around the table and the scene was as follows .. a Brasilian guy busy making brigadeiros (a Brasilian dessert – recipe below), a group of Argentineans singing and playing the drums, Peter the czech guy bopping his head to the beat with a beer in hand, another Argentinean making lamps out of wire and two Irish cyclists looking on bemused. The winds were wild and we all huddled together in the kitchen in the dark as the electricity blew. We eventually reluctantly crawled back into our windswept tents that night and slept to the wind howling outside and the rain beating against our delicate tent. It was an evening we will remember.


The Brigadeiro recipe for those with a sweet tooth!
1 can sweetened condensed milk, 1 Tbsp of butter or margarine, 3  Tbsp of Cocoa.

In a heavy saucepan mix chocolate with condensed milk and add the butter. Cook in low heat stirring constantly until you can see the bottom of the pan. Continue to stir for another two minutes. Pour onto a plate and let cool completely before you form the little balls. Butter your hands slightly to form the little balls. Roll the balls in chocolate powder, nuts or coco and put them in small paper cups.

The morning after the storm ..

Crossing the border .. country number 13 .. 2 countries left (Uruguay and Chile)!

The road to Porto Alegre ..

The next day we set off on our journey across the Brasilian border and down through southern Brasil, our destination Porto Alegre where my Argentinean friend Carolina (who I had met in London) and her Brasilian boyfriend Tiago lived. We arrived on election day so all was quiet.

We pedaled hard for the next 7 days and clocked up the necessary kms. We had cycled 2,000km in 3 weeks since Salta so we were ready for a break when we reached Porto Alegre. Brasil was not what I had expected. It is such a huge and diversified country and is almost its own continent! Cycling through the southern part of Brazil was for me akin to cycling through a mini Bavaria in Germany with place names such as ‘Nuovo Hamborgo’ and ‘Westfalen’, shop names of Germanic origin ‘Stahlhoff’ and ‘Schumann’ and we even passed signs for a ‘Blumenfest’ and apparently there is also a Oktoberfest in the neighbouring state of Santa Catarina which is second only to Munich in size. It felt like a mini German colony. It was really only when we arrived in Porto Alegre that I felt I was in Brasil.

The regions of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sol have a fascinating history. Since the early 20th century about a quarter of a million Germans emigrated to Brasil, the majority of them between World War I and II and today they represent the fourth largest immigrant community after the Portuguese, Italians and Spaniards.  This area is among the wealthiest in Brasil, with the highest levels of employment and literacy in the country.

Germanic influences were evident ..

Due to the even more inflated costs in Brasil compared to Argentina (almost double the price in some instances), we continued to camp most nights and cook our own food. We predominantly camped at petrol stations which were well stocked with what we needed in terms of facilities, hot showers, toilets, a night watch man, shop, a suitable place to camp on grass, table and chairs and some were even equipped with a stone oven! So we were hanging out the the truckers!

Soon after crossing the border from Argentina, we realised that we were no longer just two bike touring cyclists .. we had become something of a phenomenon in Brasil and people were quite incredulous of what we had done and what we were planning to do. To us it is just normal and has become part of our everyday routine so we sometimes forget the bigger picture of our trip. Everyone wanted to know our story .. people at petrol stations, in shops, on the road. We felt like celebrities .. at that stage we did not know what was still to come!! We stopped at a shop on one of our first days and the owner could not give us enough free food. We managed to converse in our pigeon Portuguese which sounds like a dialect of Spanish.

The shopowner ..

Roadside vistas ..

 The day before we arrived in Porto Alegre we were stopped on the side of the road by a local newspaper who asked if she could interview us so we obliged and they got their interview .. a mixture of Spangese! Brasilian TV also got wind of our story … but that is for the next blog! 🙂

Stardom awaits ..

Finally .. Porto Alegre where we were welcomed by Carolina and Tiago with a BBQ, Brasilian style! It was lovely to see Caro and Tiago again!

 

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