Having decided just what we would like to focus on in Brazil, the two ‘must sees’ were Rio de Janeiro and the Iguazu Falls.
From Joao Passoa we flew to Rio, were met at the airport and transferred to our hotel at a good location between the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. Security was not an issue, and we felt safe walking along the promenades in the late evening. What a change after South Africa!
The next day we did the tourist thing and went on a guided city tour. Our first stop was to Corcovado, the famous landmark of Christ the Redeemer, which stands at 704 mtrs above sea level. Made of soapstone and completed in 1922 the statue of Christ stands 120 ft. high and has an arm span of 75 ft. The views from here bring the topography around Rio into perspective, with the many mountain ridges dividing the city, the harbour, forests and beaches. This all makes the city that much more attractive. On a clear day, the Sugar Loaf Mountain is visible – we could just pick it out through the haze.
Work was taking place at the Maracanã football stadium that will be used for this summer’s Olympics, and we were surprised to see that the Rio Carnival has its own street with grandstands each side, used solely for the event, the rest of the year it is an empty space! We did get a taste on a different stage …
Opened in 1976, Rio Cathedral or the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian is very different from any building we had seen before, with its conical shape and four huge vertical stained glass windows.
Our day was rounded off with a cable car trip in two stages to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain, 392 m above sea level. Interestingly from here the clouds had surrounded Corcovado, leaving the statue of Christ seemingly floating on air!
Hannes was in town at the same time, and we had the pleasure of meeting up with him over lunch at the Museo de Arte do Rio, which Elaine enjoyed afterwards. This was not Bob’s scene, but he did enjoy the very new Museo do Amanha, or Museum of Tomorrow, which was close by, and is housed in a very futuristic building opened in December 2015. This museum concentrates on what we are doing to our world today, the damage we are causing, and its likely effect. Lots of electronic displays, striking music, and provoking thoughts. Interesting bearing in mind the destruction of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil and exploitation of natural resources! The whole area is a huge regeneration site with modern architecture attracting prosperity in place of the poor, crime ridden district it once was.
No visit to Rio would be complete without strolling along Ipanema Beach or enjoying a caipirinha cocktail at sundown on Copacabana Beach. Even spending a day on the crowded Copacabana, or a half day in our case had to be done! We hired two chairs and an umbrella, and watched the world and beach vendors go by, with many people surfing in water that could be cleaner. The bikinis on the right bodies were very attractive, or maybe some of the bodies scantily clad by not much bikini were very attractive! On both beaches, that ‘Girl from Ipanema’ was definitely out in force 55 years on.
Incidentally, the Copacabana stretch reminded us of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. That was even before we saw the Copacabana Palace Hotel for which the inspiration is in fact Nice’s Negresco. From the riches of the promenades to the poverty of the ‘favelas’ or shanty towns that dominate large cities throughout Brazil, there could not be a starker contrast. We stopped short of going on a tour of a favela, believing it to be voyeurism to walk openly through one of the poor districts with a guide. Photos from a distance were enough for us. Here too, a few shots of colonial buildings still found amongst modernity.
See our video under Pipistrelle Crew at the Iguazu Falls
All good things have to come to an end, or in our case, the vibrant, colourful city life of Rio be replaced after three days by a breath-taking Wonder of the World. We had an evening flight via Curitiba to Foz do Iguacu, and found a different use for Navionics, in that it will record our track in flight, whereas Maps with Me won’t, as yet!
We stayed at the Best Western Taroba Hotel which was good, and were taken the next day to the Iguazu Falls, which form the natural boundary between Argentina and Brazil, separated by the Iguazu River. These cascades are on a par with the Victoria Falls, and are far larger than Niagara. The falls’ horseshoe is approximately 2 miles long, and 1700 cu mtrs of water flow over the 200ft cliffs per second.
Visiting the Brazilian side first, we were impressed by the torrents and scenery just by walking alongside the river. Venturing out on walkways towards the Falls necessitated donning the latest fashion in plastic macs to avoid getting soaked – but along with everyone else we still did anyway. The spray from the cascades and the noise of the rush of water thundering down hundreds of feet is both deafening and exciting.
As a contrast we followed up our time at the Falls with a visit to the Parc dos Aves, a tropical bird sanctuary, where we were able to walk through vast aviaries with beautiful, well-looked after birds of endangered species flying around us. The largest aviary of its kind in the world, about half of the birds have been rescued from mistreatment and trafficking. Eventually it is hoped to reintroduce some species to the wild.
The next day we left Brazil temporarily, crossed the Tancredo Neves Bridge and checked in to Argentina, another two stamps in the passport, another language (Spanish) and currency (pesos)! The bridge spans the Iguazu River that forms a natural boundary between the two countries, while just a few miles away on the Parana River lies Paraguay.
We were taken to the Visitor Centre where we duly paid in pesos, then walked to the narrow gauge railway station, boarded the open train to take us conveniently close to the Garganta del Diablo, or Devils Throat, the single most impressive cascade. In all, 275 cascades make up the falls, the number rising to 350 in the rainy season. The network of sturdy walkways covers most of the major falls, enabling us to take some great photos. We didn’t even need to don the fashionable rain attire of the previous day.
The six day trip was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we were glad to have made the effort to get away. Another high spot in our travels.