South America #3: WATERFALLS & ISLANDS (2017)

Having moved on from enjoyable stays in Argentina and Uruguay, it was time for country number three – Brazil. The epic pinnacle nation of the journey and the country that was responsible for me booking the trip as a whole in the first place. 

A country that springs the notions of colourfulness, rhythmic music and an extravagant, vibrant culture which certainly didn’t disappoint. 

Moving around from place to place is part and parcel of travelling and in Brazil, it involved a mixture of land, sea and air and the first part of the journey was the most arduous; an overnight bus trip from Uruguay that lasted 18 hours! To their credit though, the company ran a smooth service with comfortable seating, pass-the-time movies and occasional snack supplying, so all and all, it wasn’t so bad.

Once that was over, myself and the group arrived in town of Iguassu which is home to one of the most spectacular set of waterfalls that you could ever wish to see. One of the natural wonders of the world and with its palm trees and numerous rainbows that sprout up through them, you couldn’t help but stop and look on in wonder. 

Something that you have to be on the lookout there are the quaiti. A slightly cute but also slightly terrifying monkey-racoon type of creature that often wangle their way throughyou as you walk along. In fairness, they’re pretty harmlessand they really only want your food … as I found out to my expense when one of those pesky rascals snuck up behind me with great stealth and swiped a fruit-pot off me. Bugger!

In total, we spent two days at the Falls which famously connect the borders of Argentina and Brazil but our second day there was more of an adrenaline-fuelled one. Instead of merely standing for photos and admiring the sheer force of the water, it was time to go in and feel its power by signing up for a boat ride that brings you directly under the collapse. The phrase ‘Rock the Boat’ never had such a truer meaning and it was a true thrill to experience. 

As I mentioned in the previous article, our group of 14 travellers had already formed a strong bond of friendship from earlier parts of the trip so by the time we got to Brazil, we were comfortable in each other’s surroundings and also began to look out for each other. Poor Dom was ill during this part of the trip and when Dan received an unnecessary mouthful from a traveller from another group, there came about a sense of “He’s one of ours, ya know!” 

Culture is also a huge part of South America and at the barbeque, which has hosted by a local family, they had a surprise for us after we ate. The ‘eat and drink all you want’ gift was nice enough but the craic got going when the lights went off, music came on and two fine-looking samba dancers appeared dancing away with us in an energetic carnival style. One dancer even burst out laughing at my attempted ‘Irish wedding-reception jiving! Yeoooow!’

The next port of call was to a small town called Paraty. With a name like that and our group being made up of Irish, German, English and Australians, it’s not surprising that the mantra was “Let’s go there to Partaaay!” So following an internal flight to Sao Paolo and a few hours on a bus, it was a quick tour of the town and then night in the pub with the lads. 

Myself, ‘Big Joe’ and Michael (Australian and English respectively) had a few beers where the tab at the end of the night came to something like £20 (if even!) so we celebrated that ‘money saver’ with a visit to a small disco-bar. Here was a good lads night: drinking/forfeit games which thankfully the bar-staff played along with and joined in with craic. 

Day two in Paraty and we were headed out to sea. Here was a chance for even Rodrigo, our Chilean tour-guide, to let his hair down as he met up with other guides as we met up with other travelling groups to have all day boat party. The people who owned the boat were great too; they kept us fuelled with caparianas (spiced rum) and even let me have a wee go at steering the boat – being a Donegal man must mean instant fisherman skills, eh? 

The funniest thing a lot of us recalled from the party was the ‘supermodel.’ She didn’t really mix with anyone and just sat at the back of the boat, posing for very professional looking selfies. We joked that social media will show her as something akin to a millionaire model posing in the sun … when in truth she was just yards away from us eejits mucking about inplayful wrestling matches and singing ‘Despacito!’ as if it were a dodgy football chant. 

A day later and we were back on the road and we were sailing again. This time to a small island off the Brazilian coast called Ilha Grande. A lovely colourful wee village where you could relax on the beach, hike the hills and trek through the rainforests. The only snag was when I saw a crab the size of a football one day. Oh Christ, that gave me the heebie-jeebies! 

The walk through the rainforest was great too but humidity was a big factor to contend. Not for everyone, mainly just me. We stopped for a rest at one point and my sheer volume of perspiration brought huge amusement to Dan in particular. All I could say back was “You’re English but live in Australia. I’m an Irishman who lived in Scotland. Who did ya think was gonna sweat more, lad?” All part of the banter, of course. 

The time on the island was great as was all that went before it: the Falls, the boat-party, the rainforests and beaches. The group had become closer again as we played cards and chatted over the pool table in the evening time, but it wouldn’t be long until we were off to the city and the conclusion of our trip and it was then that we were off on the raid to Rio de Janeiro.

I’ll let yous know about that next time.

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