Travelling

CURITIBA : BOTANICAL GARDENS

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The Jardim Botânico de Curitiba was just a quick 5 minute walk away from my hostel so after the rain had stopped and the sky had cleared, I took the time to have a wander around. I can say for certain that it was definitely worth it.

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The glass structure stands strong in the gardens, an eye-catching focal point with a great view over the city and the flowers.

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I was told of many things to do in Curitiba but with the weather against me, I was glad I at least got to see the botanical gardens. I’ll let the photos do most of the talking for me.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek into Curitiba and I’m looking forward to get writing again to share all the other amazing things, people and places I’ve had the opportunity to experience on this trip!

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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.

 

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!

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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

EN ROUTE TO IGUAZU – CATARATAS DO IGUASSU

Puerto Iguazu! We arrived at our destination after enjoying a lovely view of the stars from the top of the double decker bus and armed with a few addresses and a guidebook we set off to find a hostel. Luck wasn’t on our side in the beginning but we eventually found somewhere after the fifth hostel! After dipping our toes in the water of the pool we thought we would have an early night but we got invited over to a table with a whole mix of different people. It was really nice meeting lots of people and finding our their reasons for travelling, just gives me even more of the travel bug.

The next day bright and early we set off to the bus station to catch a bus to the Brazilian side of the falls and how lucky we were with the weather, it was a bright clear day, perfect for all the following pictures! One thing not to worry too much about is passing through Brazilian immigration, the bus driver will come and collect your passports and then bring them back to you stamped! It was a little strange though when he brought them back though and didn’t even check if it was your passport you were taking. Turned out ok though, I still have my passport and now it just has an extra stamp!

As you may or may not know, it has always been my ultimate goal to go to Brazil, Rio de Janeiro specifically but Brazil in general so I cannot explain in words just how excited I was to be crossing the border. I honestly was so happy that I thought I would cry. This happiness continued throughout the day as the sights we were about to see were absolutely spectacular!

The bus then delivered us straight to the entrance of the falls, we bought our tickets together and before we knew it we were on an open top double decker bus bringing us through the rainforest. After disembarking and following a little trail, we were presented with our first views of the falls!

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Then we were presented with our first encounter with a coatimundi! Shocked would not be a good enough description as it dug it’s teeth into Josephina’s bag presumably looking for food. Some squawking and swatting later, we had learned our lesson to not leave any bags on the ground!!! They are pretty cute when not attacking you though.

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There are no words to describe just how amazing the Iguazu falls are in person. I’ve been to Niagra falls before but there’s no comparison, the Iguazu falls are on a different level. The Spanish”Iguazu” or the Portuguese “Iguassu” or “Iguaçu” comes from the Guarani meaning “big water”.

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The Brazilian side of the falls offer spectacular views across all the waterfalls, of which there are over 270 which mostly belong to Argentina. Some of the trail even allowed us to get closer to the falls as well as a higher viewing point offering a panoramic view of everything.

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After spending a few hours meandering along the designated trail, we left the national park to discover the bird park next door, the Parque das Aves.
DSCN0670My camera battery died quite soon after entering the park but I still managed to get some shots of a few parrots. Although these photos show the railings of a cage, there were a lot of walk through open aviaries with birds flying overhead.

DSCN0670We even got to see a spectacular humming bird in the butterfly enclosure. The Parque das Aves is well worth the visit and definitely a great way to spend the afternoon. You even get to hold a parrot at the end. DSCN0675 DSCN0682

This guy was maybe a little too friendly….

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Josephina seemed to be able to connect with him on a different level.

IMG_20141124_163751After walking around all day, we decided to head into Foz do Iguaçu to see what the Brazilian border town had to offer and rest our feet. Foz has much more of a city vibe than Puerto Iguazu with a main shopping street and not many restaurants or cafés to be found. We eventually found one and relaxed in the warmth of the late afternoon sun and decided we would head back to the Argentine side for dinner as we both preferred the small town atmosphere in Puerto Iguazu.

We managed to find the bus, or actually the bus found us and stopped by the side of the road to let us on, and we made our way to the border. The bus drops you off at the immigration centre and they can either wait for you or they tell you to get the next one. We were told the later so decided to forgo waiting and walk across the river to the Argentine immigration. The sun was setting and it was probably a little reckless but there’s no fun in life if you always play it safe. I think it was around a 4km walk and it was still pretty warm so we power walked across the border. A nice way to end the day!

EN ROUTE TO IGUAZU – PARAGUAY

Last week I had one of the greatest weeks of my life and it wasn’t even a whole week, it was four days filled with buses, border-crossings and buckets of fun. Josephina and I decided we wanted to head to Puerto Iguazu to see the Iguazu falls and because it’s a little far from Goya, Corrientes, we thought we would make a little pit stop on the way. We ended up going to an extra country than initially planned and had so much fun being the ultimate tourists, waking up at 6:30am to make the most of our days and wearing our invisible tourist signs with pride.

I think a chronological account is going to be the easiest way to write about everything so as not to go off on any tangents when I get overexcited about everything. We started our journey on Friday the 21st of November and we got a night bus from Goya to Posadas in the Misiones province. We were headed to see the Jesuit mission ruins and reading up about them the night before, I discovered that there were also some in Paraguay which is only a stone’s throw away from Posadas across the river Paraná. So arriving in Posadas around 6 in the morning, we boarded a bus and off we went to Encarnación in Paraguay. Not having been in the initial itinerary we had no idea about the exchange rate or the currency but luckily I had some euros that we managed to exchange, there was no shortage of currency exchangers and before we knew it we were being ushered on to a bus heading to La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná.  The currency is Guarani which is the name of the indigenous people of the region and their language.DSCN0255

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The Jesuit missions were first set up across South America during the 17th and 18th centuries and were perceived as types of settlements for the indigenous people. European Jesuit priests were sent over to preach Christianity under what now can be described as an early communist system. The priests did not attempt to dramatically change the values or lifestyle of the indigenous people, the main change they implemented was the abolition of polygamy. However, they learnt the native languages, provided safe and secure housing and adapted to their cultures.

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Before researching this area, I had no idea that there were ruins or of the different types of colonisation that took place but I definitely learnt a lot. The missions in Paraguay were some of the first founded and were full of history. When we arrived at the Trinidad missions, after getting off the local bus and walking around 1km down a red dirt road (the colour of the soil changed dramatically as we went further north), we joined a tour guide around the site. Trinidad is so well maintained and reconstructed in such detail, it was lovely to wander around the ruins taking in the sheer scale of the settlement.

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Afterwards, we wanted to go to the Jesuit Mission of Jesús de Tavarangüe and asked for some directions as it was at 12km off the main road. We were told by one person that there was a bus and there would be one in half an hour, another person said we had to take a taxi, another said there would be a bus in two hours so we decided to wait in the hot midday sun which isn’t the best idea in the world until we saw some locals hitchhiking and after a little hesitating we decided to join suit. I was a little worried after hearing so many horror stories but it was honestly the best decision. We met some Paraguayan farm workers who took us to their soya farm and we shared some watermelon. After chatting and learning about their way of life they took us to the Jesús Jesuit mission.

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As it’s a bit out of the way and we were there during siesta time, it was pretty quiet and we got to wander around peacefully. There was a great view across the countryside which looked so much like Luxembourg or Germany, the only things out of place were the red roads, the palm trees and the heat. But otherwise it felt just like home!

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We then started to head back to the main road until we managed to get another lift, this time with a third generation German man who’s family all still spoke German. It was really interesting as he told us there is a large market for German products here in the German communities. Didn’t expect that in Paraguay! We then got a bus back to Encarnación where we finally got some food, relaxed in the shade and thought we could see a bit of the city before we headed back to Posadas.

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We were given directions to the coast and honestly wasn’t expecting the river beach that we encountered. It was just perfect to lay back, relax and reflect on our day! After a little siesta (Josephina!) we wandered back to the terminal and got another bus back over to Argentina whilst watching the sun set against the city of Posadas.

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”!