Karen and I went for dinner at the WISH golf resort in Brazil, and had a super meal. I noticed the waiter doing something on his cellphone, when we had finished our main meal. He arrived at our table showing me the phone. On the screen ” Would you like to try one of our desserts?” I thought it was charming, and so smart using technology to beat the language barrier. We need to become more savvy, especially with the translation apps. In Brazil we have found very few folks speaking English – last night having dinner in São Paulo, and ordering via pictures on the menu was very amusing. The dinner was superb!
Gave us much reason to thank our blessings for having found Luis at Iguassu who could speak English, explain all manner of things to us. He even facilitated entry to Brazil in Portuguese, and secured entry very briskly to the busy bird park, avoiding long queues.
After very wet weather upon arrival at Iguassu, we had much brighter weather yesterday and loved seeing the Falls and surrounding country from the air. Much farming and cultivation on the Brazil side – jungle almost as far as the eye can see on the Argentina side. We could also see the dam and wall of the greatest hydro-electric project on Earth. Itaipu Dam on the Parana River surpasses even the Three Gorges Dam in China, and produces all of Paraguay’s electricity, along with 17% of Brazil’s. In Guarani, Itaipu means ” sounding stone”. This Dam flooded the Guaira Falls, which was the largest waterfall in the world by volume. Superlatives fail in describing the 200 meter high wall, which altered the course of the world’s 7th largest river, and 50 million tons of soil were moved. Visitors to the generators tell me that one can feel the entire wall vibrating under the power of the falling water!
Friends from home often comment on the orchids in this part of the world, and they have been exquisite. Even the florist on board Crystal regularly had orchids on display, there were orchids in the bridge, and we have seen indescribable examples all over the region, including shop windows in São Paulo.
Flying into this metropolis is always daunting – the enormous apartment blocks, highways, faveros (shanty towns) and homes seemingly go on forever. We are staggered at the slim, very high buildings, tiled side walks (some very steep), security precautions, buzz and orderliness. Our taxi ride of 45km from the airport in dense traffic, was easily accomplished by a skilled taxi driver. Lest I mention that it makes such a difference when drivers are obeying the rules of the road, rather than disregarding them completely?
I was even able to show Karen the Capybaras outside the Pullman Hotel, where I have stayed before, en route to Antarctica.
Reflecting upon this extraordinary journey, Karen and I are overwhelmed at what we have seen and experienced. From the beautiful frontier town of Ushuaia in southern Patagonia, to Cape Horn in sunshine, calm crossing of the infamous Drake Passage, sunshine and unmatched viewing of Antarctica, whales and dolphins alongside the ship, the Britishness of the Falklands, Karen’s visit to the hallowed bridge, our interaction with the Ice Captain, all in unparalleled luxury.
We loved the gentleness of Montevideo, and our tour of Buenos Aires whilst Iguassu beckoned. With very high expectations, and years of dreaming, Iguassu exceeded all expectations. Despite brushing with the Park Service, my early morning visit, alone, was worth the risk and adrenaline – there was not another soul to be seen anywhere. Standing in front of Iguassu Falls alone is an experience I shall never forget.
Our visit to the point where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet, reminding us of the mighty Zambezi and Chobe. The Perana River, however, averages 100 meters in depth – THESE are mighty waterways, carrying ships 1700km to Buenos Aires. Then the Devil’s Throat, and incredible views of the Falls from the Brazilian side, the bird park with its Harpy Eagles and so much besides started by a Zimbabwean.
Now in São Paulo, as we prepare to fly back to our beloved South Africa, familiar language, custom and coffee! Little wonder we are both feeling exhausted, the sensory and emotional overload has been marvellous, the heat, humidity and unfamiliarity tiring.
To all this gracious enough to have read these short missives from a foreign land, thank you sincerely. May travel be an ongoing feature in our lives, the learning experience is indescribable. Carpe Diem!