We made our way from Rio de Janeiro to an island down the coast Ihla Grande. We assumed the scamming and general attempts to bleed us dry would be over once we left the city, we were wrong. We got off the coach and were frog marched to the “coach companies” water taxi. Conned in to believing it was the same company by some poorly made T-Shirts the pleasant worker assured us that there were only two options to get to the island, fast and slow. Being the impatient 5 guys that we are we opted for the fast ship and decided that the five extra reals was worth it. After greedily counting our cash the worker took us to the seafront and showed us where our ship would leave from (in one hour). We paid 75 (reals) for a return voyage on the fast ship (they called it the fast ship so often that I am fairly sure that was the name of the vessel) then on route to the seafront we were bombarded with the offers of return journeys for 40 reals almost half the price!!! Boy did we feel duped. We knew we’d been had but we’d just completed our first lengthy coach journey and no one, including Alex, could be bothered to complain so we just sat and waited in the glorious sunshine.
We docked in Abraão, the capital of Ihla Grande and made our way to our home for the next few nights. Hostal Biergarten. We were told that for the first night that one of us would need to sleep in a room with 5 South American girls, and that after the first night we could all bunk together. I’m not hear to point fingers, but after someone creepily volunteered to share with the girls we decided as a group to put the most sensible and least creepy person in their room, me. It turned out well for me as the others had to quietly, tip-toe around the room as there was a sleeping couple on the bed.
Ordinarily a hostel room by yourself is the ultimate goal of a backpacker but NOT when the Wifi range was about a foot away from the router, so instead, we all gathered in the common area to update social media to enhance our own self worth as we competed for number of likes on an Instagram picture.
Whilst sitting in the common area our hostal worker came around and gave us a few tips on the island and let us know that there was a party later that night and anyone who is anyone is going to be there. We explained that for now we just wanted to relax and so we headed to the beach. It was the first time on the trip that we could lie on the beach and not worry about our belongings or about being harassed by angry drunk men or people selling things no one needs, it was great and the weather was fantastic all in all it finally felt like the vacation had started.
We noticed that there was another group of boys on the beach who we decided were English, and even more specifically we decided they looked Jewish (there is relevance, it just comes later on in the story). We had something to eat and returned to our hostal and started getting ready for our night out . I introduced myself to the Peruvian ladies I was sharing with and I assume the others introduced themselves to the sleeping couple as later that evening we all become good friends. I delicately explained, to my friends, that one of the Peruvians had an obvious ailment and Grant had a horrific reaction and let’s just say the Peruvians didn’t speak a world of English but I’m fairly sure booming laughter is universal, needless to say the Peruvians tarred me with the same brush as Grant and for that reason I could not return to the room until they were all in bed. The night was upon us and we headed to the party.
At the party it was all a bit of a blur, Jon made friends with some Brummies, We all made friends with Cristian and Sabrina, Reginy and Thalu (if your reading this then apologies I was never going to be able to spell the names) then Jack spotted the boys from the beach earlier and shouted “hey you’re northwest London Jews” and they replied “no we are Essex Jews” but it turns out they all knew Jack and Jack knew them from the Jewish football league we all had discussions about who knew who. The night was Great and needless to say Jon was the first in and I was the last……standard. Alex was very drunk and shamelessly tried it on with the lady who worked in our hostal. How he didn’t feel the need to go and book in to somewhere different I will never know.
The next day we had planned to hike to the famous “Lopez Mendez” a gruelling 2 hour trek. I much prefer telling this story face to face because in words I am not going to be able to stress our mistrust in any of the locals. I didn’t realise the night before that our new friends Christian and Sabrina had agreed to come along but for me, the more the merrier. The boat taxi guys were telling us along the seafront “you going to lopes mendes, it’s a three hour trek” but we were adamant that this was just a ploy to get us all in their boat and for them to take us five minutes. Hungover (not Alex) and 20 minutes in to the trek we knew that we were not close. Thankfully we came to a beach selling chips. Doing England no favours in front of the argies (Cristian and Sabrina) Jack and I, in a hungover drunk frame of mind thought it would be best to buy these and save them for the journey ahead. Every 15 minutes for the next hour we insisted on chip breaks, and I’m fairly sure C and S (Cristian and Sabrina, I can’t keep typing their names and they do feature heavily) didn’t have a clue what was going on. 2 hours later we got to a beach and people on the beach told us that our desired beach was still 40 minutes away. Tired, hungover and with the hours of daylight slowly ticking away we believed the man and got in his boat. We arranged and price and time for him to bring us back to abraão later that day so that was all good. We finally made it too the beach and it was worth the trek, the beach although famous was practically empty and we enjoyed our first true “beach day” of the holiday. Later we walked back to the meeting point and after a quick drink on a floating bar our driver arrived and took us back.
The next day was our last full day on Ihla Grande and once of the many draws of the island is it’s clear waters and opportunity to dive. We went on a hunt for snorkels and found a trust worthy looking man to take us out. Alex decided not to join us and instead posed for a picture on a paddle board and spent the day in the room. Jon, Grant, Jack and myself got on the boat and went to the diving spot. The diving was uneventful but what happened next was a godly event. We saw the clouds closing in and the clouds gradually got darker working its way down the dulux colour chart. We knew it was time to head back, on route the heavens opened. It was a downpour on an almighty scale. We had towels wrapped round us and it was painful when the droplets hit our face. We made it back to the capital and it looked like New Orleans (the bad years). The road to our hostel was now a river. I have never experienced rain like it. Too skip ahead a bit, it rained harder than I’ve ever seen for 48 hours. This caused Alex to worry about the climate of the whole of South America and book an early flight from iguazu to Buenos Aires just I case the weather was the the same 1000’s of kilometres away.
Anyway back to the present, we finished the diving trip and waded through the typhoid filled river and got underneath the shelter of our hostel. That night we stayed in and had a few drinks with the girls from São Paulo and The boy from Bexley Heath and girl from Canada. We played spoons and other stereotypical hostel (the accommodation) games. A few of us went to bed and left some of the others awake for them to enjoy all the experiences Brazil has to offer.
Due to the unforeseen amount of time we spent in the hostel we got to know the staff and I was delighted to hear that the worker had been to an MK DONS game. Not many people know the team so I got more excited than I probably should have done. Anyway we spent the morning getting changed into our water resistant clothing and trudged down to the boats and took our boat back to the main land.
After the the delights of the first two days the island really disappointed on the final two days. One particular highlight of Ihla Grande was the argument between Grant and Jon, I wish I hade written more notes on the reason behind the argument but all I remember is that it culminated in Jon, err “uncharacteristically”, jumping to mild aggression and Grant, err “uncharacteristically” being patronising and condescending.
Our next destination was Paraty which was a journey consisting of two buses. We were queueing for the first bus when the others decided they were hungry and all went to get food, they decided to leave the toughest member of the group by themselves (me). What happened next would have driven one of the others to frantically and without care for the expense, make a phone call of help to the rest of the group that is not what I did when a young man approached me with clear menace in his eye, I stood my ground and did not let him near the bags despite his many attempts to grab them. The boys returned and my attacker sunk away, we got on the bus and as fate would have it sitting there with a smile on his face was the boy from the bus stop who has come to be affectionally known as “PARATYYYYY”.
The bus stopped in Paraty and we all got off, including “Paratyyyyy” but before we were leaving we had to collect our bags which were bundled in the corner of the bus. “Paraty” asked what we thought was, can I help you move your bags? To which we politely replied with a chorus of “no” (it’s at this point I probably should point out that he barely spoke one word of English) “paraty” still went for our bags and Jon lost his shit, many nos and fuck off and finger wagging was done and with hunched shoulders looking defeated “paraty” stood aside. We then all picked up our bags, and underneath them all was a small rucksack and “paraty” squeezed his way past us and picked it up. We all looked at Jon with a look of condemnation which was countered with a shrug of the shoulders and a flippant “I don’t fucking care, he shouldn’t have touched our bags”
We made it to our hotel, it was still raining, I am sure had we watched the weather there would have been severe weather warnings but needless to say our spirits were not dampened, not even after the taxi driver charged us a tenner to travel not even a mile.
Our hostel was big and I can’t for the life of me remember the name of it but on the face of things it was decent, but scratch through the surface and you will always find issues. The main concern was cleanliness they didn’t once clean our private bathroom which meant demand for the general public W.C was higher than normal, not ideal in a big hostel. We put our bags in our room which five of us were sharing with one other guy whose name also escapes me, I’m going ask you to utilise your imagination or YouTube which ever you prefer but we went through the standard “where you going, where you been, where you from” stuff and when he replied his voice was the same as pee wee Hermans, the nickname almost stuck, until we went down for dinner. It was pizza night, Alex bitched and moaned, of course. Grant last in the shower joined us down at the table later and talked us through his tormented shower. Pee Wee Herman spent a lot of time in the room and had positioned himself at a very weird angle. Whilst grant was in the shower he noticed a small crack in the door which allowed visual through to the most private of areas, and more conveniently in direct eye sight of pee wee Herman, so grant showered in his swimming trunks and convinced himself we had a peeping Tom in our room and thusly refused to shower in that room any more. So Pee Wee Herman quickly became Peeping Tom.
We went to buy some alcohol to pre-drink as we heard that Paraty has a lively night scene (turns out this scene consists of one, hard to find club) anyway we drunk in the social area and slowly the other guests migrated from the room we was in, to a smaller much more cramp room, it was becoming aparent that our antics were not welcome within their group….I think they were your more traditional traveller. Jon took personal insult to this. Unperturbed by the rudeness of the other guests, we continued our night despite clearly being excluded from the hostels night out. I thought there was only one way to save the night, duck duck goose, the mere suggestion sent Jon to his room, one man down we still played….I circled the group, you could feel the tension as the others waited with baited breath find out if they would be “goose” Alex muscled twitched as I stumbled over the word duck, grant sat still as I patted him on the head I had them in the palm of my hands, I circled them again and once more just to make sure they couldn’t predict when it was going to happen, duck, duck, duck, duck, goose. There it was jack rose, I leapt in to action I could feel the cold hard granite floor beneath my feet, Jack was nipping at my heels I managed the first circuit but jacks lengthy gait was benefiting him I could feel him closing the distance between us but then in desperate attempt to win I jumped in to my seat only moments from being caught, the guys erupted. The crowd pleased with what they saw were heard afterwards likening it to the great duck duck goose game of 93 in Greenfields playground, being so close to the event I wouldn’t like to pass judgement. The event brought the crowd back to us “was you guys just playing duck duck goose” we were in, we got invited out and Jon came down stairs and refused to believe that it was duck duck goose that made us cool.
A little while later were ready for out, about to walk the cold rainy streets of Paraty. We were heading to Paraty 33 where, according to all sources, it’s the place to be. We left mob handed led by a female Scot, she was adamant she knew the way. After walking round what is quite a small town for 15 it became clear that she had less clue than scooby doo at the beginning of an episode. Jack, Grant and I left the group with Alex and Jon choosing to chase tail. We found the club almost immediately when the other did turn up we found out that they had been bad mouthing us telling people that we probably went to sleep. We all had a good night and woke up fit and healthy ready for our trip down to Curitiba the next day.
Paraty was a quaint little town with a very colonial look, not much goes on but despite that I enjoyed our brea
We arrived in Curitiba which to me felt like the first “European” town we came across it had a really commercial feel. We had a very short time in Curitiba and we only had one mission, find some wild Capybaras. Easy. We got in a cab “donde esta la capybara senor” and within minutes we was in a field surrounded by massive tame marsupials. They are very odd looking and for much of the time done nothing but eat and sleep.
The next morning we woke up and went to the car hire joint. Most uneventful but we had a lovely white car that was more spacious than we could of hoped for. Jack took the first stint behind the wheel, we had 10 hours in front of us, one road to the famed Iguazu (the most dangerous town in Brazil)
Much shorter this time round and haven’t read back through so there is every chance of a grammatical area. Next time I’ll let you know how the car journey went, talk about the falls and the journey out of Brazil and in to Argentina.
After Jack drove, Jon took up the mantle not the person I was fearing the most. Until we came to a speed bump, I thought he’s was trying to make us fly home. We all took it in turns with me bringing the boys home on the final leg, they clearly wanted the professional driver to do the stint in the city at night, it made sense to me. By and large the road trip was uneventful, with the main entertainment being Jon reinventing himself as “urban Jon” when he pointed at a cow and said “look at that tonk cow” I haven’t heard him use the word tonk before or since (thank god) but to be honest if that was the worst we had to face in a 10 hour road trip across one of the most hostile countries on the planet then that’s all good with me.
Foz Du Iguazu, notorious for crime instigated by the Paraguayans coming over the bridge. The country is literally a stones throw away, unless, like me, you throw like a 10 year old girl. It feels as though, I concentrate to much on Jon (but Jon if you’re reading you have to admit it’s not that bad) but it was Jon who refused to believe us that “Foz” was a dangerous place to be. He wouldn’t believe us despite some houses adorning electric fences and despite being told by the restaurant not to hang around as it can get tasty, and I don’t think he meant the food. So of course heeding the advice of the locals we ran home, all except Jon who in what I can only imagine was a show of face walked home on the other side of the road.
The lady in our hostel, tried to sell us every trip possible, she was constantly rebuffed we had an agenda and we planned to stick to to it. She did however send us to the restaurant, and it was up until this point the nicest food we’d had, more meat than you could possibly ask for and a buffet to go with it…..all in all delicious.
The next day before we headed to the famed falls, we stopped to put some laundry in. Jon, Jack and I all did it. Jon and me sent Jack in first so that we could just say “same” . Thankfully the woman spoke perfect English so it almost went without a hitch that was until the woman threw a curveball and asked Jon “name” in English I don’t know what he heard because he panicked and cautiously yelled for help “jackkkkkk, what did she say” I haven’t seen someone so worried since grant went shopping Pepsi max and discovered they’d sold out.
Now we were finally on our way, was going to see what all this fuss was about. Now I think my diary entries have been quite funny (apologies if you don’t agree) but I’m going to be serious for a moment. When we got the falls I was amazed, I’ve seen waterfalls before but never had I seen some so big and so many you can look down an “alleyway” of waterfalls and it is some impressive, the amount of water, the noise, the infrastructure built in the falls it was truly amazing and would recommend anyone to go there. You can visit the falls from both the Argentinian side and Brazilian side, foz du iguazu is the Brazilian side.
When you are entering the park a man stops you, you need to buy a Mac and a water proof phone protector, aware that the Brazilians are all at it, we refused to give the man the time of day. Later we would come to regret not making the purchase, you can walk out on a broad walk at the bottom of one of the waterfalls and my god, you get soaked Jon was the only smart enough to buy the waterproof stuff.
Grant and I made friends with an English man who was cycling through Brazil, but around São Paulo he decided that cycling wasn’t for him so he sent his bike home and carried on like normal people on buses and planes (that’s all I have to say about that, but it is relevant)
After seeing the falls we went back to our hotel rooms, the day had come this was on our comrades last night, the next day, grant would leave us and fly home and the rest of us Alex, Jon, Jack and myself would continue on to Argentina to view the falls from the other side. Grant left in a taxi and there was an emotional embrace beforehand involving Grant and someone else who had rediscovered why they were friends in the first place. I think Brazil can do that to a friendship, it will make it stronger and really re-enforce once made bonds.
Grant left and we took the car back to the car hire place, passing grant who was stuck in traffic we stereotypically all swore at him as we drove past and I think in the rear view mirror I saw grant with a smile on his face and a tear in his eye.
After dropping the car off we went back to the hostel where Jon was the envy of the group as he booked himself on for a sky dive in the morning. We woke early the next morning to send Jon on his way and not know whether we would see him again. As it happens we did see him again just a few hours later. In a not so customer friendly move the receptionist said we could stay in our room until our friend arrived but then a few hours later changed her mind and rushed us our quicker than a blink much to our dismay. We then got in a cab and crossed our first border in to Argentina home of Lionel Messi, steak, tango, cheats, wine, steak, Lionel Messi and wine and steak.
It felt like it took an age to cross the border, in and out of taxis and whatnot then on the other side we had an absolute palava trying to find out hostel.
When we did finally find it, we had our second wifi issue of the trip. You need to understand that wifi issues are big problems and thusly play a large part in this informative review of the whole of South America. The wifi issues were resolved by the age old trick of turning the router off and on again. I sat on the balcony and enjoyed listening to the gunfire in neighbouring Paraguay. Whilst I was sitting there blissfully minding my own business I was interrupted by two fellow travellers. It was becoming apparent that it was acceptable to strike conversation with complete randomness based on them staying in the same accommodation as you which in my mind bares no reflection on whether you share any common ground with another person. The two travellers were, an odd couple in every sense. A boy and a girl who didn’t strike me as in a relationship (I’m not suggesting that boys and girls can’t be friends) but the girl was chatty and the boy stood there, mute, occasionally laughing at parts of the conversation he thought were funny but from my recollection was kinda weird. He name was jazz and his name was David, it seems appropriate to name them jazz and Dave and whilst it made me laugh it was only a small bit of entertainment in a conversation that lasted longer than was comfortable and I’m sure their motive was an invite to dinner, needless to say I didn’t oblige blaming lack of knowledge of plans for the overall group.
The wifi issues continued in to the night and the next day, the accomodation only got worse when Jon got in the pool only be told that he shouldn’t be in the pool and to get out. In my mind it seemed odd that they would even have a pool of it was unusable, anyway the attraction of the town isn’t the horrible hostels, it’s the access point to the Argentinian side of iguazu. That was the only thing on the itinerary then we could get the hell outta dodge.
We went to the falls and at risk of repeating myself I was amazed, in fact, the falls from this side are even more impressive. 9 kilometres of awesomeness I loved every minute of it despite seeing a spider of questionable intent. At the falls amongst all the thousands of people we could have bumped in to we bumped in to cycling man from the Brazilian side. I mean it’s a small coincidence but I was still shocked to see him.
We rounded off the short stay in Puerto iguazu with a good nights sleep then made our way to the airport to get on the flight to Buenos Aires. The capital of Argentina and what we later discovered to be the only place in South America that seems to function in a semi sensible manner.