Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Paul's Country Review: Brazil

Brazil, the China of Latin America. I don't think I was ready for Brazil, especially after the laid back feel of South Africa and Namibia. There are too many people, with no concept of lines or waiting your turn. It felt like I was offending the locals for not cutting and pushing my way to be first - it's just something I can't do. 

As you can see, I am first in line

As for what to see, São Paulo was a sad place, maybe I didn't understand it or it was probably that we were there too long but either way I didn't like it. The girl that checked us in to the hostel was very surprised we were there 5 nights - how else do you get a feel for a city? Everyone else staying at our hostel was only there for a night - just to pass through. Oh well, it's another learning experience - for the next time we got to Brazil. If you find yourself in São Paulo the place to go is Avenida Paulista, which I read is like 5th Ave or Broadway in NYC. It's definitely like 5th Ave especially if 5th Ave is 10 blocks long and only has a Starbucks and a cafe and 2 malls at opposite ends and all of the banking institutions where everyone goes to work and that's it - so yeah, definitely like Broadway or 5th Ave in NYC.

The place to be in Sao Paulo!

Manaus is the gateway to the Amazon, the city has nothing special to offer but we weren't there for the city. The tour we took up and down the Rio Negro was great. Meeting a tribe of indigenous people was a fantastic experience and spending an entire day on the river helps put into perspective just how incredibly huge the Amazon River system is.

We are now part of the tribe

I also read that Rio is the Miami of Brazil, to which someone responded that that is an insult to Rio. I'm not sure about Miami, having only been there once but I definitely got a Washington Heights vibe. So yeah, not Miami but Washington Heights - on the beach - with a sprinkling of Seaside Heights. 

"Soooooo, what do you think of Rio?"- said Jesus

Washington Heights with a beach

Last stop was the town of Foz do Iguaçu (Iguaçu Falls) to see the 2nd largest waterfall in the world and no I'm not going to tell you what the largest is - look it up! This small city was ok but in comparison to the other cities, was great. Seeing this series of waterfalls first hand is incredible. Feeling the spray, hearing the roar of the rushing water and seeing the power of that much water can not be properly described and photos do it no justice. You'll have to take my word for it.

This is the kingdom of the crystal skull

All in all Brazil had a few interesting things to see but the cities are to be avoided. Any place that you are repeatedly warned not to bring anything of any value whatsoever, anywhere you go, just isn't a fun place to be. One person went so far as to tell us, "you'll get robbed, everyone does here, it's just a fact of life". Awesome, is that part of a tour or is there somewhere we need to go specifically for that authentic Brazilian experience? Oh and it took 3 days to withdraw money from the ATMs because our bank insisted it was fraud, apparently Brazil (not Nigeria) is the ATM fraud capital of the world. It just wasn't the place for me.

Feel free to friend Big Chief on Facebook or check out his web page

Monday, December 30, 2013

Foz do Iguaçu

We flew into Foz do Iguaçu on December 27 and we went to visit Iguaçu Falls the next day.

The Iguaçu Falls from the plane!

Another day, another airport

Iguaçu Falls can be seen from both Brazil and Argentina (the border between the two countries is actually the Iguaçu River). It covers a width of 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) and the height varies between 60 meters (200 feet) and 82 meters (269 feet). About 270 waterfalls make up what is known as Iguaçu Falls and we saw it from the Brazil side first. But before heading to the falls, we stopped at a bird park (Parque das Aves). Are you ready to see some birds?

You might remember we saw grey-crowned cranes in Tanzania

A really pink flamingo!

Here's one that's not as pink

And a baby flamingo

Reflection shot

Green-billed toucan (aka red-breasted toucan)

I don't know what kind of bird this is

Hello Mr. Toucan

Razor billed Curassow

Profile shot

It looks like its beak is cut off

Red-breasted toucan (aka green-billed toucan)

Toco toucan

There were a lot of them

Here's another one with an egret

Don't let their happy faces fool you - one almost flew straight into my head!

Scarlet ibis

So red!

Toucan Sam

He was posing for me, I think

Sticking his tongue out

Anaconda don't want none unless you've got buns hun

These are some pretty big leaves

Tortoise lovin'

These are red-footed tortoises

Caimans (cousins of the alligator) live in Central and South America

Boa constrictor


Pathways at the park were nice and green

Harpy eagles - the females sometimes hunt for sloths and monkeys

Male Harpy eagles are smaller and hunt for opossums and armadillos

A molting King Vulture

Here's one that isn't molting

Emu (known as ema in Portuguese)

Like ostriches

Pretty peacock

Female peacocks aren't as flamboyant

The Gordon Gecko of birds

This is an ararajuba (aka golden parakeet)

I don't know what it was eating but it looked gross

Ararajuba means small yellow macaw (in Portuguese) and carries the colors of the Brazilian flag

Close up shot

Mama toucan feeding a baby toucan

Toucan feed it!

Hummingbird here

Hummingbird there

Caught it flying


Another hummingbird



And yet another type of hummingbird


Pretty feathers

I like hummingbirds

Striped owl

Spectacled owl


I thought they were parrots

One almost ran into my head...Macaw!

Blue Macaw!


It had quite a grip on my arm!

It took about an hour to walk through the bird park and then we headed over to the falls.

It didn't seem like too long of a line upon arriving

But it was - we waited almost 1 hour to get on a bus

A double decker bus!

Our first view of the falls


Now you will see all the photos I took of the falls - I hope you don't get tired of them

Slinky shot

Close up

There were a lot of these large raccoon like animals (South American coati) roaming around

We waited about 15 minutes to get this specific photo

Because everyone had to take their prom pictures there - clearly demonstrated by this couple

Do you know why I like this picture? If your answer has anything to do with the furry animal, you're wrong!


Paul found a new friend on his head

It was just an amazing sight...and a rainbow!

Here's another shot with some boats getting drenched by the waterfall known as Salto Dos Mosqueteros

Looking upstream towards Devil's Throat

We then headed towards the platform to get a closer look at Devil's Throat


Paul doesn't care about warning signs

Approaching the platform

We're on the platform!

We're starting to get a bit wet at this point

Looking downstream (from where we came)

I think Paul's gotten quite good at taking these photos

Devil's Throat is a large chasm where a large proportion of the water is thrust through. The chasm measures about 82 meters high, 150 meters wide, and 700 meters long.

See where all the mist is coming from? That's Devil's Throat...we got a better view from the top on the Argentina side.

After battling the crowd at Devil's Throat balcony, we headed towards the tower to get a view from the top 

Here's the view from the first level of the tower

Panoramic from the second level

Another rainbow in the shot - but it's a bit faint

From the very top

A butterfly's perspective of the falls