Thursday, October 31, 2013

Iguacu (e-gwa-soo) Falls photo 
“Poor Niagra”. That is what Eleanor Roosevelt said upon viewing IguacuFalls. Having been to Niagara Falls a few times, Mrs. Roosevelt sure got it right.

Sue came to Sao Paulo on a tourist visa good for only 90 days having been hired late in the process by the school in Sao Paulo.  Same tourist visa for me as her husband.  To get a work visa requires leaving the country and going to a Brazilian consulate office.  The school sends those who need a work visa to the consulate in Argentina, which just happens to be in Puerto Iguazu near Iguacu Falls, which is in both Brazil and Argentina.

From Wikipedia: The name "Iguazu" comes from the Guarani or Tupi words "y" [ɨ], meaning "water", and "ûasú "[waˈsu], meaning "big".[2] Legend has it that a god planned to marry a beautiful woman named Naipí, who fled with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe. In rage, the god sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall.[2] The first European to find the falls was the Spanish conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541.
On November 11 of 2011, Iguazu Falls was announced as one of the seven winners of the New Seven Wonders of Nature by the New Seven Wonders of the World Foundation.

After checking into the Bourbon (no not the drink....think in French) Hotel in Foz du Iguacu, Brazil, we stopped by a tourist travel office located within the hotel and behind the desk was a 7 year old.  Well, maybe she was 20, but she sure looked 7!!  She explained how it would only cost us a small ransom to hire a driver to take us to the falls.  Other options?  Sure.  We could take the local bus.  Sounds like a local adventure to us.

The front desk clerk told us to take the “green” bus which would stop across the street at the taxi stand and cost about $1.50  U.S.  After watching a blue, then brown, then red, then multi colored bus stop and go, our green guy showed up.

Quite a different bus fare set up than we have experienced in any other country.  There is a driver and also a toll collector who sits about one-third of the way towards the back of the bus.  The front third has some seats, which looks to be for (ahem) seniors and the disabled but probably also serves for overflow.  Metal bars and a turn stile separate this front section from the rest of the bus.  If you have a prepaid toll card, simply swipe it and the turnstile allows passage to the rear.   Otherwise, pay the piper who has an ancient wooden box as the currency holder and the drawbridge will be lowered for you to the back section of the bus. 

We had no idea what to expect entering the park on the Brazilian side.  There was a woman selling inexpensive (a polite word for “cheap”) plastic ponhos, which we were told to buy regardless of the price.  We would need them.

The first views are simply jaw dropping, gawking, gazing at this water theater multiplex.  On the Brazilian side of the falls the views are panoramic with sweeping vistas of the falls along the opposite side of the river.  And multiplex?   It is like walking into a 20 theater movie house.  Along the river is a waterfall next to a waterfall next to a waterfall down river from a waterfall. photo

The Argentinian view later.

A path follows the river giving varied views as the falls thunder from afar.   At this point our only complaint was the weather:  The day was shrouded in gray with threats of rain and a sprinkle now and then eliminating those vibrant sunlit photos.

At one spot along the path was a zip line that wasn’t operational.  Yah, I would have done that.

Towards the end of the path there is a man made walkway that extends out into the river and near the top of one of the falls.  The mist is drenching and the wind howls, but it’s one of those “..if I leave here without doing this…..”  it will be regretted.   My thought while walking out to the end of the pier/walkway was: “How in the heck did they create the pilings and supports with such raging water all about?”  I’ve yet to find out.

This photo shows the walkway where you can stand at the end overlooking the falls.  Vertigo anyone?  On the day we were there the wind was blowing fiercely enshrouding the entire walkway in mist. photo

Compare the photo above with what the walkway looked like during our visit.  We did the drenched rat routine to the end.
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Continuing along the path, it ends at an elevator up to a viewpoint overlooking the falls and right next to one of the waterfalls. 
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The walk took a good 4 hours and at the end I was thinking: “Why do this again in Argentina?  More of the same?”  Little did I know.

There wasn’t enough time left in the day to get to the Argentina falls, which we were told would take 6 hours to tour,  but there was a “bird park” one of the teachers said would be worth our while.

The Iguacu Falls Bird Park (Parque das aves) was an unexpected pleasure.  Large well kept “pens” housed numerous birds which have been rescued.  Numerous other bids such as flamingoes, emu were in open outdoor pens.  The Parque das aves was hatched in 1994, by a German couple, Dennis and Anna Croukamp, who found in the Iguazu area a perfect place to realize a dream: to build a theme park dedicated to the conservation of animals.  He rescued damaged raptors and over the years has saved hundreds of birds.  This was a small tropical paradise and well worth the time to wander and relax.  In a word: Peaceful.

Sunday was to the Argentina falls and again by bus.  Right.  A different color than green.

Once inside the Argentina park to get to the  falls requires a train ride to walk the lower trails.  Then back to a station to take another train to the upper falls.

What an incredible surprise.  About 80% of the falls exist on the Argentina side and this is what gives the panorama to the Brazilian viewpoints.  What we didn’t expect is that the walkways go right up to and in many places reach over the falls giving you a vertigo experience of looking  down on the rushing, thundering, powerful water flowing underneath.

This shows howcloseyouare to the falls. photo

The day before a driver hired by the school took us to the consulate to get the work visa.  Sue asked: “Which side is better?”  The driver vigorously shook his head and said: “Not better…..different.”  How right he was.

Again a gray day but this one had something else for us.  There is about a half-mile walk along a man made boardwalk extending across a river to Devil’s Throat falls.  We were about three-fourths of the way there when the heavens opened up putting us under our own water fall.  Buckets.  No way were we to be denied so we sloshed to the end of the walkway where you are in the middle of Devil’s Throat falls watching the water cascade in torrents and ear splitting sounds to shake your core. 

Drowning in unforgettable visions and memories, we took the two train ride back to the park entrance where by then the cold rain ended and we began a hot cup of cappuccino.

Would do this adventure again in a heart beat.  Hmmm…does Sue have a 3 day weekend without plans on the calendar?

Click here for lots of falls pics--> Iguacu Falls Pics On Da Web 

CLICK on any photo to open the whole magilla slide show of me photos in a separate window

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sao Paulo "Street Art"

Sao Paulo has graffiti everywhere and is known for "street art". There is a famous street I've yet to get to. Some shots of street art graffiti from my Domingo "Ciclofaxia" bike ride.

Almost all the shops have those pull down corrugated "garage doors" for security. Often they are painted to reflect what's sold. To wit:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Iguacu Falls: Postponed

I know. I know: There's supposed to be a post every Wednesday except when it will be a post on Thursday or Friday or...... Postponed: In the middle of a move from Morumbi area to the Moema area which is more of a walking around neighborhood and is close to Ibirpuera park where I'll be able to cycle. Tis a beautiful thing... Iguacu Falls pics and our's coming. Honest

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sao Paulo Cycling: There Is Hope

Where I currently reside in Sao Paulo there is virtually no place to cycle: The hills could be cycled but the road is too dangerous what with speeding cars and no shoulder. Thus, I choose not to venture into the road for anything. What I do is cycle on the sidewalk which means dismounting at just about every intersection because of the high curbs.

The neighborhood is also not great for "walking about". Besides the possibility of crime in the evening there just are very few cafes, restaurants or places of interest.

The solution: A move to Moema, which is an area in what would be called the downtown area. Sao Paulo is so spread out like Los Angeles that there really isn't a downtown like New York, London, San Fracisco, etc.

We found a place last week and are due to move Oct.24th.

Cycling will become almost a part of my daily routine.

There is Iberapuera Park which is only 4 blocks from the new "flat" and has a 2+ mile bicycle trail around the park.

There is the "Ciclista" river trail which is about 3 miles cross town and is a good 15km to 20km end to end. So I have to smell the stinky river. I can do that now and then.

So after 2 months of cycling a decent ride only on Sunday's when I could take my bike on the subway to the river trail, there is hope at the end of the tunnel...or at least a few blocks away.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Paraty: A Getaway Weekend

Paraty (pronounced Par-ah-chee) was the destination.

A bit of bonding for all the new teachers of Graded, The American School where Susan works was the objective.  The school hired a bus with all the other costs such as “posada” stay, food, etc. was the teachers. 

Logistics were to leave right after school on Friday and return Sunday afternoon.  Let’s get the “getting there” out of the way and back again.  Simply a very lonnnnnnng bus ride of 8 hours over the winding roads from Sao Paulo to Paraty.  There are no highways per se twixt here and there. 

We arrived at around 11 p.m at the Paraty bus station in the middle of the night.  Right, you could have figured that 11 p.m. was the middle of the night. I know.

A nice hike to our posadas ensued and that meant carrying our roller luggage most of the way. On the streets of old town small wheels on luggage were useless unless they came with shock absorbers installed.    The streets you see were constructed obviously by drunk Brazilians who dragged boulders from the surrounding area and plopped them haphazardly in the road.  There must have been a contest for the worker who could get  most of the rock to protrude above ground.  

Levels must not have been invented yet. 

 Our posada or pousada was the “Estalagem Colonial” built in the mid 1800’s and maintained as if it was the mid 1800’s.  Posada?  Glad you asked.  Per my good and personal friend, Merriam Dict: A government operated or approved inn offering moderately priced rooms to tourists, especially in a historic area.

Our bedroom at Estalagem Colonial.  

Photos courtesy of The agenda was simple and you could or couldn’t whichever you wanted to do:
  • Saturday morning: Boat ride or on your own.
  • Saturday evening: On your own.
  • Sunday morning: On your own.
  • Sunday @ 2 p.m.: Bus ride back to Sao Paulo.
On your own was the most popular activity. 

Saturday morning dawned and yes again I know most days dawn, but I usurp editorial privilege here.   Downstairs in the Inn was a basic continental breakfast with eggs made to order with enough fruit and breads to satisfy.

We wandered through old town to the dock where the charter boats were lined up and the street was lined with the usual cast of vendors: Coco milk, hats and souvenirs, assorted pot porri.

The rest of the morning was spent sailing out to a beach, anchoring and anyone who wanted could dive overboard, grab a noodle or not, swim to the beach and try to spot a sea turtle in the cloudy water from recent rainfalls.  The tourist photos will show sparkling clear blue water which it can be…but wasn’t Click on any photo to open a slideshow of that and all photos in a separate window.
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On the way back there was a stop at a small restaurant where the only downer, if it could be called that, happened.   Another way of looking at is to say: “I experienced the very laid back and slow culture of island cuisine.”  Translation:  The restaurant was  was under staffed to handle a group our size plus other groups who docked at the restaurant.

We learned there was a surprising way that the decision was made to serve food.  There were four terraces going up the side of the hill with tables on each terrace.  At the lower level were tables 1 and 2, then 3 and 4 on the next terrace etc.  Our group sat on the top two terraces.

We watched a couple of smaller groups arrive after us and sit on the lower terrace.  With the size of our group we figured it would take awhile for food,. But then we saw the new group being served before us even though they arrived after us.

One of our teachers who spoke Portugese tried to help with serving and went to the kitchen because it was taking  forever for food to arrive and we wondered why those who arrived later were already chowing away.

The teacher came back shaking her head.  “You won’t believe this.” Says she.  The kitchen was filling orders by the number of the table, not when the order was placed. 

Half our group got fed and shared their food with the other group which was still waitng close to over an hour after arriving.  Hey, it was a cultural experience.

That night Susan and I had dinner at an Italian restaurant fairly open to the street which afforded teachers walking by the open door to c’mon in and set and chat awhile.

Sunday morning for most of us was continuing to explore old town and enjoy the traffic free streets, historical buildings, and delightful atmosphere which was in stark comparison to Sao Paulo.

For some history and more background:

Sure was easy to see why this place is a tourist destination.  Some images why.

Click on any image to open the whole magilla of Paraty photos in another window slideshow.

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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Paraty Brazil: View From A Window

The “Graded School” where Susan works in Morumbi, Sao Paulo, sponsored a getaway weekend for all the new hires to do a bit of bonding. The school provided the bus for the winding 8 hour bus ride. Then we were on our own. The locale: Paraty, Brazil.

Our “posada” was built in the late 1800’s and is situated in the “old town” area of Paraty. Walking into our room was like walking back in time to the 1800’s: The furniture was old, very old, the floor was warped and wavy, and the windows….well the windows weren’t. They were openings with big wooden shutters that opened in and the opening led onto a very small balcony, not unlike the balconies on Bourbon Street in Nawlins.

Standing on the balcony on the day we were to leave I kept looking at different views from that window and enjoying how much there was to see from that window. I felt like a traveler who just stepped off the stage coach.

So I thought: “What can I see in a few minutes?” The photos below show those views. More about Paraty next Wednesday. Click on a thumbnail to open the image in large view and a slide show in another tab or (ahem) window of its own.

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