Brazil part 3, Foz do Iguaçu

The bus journey, although long, offered some amazing views. I love to look out of the window, so this gave me the perfect opportunity to experience as much of the country as possible as it sped through my line of sight. The seats were extremely comfortable and had the ability to be extended far back to an almost vertical position. You’d never get a coach seat like that in the UK!

After skirting the edges of the Iguazu national park, we arrived in the early evening and checked into our hostel. There were many benefits to travelling Brazil during their winter, but one of the negatives was that the sun set early, at around 5pm, so we lost a lot of light during the evenings. We planned to get an early night so we could get down to the falls with plenty of time to explore and enjoy the experience as much as we could. After consulting with the man who had checked us in the night before, we caught the bus from a terminal down the road and we were on our way.

I will never forget that first glimpse of the falls.

It was utterly stunning; I’d never laid my eyes on anything like it. The network of cascading water appeared never ending, with falls of varying size intertwining with each other. The different layers gave the impression of a snakes and ladders board, where you could keep climbing up the torrents of water before sliding back down into the mist. From our initial perspective, it appeared as though those layers could stretch forever and we were eager to continue along the trail to get some better views. We were greeted with a whole heard of Coatis, a species of diurnal mammal that were present in abundant numbers around the falls. Although they appeared harmless, it was wise to keep our food to ourselves in order to not get swarmed by them!

The timing of our trip was perfect, it was winter and a Monday which meant that the number of visitors were at a low. We didn’t have to queue or miss out on seeing anything due to volumes of people. The skies were blue, the heat was perfect, the waters flowed softly, this was clearly the best time to visit.

As we continued along the route, the glimpses caught from between the trees were the most exciting. I knew what was to come when we reached a clearing or a viewpoint and the anticipation was almost as good as the result. That thick Atlantic forest was spectacular, green and gorgeous. The smell was fresh and earthy; you could almost feel those ancient explorers that first came across this land and the awe that must have radiated between them. You could almost feel the land rumbling beneath you as it made way for those roaring and unforgiving waters. The energy created by the Iguazu river cutting through the earth and spilling over the cliff’s edge on that prehistoric day had continued to radiate through the forest for millennia. Events like those can successfully place your mind into such great perspective that allow you to truly respect the things that deserve the most respect. Water, trees and all things nature are what really rule the world. A site like that at the Iguazu falls is an example that adds such extreme weight to this ideology. How could you question such power?

Undoubtedly the best part was when we were able to follow the bridge coming out underneath one of the waterfalls. The sound of the water was almost deafening and the spray created from the impact offered a refuge from the heat. Walking to the end of the bridge felt like walking to the end of the world… luckily, we were able to turn back around and return safely to dry land. I regretted not spending the extra time and money to visit the Argentinian side, but I guess that’s what the rest of my life is for!

This is a spot I will definitely be returning to.

Brazil part 2, Florianopolis to Curitiba

Santa Catarina’s metropolis, Florianopolis, was the city that just kept giving. Its aerial view produced sights of splendour and excitement as the variety of landscape appeared from below the plane window. The island lying parallel to the mainland, once divided by deep blue ocean, was connected by the impressive Pedro Ivo Campos Bridge in 1991. Mountains and hills clad with Atlantic forest were interlinked with large lagoons, residential areas and lined with stretching white beaches. This island paradise was bound to be the perfect way to dip my toe into Brazil and commence the weeks to come.

Staying in an Air BnB in Porto da Lagoa, we were able to get a feel for residential life. The owner was lovely and despite her claim that she spoke no English, compared to our Portuguese, it was amazing! The Air BnB gave us access to a private route to Joaquina Beach which offered stunning views and perspective on the island. The route was shrouded in mystery and included sections across loosely joined boards, preventing you from having to wade across wetlands. The dunes rolled along at an immense height and depth, creating an impenetrable barrier between the island and the unforgiving Atlantic. Joaquina itself was a spectacle. Renowned for its immense waves, the world surfing championship has been held there several times which had opened the island paradise up to a whole hoard of tourists. Several restaurants reside at the North end, offering somewhere to replenish your energy after a long day of surfing and sunbathing… a necessity for such a popular sight!

After a few days, we decided we couldn’t leave Florianopolis yet and wanted to explore the metropolitan hub of the island. Splashing out, we checked in to the Majestic palace hotel which provided the best breakfast buffet of my entire life. Eager to explore this part of the island, I’d heard about the trilha e Cachoeira do Poção in which we could hike to and find a little waterfall. The walk was beautiful and so was the cascata that resided at the top. It was well worth the sweat and effort it had taken to get there!

After a few days, we took a Catarinense bus to Curitiba. The cosmopolitan and impressive city provided a whole new experience of Brazil. The sustainable aspects of the city, including the integrated transport system allowed a whole new outlook on what Brazil has to offer. In the 1980’s it was one of the first cities to market itself as ‘green’ and acted as a pioneer for others to do the same. Another enjoyable aspect was the street art that was plastered across many of the walls. Vibrant colours and shapes helped bring Curitiba to life, along with the melodic busking and general bustle of smiling and happy people. We were able to indulge in some traditional Brazilian cuisine such as pão de queijo and Coxinha as we explored, two snacks that I certainly plan to try to recreate! The Botanical garden also proved to be well worth a visit as it was only a thirty-minute walk from our accommodation and offered a spectacular array of plants and trees from around the world.

Curitiba was amazing, but it was time to endure the 10-hour coach journey to Foz do Iguaçu to bask in the mist of those incredible falls.

Brazil, June 2019 – The arrival

Having never flown alone before, the idea of that 11-hour journey from Gatwick to Rio was…formidable…to say the least. As soon as my mum waved me off at the airport, I was alone. Fully equipped with my backpack, bum bag and brave face, I was ready for the flight and I was ready for Brazil. Blessed to be sat in the back row with a space between me and another woman, I was able to stretch out and enjoy the journey without having to remain aware of the proximity of my elbow to my next-door neighbours. (This wasn’t the case for the flight home, and I feel like I didn’t appreciate this journey as much as I should have done!)

As the end drew nearer, an impending sense of doom was beginning to occupy my mind with the realisation that, as soon as this plane lands, I’ll be in Rio… on my own. It was my first time being abroad alone and it was also night-time, which isn’t the most optimistic time to arrive. However, it was important to remember that the likelihood of anything bad happening on the first day of my trip was slim to none. The first step off the plane, despite being nearly 10pm BRT and winter, came accompanied with an intense wall of heat and humidity. There was no denying that I had arrived.

Departures was overwhelmed with taxi drivers and companies shouting for business. Of course, many would think that a confused looking 18 year old girl would be easy prey to scam… and I was. After paying about double what I should have, I was happy to be sat in my hostel without having encountered any danger. Everyone I met at the hostel was lovely and welcoming, but I was leaving at 5am to travel down to Florianopolis, so I spent those few hours in that hostel sleeping… or at least trying to.

Ilha Grande

The two flights I took from Rio to Florianopolis that morning were the most amazing flights I’d ever taken. After arriving in Rio in the dark, I was able to view the city in all it’s glory. The initial sighting of Christ the Redeemer protruding from Corcovado mountain and overlooking the city was unforgettable. The land rich with greenery and bubbling with mountains meeting the scintillating blue ocean was truly a sight to behold. Yet, I was letting it go as I travelled further and further away. I would have to wait patiently for my month-long journey to collide with Rio once again.

Restinga da Marambaia

As the plane progressed further south, my eyes were met with the most amazing aerial view of the landscape that I could ever imagine. Due to the plane only being a third full, I had been able to secure a whole row to myself. With my eyes firmly fixated out of the window, and my mind distanced from the Portuguese conversation around me, I fell in love. The tempting silhouettes of Ilha Grande, Restinga da Marambaia and the islands scattered along the green coast, the white beaches, the winding mountains, the flowing rivers and the vast miles of human-free, untouched space supplied unimaginable enchantment. I could never have asked for a greater spectacle to be greeted with.

The beauty of the journey may well have been endorsed by the comfort I felt due to the knowledge that once I landed in Florianopolis, I would be in good company and would lose the title of solo female traveller. A rollercoaster of emotions to begin my trip, but I couldn’t have been more excited to experience everything yet to come.