adventure

Two Weeks in Brazil: Curitiba

This might seem a bit late as it is already February but I finally wanted to write about what I did for the Christmas holidays. I had two weeks where basically everything would be closed and flights home were too expensive so I decided to look at some alternatives. In reality, I kind of already knew where I wanted to go and where I had my heart set on; Rio de Janeiro!

It has always been my absolute dream to go to Brazil and when I went for the day to Foz de Iguazu and the Parque dos Aves I was just itching to explore more so I knew what I had to do! Looking at a map I knew that Rio would be my final destination and thought I would make my way up the coast to get there. Getting there would be a little trickier as it’s actually quite far but I was determined. Looking at the map again I decided on a big city that would get me further into Brazil using the handy night buses.

So my first destination ended up being Curitiba which I had never heard of before.It’s quite liberating just looking at a map and figuring out how you will get places but alas all I knew at this stage was that Curitiba would be my stepping stone. So I went to the bus station in my little town and booked my first overnight bus to Posadas in the province of Misiones, which I think was about 7-8 hours, and packed my bag with all the warm clothes I would need for the many buses I would be on (the buses are over air-conditioned and absolutely freezing). A few days later I was off on my Brazilian Christmas adventure!

My first first to Posadas was uneventful, as was my 5 hour wait in the bus station. I had tried to see my couchsurfing friend from my last visit here but he was working so I kept busy reading my book very slowly. I’m normally quite a fast reader but I wanted to prolong the joy as it was my only book bar my travel guide which wasn’t that helpful. I then boarded a bus to Puerto Iguazu, got on another three buses to get through Brazilian immigration and I arrived in Foz de Iguassu. Great, I made it to the country and was extremely happy with myself before I inquired about yet another bus to the long-distance bus station and forgot about the time difference! The bus would be an hour but the helpful man at the station directed me towards other tourists who were heading in the same direction so I ran after them, we shared a taxi and we headed to the station.

I had looked up all connecting bus times with a little leeway if I went off schedule but hadn’t actually booked anything but luckily there seemed to be a bus to Curitiba every half hour or so! My next problem was paying for my ticket as I quickly realised none of the cash machines in the bus station would accept my card so in a bit of a panic I hoped it would be accepted at the ticket desk. I had enough for the taxi earlier and a drink from money left over from my previous day-trip to Brazil but definitely not enough to get to Curitiba. On the first try it didn’t work and I thought my Brazilian adventure would be over before it had even started but I asked them to try it again but mark it as credit card instead (it’s a debit card) and miraculously it worked so I was back on track. Literally 5 minutes later I was on a bus pulling out of the station and on my way to my first destination: Curitiba!

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As adventures aren’t about meticulous planning as you can tell from the above, I hadn’t booked any accommodation; I had merely written down the name, address and directions off three hostels in Curitiba hoping that there would be room in at least one of them. It turned out great in the end and I stayed at the best hostel I have EVER stayed in. Called the Curitiba Casa Hostel, it was absolutely spotless with the nicest owners ever. I wanted to stay longer as it was so clean, comfortable and welcoming. From the bus station it was only a few stops away on the tram. I arrived so early in the morning that breakfast had just been served and having a peek at it, it looked absolutely delicious and that’s coming from someone who’s definitely not a breakfast person.

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What I love about hostels is meeting random people so sat down to breakfast I met loads of different people and arranged to go to a Sunday market with two guys, one from Germany and the other from Sweden. As it was my first proper foray into Brazil, I was very aware of all the horror stories I had been told so I don’t have too many photos from that day. We hopped on a bus into the centre and headed in the direction of the market. Apparently it’s held every Sunday in the old town area.

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It was really lovely and being with two guys who had lots of experience of Brazilian culture, food and the language was a great advantage as they explained the names of fruits. Armed with a freshly pineapple juice and tasting my first cheese-on-a-stick-that-you-get-at-the-beach which is actually called queijo de coalho, we wandered about taking in the sights, sounds and the smells of all the stalls until the heavens opened!

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Before taking this trip there was one bit of research that I did do and that was the weather! It was forecast to rain A LOT! So my first day in Curitiba and I wasn’t disappointed. We found shelter in a massive German bar and waited until the rain stopped. After that we headed back to the hostel and because it had dried up a bit I decided to head out again to see the botanical gardens! More about those in my next post 🙂

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After dinner with a few of the other people from the hostel I climbed into the clean crisp white sheets and made a rough plan of my next few destinations to be able to get to Rio de Janeiro in time for New Year’s Eve. The next day it poured the whole day and I worried that my whole time in Brazil would be like this but it gave me plenty of time to finish up a bit of work that I had to do. In the evening, I hopped on a bus to my next destination, São Paolo.

 

BUENOS AIRES AT A GLANCE

Arriving in Buenos Aires after travelling for over 27 hours, I was just happy to be breathing fresh air. I started my mammoth journey in Dublin, as it was considerably cheaper, so after a few days spent with my sister and visiting family, I was off.

On the first flight, I was sat with a lovely American lady and with no in-flight entertainment we proceeded to idle away the time completing her crossword. We were then interrupted by the pilot telling us to look out the window and we could see a spectacularly clear aerial view of Greenland.

Landing in Philadephia International Airport with free wifi and a whole host of shops and food options was a great excuse to stretch my legs. Then there was a short haul flight to Miami International with no free wifi but free mobile charging stations. Finally my last flight for 8 hours straight to Buenos Aires and luckily this one had individual in-flight entertainment although I was too tired to make much use of it.

Armed with my conversational Spanish and guide books, I managed to buy a ticket for the shuttle bus to the city but was met with something I thought I had left behind, the rain. 40 minutes later I got off in a small bus/taxi terminal in the city centre and was then informed I had bought a ticket that would transfer me straight to my hostel. Fantastic news as I was exhausted by this point.

I arrived at my hostel around 2pm and the people were really lovely, giving me lots of information and making me feel welcome but don’t think I would stay there again. It was a little bit too grotty and dirty but fine for the two nights I had already booked and paid for.

So with the rest of the day ahead of me I went off to discover my first bit of Argentina. Buenos Aires is a strange city in that it doesn’t really feel like you are in South America. Its European influence is everywhere and you could almost be in an Italian city although on a much larger scale. The city is simply enormous. The colonial architecture is breath-taking and as I wandered down one of the main streets in the Palermo neighbourhood, Scalabrini Ortiz, I took in the sights and sounds. The streets are so big that I think I counted almost 10 lanes of traffic and as most of the streets are one way, they were all going in the same direction. Drivers are a little lax about traffic rules here and it was a bit daunting crossing these massive streets.

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Upon recommendation from one of the hostel staff, I made my way towards the Japanese gardens and for 32 AR$ I strolled around enjoying the relaxing atmosphere. I took time to read my book and take some photos. It was a great way to unwind after all the travelling, it also helped that the rain has stopped and the sun was out in full force.

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I initially thought that I would make it to the centre of town by foot but by this point my feet were killing me and I realised I had been walking for over 5 hours so I started to make my way back. I then stumbled across an area called Recoleta and had a hot chocolate whilst observing locals hailing taxis. Then I made my own attempt and successfully told the driver the hostel’s address.

Making my way around in Spanish has been an adventure as I still have the basics from school but Argentinian Spanish has some significant differences. The main being that “tu” is replaced with “vos”. Also the pronunciation of words with “ll” or “y” are replaced with a “ch” sound. So the word for street is “calle” and the Spanish pronunciation would be “ca-ye” whereas Argentinians would say “ca-che”. The same goes for the word I which become “ch-o” as opposed to “yo”. Pretty complicated at the start but think I’ve got it now.

So there you have it, my first day in Argentina and my initial thoughts on the city of Buenos Aires.