Wednesday January 14, 2015 (Brazil, Foz Do Iguacu, South America)
Today we traveled to Foz do Icuacu – at least that's what the Brazilians call it! We had a 10am flight from Rio to Foz. The first shot is me showing some Canadian pride thanks to a Christmas gift from Gramma. Thanks Gramma!
At the airport, I saw a nice sign in a custom bathroom stall. This one bathroom stall was labelled as being restricted for use only by "People of Small Stature". I didn't realize short people had a lot of trouble using toilets, but I guess the cries have been heard here in Brazil. You get a custom bathroom, shorties!
Our flight connected in Sao Paolo. That is one big, big city. Please see the second image. It just goes on and on in a seemingly endless parade of skyscraper apartment buildings. Whoa. About 11 million people live in the city proper, and about 19 million if you include surrounding cities. That's a lot.
After exiting the plane, connections to Foz were herded onto a shuttle bus. After most of the passengers deplaned and were split into two shuttle buses, we started moving. We drove about 25 metres. To the next plane over. At which point the shuttle stopped and let everybody out. I guess they didn't want people wandering around on the tarmac, but it was pretty funny to be driven to an adjacent gate in a shuttle bus. At least we had an awesome cartoon plane to get onto on our way to Foz. And we made it successfully, so it looks like cartoon planes function just like real planes.
One interesting thing we noticed about Gol Airways is that they actually take your boarding pass when you enter at the gate. So once you've gotten onto the plane… you have no idea where you're sitting. I'm not sure how other passengers managed to deal with this, but we had to madly search for the printout receipts of our boarding passes to determine which seat we were supposed to be in. Maybe people here in Brazil have better memories than us.
The bus ride from the airport to the hostel was straightforward. That being said, the bus met the Canadian standard of "full" upon pickup at the airport. As we drove closer to the city centre where our hostel was located, we continued to pick up new arrivals from the side of the road. With the two of us carrying two bags each, it was not the most comfortable bus ride. Shoulder to shoulder buses in 35 degree weather in which the bus driver likes to take roundabouts at 50km/h are… entertaining? Mostly draining and stressful, I suppose, but a funny memory!
Our hostel is actually comprised of upcycled shipping containers. Like the ones they put on big boats to bring goods across the ocean. There's a whole story about how they started the hostel as a big art project involving local interior designers, but I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say the hostel is brand new (about 2 months old), and full of great people!
Not long after arriving, we met up with fellow hostellers Anna (Switzerland), Jackson (USA), and Michel (Peru). As is the case for travellers, we became fast friends! I was already hatching a plan to meet up with a local named Jason (USA) whom I'd met through Couchsurfing. He's been living here for 13 years, so he speaks fluent Portuguese but grew up in the States. As such, he's an awesome guy to hang out with on a trip such as this! He picked out a local restaurant for us (Agua Douce or "Sweet water"), and we all piled into two cars for the meal!
In the photo, clockwise from bottom left we see Anna, Jason, Lucinae (Jason's Brazilian friend), Michel, Ian, Sandra, and Jackson. Not pictured are Ricardo and Karin – a Brazilian brother-sister team who run the hostel. We had a lovely meal of shared escondidinhos (translates to "little hidden things"). What's hidden behind the cheese curtain is the meat surprise! We had a beef and chicken version. Meat and cheese eaten with rice. Very tasty. It's pictured above.
Jason also ordered the table a set of cachacas. They're rice alcohols in various flavours. We tried many including grape, coconut, cinnamon, and one called "new moon" – supposedly because after trying it you're not likely to wake up until the new moon. They ran the gamut from smooth and tasty to rough and untasty. Quite fun to try!
Sandra got a bit nuts and ordered a Strawberry Daiquiri she was assured was quite good by Jason the Local. It came in two glasses. And by some kind of alchemist magic appeared to contain more than two glasses worth of pure ethanol. Needless to say she required a bit of assistance knocking it back, but the group happily obliged.
We learned during the meal that Portuguese slang for a condom is "camisinha", which translates directly to "little shirt". I thought this was hilarious, and made it a goal to enter multiple clothing stores asking for little shirts to see what kind of reaction I get.
By the late evening/early morning (about 2am), the group had hatched a plan to head to the Argentinian side of Iguazu falls the next day. I'm spelling it with a "z" here because that's how they spell it on the Spanish/Argentinian side. Brazil calls it Iguacu. Anyway, at 2am I was busily paying reciprocity fees online which Argentina requires for Canadians to enter the country. Intoxicated administrative tasks are never easy, but we're pretty sure it went off without a hitch.
Tomorrow we see the falls!