journey

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!

IMG_20141221_145656

 

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.

IMG_20141221_145645 IMG_20141221_145637 IMG_20141221_095515

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.

IMG_20141221_114547 IMG_20141221_121644

IMG_20141221_122625DSCN2351

 

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!

IMG_20141221_133722

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 🙂

DSCN2353

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.

 

EN ROUTE TO IGUAZU – IGUAZU FALLS

Our last full day of the trip. We woke up early and after a quick dip in the hostel pool and some breakfast, we set off to see the Argentine side of the Iguazu falls. After a short bus ride we had arrived at the entrance and after seeing the Brazilian side the day before we were a little underwhelmed with the set up as it all seem a bit dated and in need of repair. It seemed a little sleepy too but then we realised that we had come quite early as we wanted time to explore everything.DSCN0700DSCN0692DSCN0703

There are two main walking trails to see the falls. One focuses on the panoramic views and being close to the falls and the other walks along the top of the falls. We obviously did both and had a great time walking the trails and wildlife spotting, we even saw a crocodile resting in the water!

DSCN0721 DSCN0738DSCN0754DSCN0737 DSCN0760

We were a little unlucky though as the Devil’s Throat viewing point was closed and it is apparently the best part of the falls, however we still had a great day.DSCN0764DSCN0793

There are lots of extra paid tours that you can do and after hearing reports from people at the hostel that the boat tour was fantastic, I was really eager to have a go and whe she saw how close they went to the falls, Josephina happily agreed to go too. We saw people walking up from the dock looking absolutely soaked so when it started to rain, we knew that we were going to get wet whatever we chose to do.DSCN0812

So we donned our life jackets and we were off on the boat which took us literally RIGHT under the falls. The force was so strong I thought one of my contact lenses had fallen out even though I had my eyes clenched shut! The boat trip might have been a little bit expensive, it was more or less the same price as the entrance to the park, but it was 100% worth it! We were completely drenched afterwards but it was still raining so it didn’t really matter. We were lucky to have had a bright day the previous day on the Brazilian side.DSCN0805

There was one last trail on the map, a 3,5km walk through the rainforest to an isolated waterfall. Although we were tired it was the best part of the day, apart from the mosquitos. We met some Dutch travellers who were turning around as they didn’t have any insect repellent but after sharing some of ours (Josephinas really) we all set off together. As we were all speaking quite loudly I think we scared off all the wildlife so we didn’t get to see many animals, until later!

We made our way down the trail through the rainforest passing only a handful of others which was lovely after the hustle and bustle of all the other tourists of the main trails. We finally made it to the waterfall after passing a whole groups of locals who told us we had to go for a swim so swim we did. We even managed to clamber up onto the rocks and get a massage from the water!DSCN0817DSCN0818

It was such a fantastic way to spend the afternoon and when we had finished we went to the lookout at the top of the waterfall to admire the view. We were looking out across the forest, the river and Brazil in the not so far distance when we finally saw the wildlife that we have been longing to see! Monkeys! They were quite far away but we could see them swinging from tree to tree and it was so peaceful and removed from civilisation. Just a perfect moment observing the monkeys undisturbed.DSCN0821

On the trail back which I walked barefoot I even got to see a tiny little rainforest frog and a colourful wild parrot! The only thing that wasn’t perfect was the long journey back to Goya. We went via Corrientes and after travelling for more than 15 hours after such a jam-packed trip I couldn’t wait for bed!DSCN0781

ARRIVING IN GOYA

Day three in Buenos Aires was literally a complete washout. It was absolutely pouring but we persevered hoping to see more of the city before leaving that evening but we got completely soaked and were frozen to the bone. Having to give up our mission, we decided to have a drink to warm ourselves up. I ordered a hot chocolate but was quickly told a “submarino” would be better. Submarino translates literally to submarine so I didn’t know what to expect. Luckily it was delicious as it’s actually a glass of hot milk accompanied by a stick of chocolate which you melt into the milk.

So after quickly heading back to the hostel and picking up my stuff, we head to their apartment where we dry off and relax for the rest of the day. Come the evening, we head off to the bus station, “retiro”, where we boarded an overnight bus to Goya in the province of Corrientes where I’ll be based for the next few months. This wasn’t any kind of bus though, it was like a little slice of luxury. 10 minutes after we left the retiro, a server came round and gave everyone trays that you could attach to your seat and then proceeded to give everyone a meal and some drinks. Then 15 minutes after that, he came round to collect our trays and a film starts. I decided to make the most of the comfy, fully reclining seat and forgo the film to get some rest after two uncomfortable night’s sleep in the hostel so was out like a shot.

Around 10 hours later, we arrived in Goya, 6:30 in the morning with eyes full of sleep, I followed blindly to my soon-to-be boss’ house where I was shown to a little guest house with my own room. After a bit of catching-up and family introductions, the image of the bed in the guest house was too tempting and I had to go for a little nap.

It seems like I was doing a lot of sleeping but think I was just recovering from lack of sleep and the time difference so feel that it was completely justified. Luckily this nap seemed to do the trick and after lunch I was up and ready to start working. I was introduced to Josephina, an intern from Germany, and we hit it off straight away. The only problem we had was deciding which language to speak; we settled on English for work and Spanish for everything else but haven’t really been that good at keeping to this

After a few hours work, she announced she was off to a dance class and asked if I wanted to come along. Of course I said yes and before I knew it I was being taught how the basic steps of Argentinian traditional dancing. A great start to my time in Goya!

Remember it’s pronounced more like “goyja”!