Do you know this feeling when every day appears to be longer but still 14 days seem to be less than 2 weeks? When your memory is filled with so many impressions that you don’t even know where to start? When the return to your ‘normal’ life feels really hard because the journey was so beautiful?
It’s the price to pay. Though it really is not too high.
It seems that Sao Paolo is about the last place one would want to live in Brazil. And it’s not exactly difficult to see why. It is but one huge sea of concrete. That the summer on the coast is the worst in years – Belgian style: 20° and rain – and that the main (inofficial) attraction of Sao Paulo is the Avenida Paulista, a shopping street, made things only worse.
Still, I met friends who kept on insisting that Sao Paulo is the best city to live in in Brazil and took us to nice areas to go out. It’s not too far from the beach which in return is close to the biggest Brazilian harbour. One can see passing one container vessel after the other and imagine what the water quality might be like.
It probably won’t have been the last time, I visited this city. But I do feel that I’ll have to make a particular effort to find a few more advantages in its favour. Enfin, pourquoi pas?
The German city! At least, that was the description I got. Well…
According to my fellow traveller, Curitiba is an organised city with excellent public transport and urban planning; i.e. very much unlike other Brasilian cities. It still has one main characteristic in common with the ones we saw on the way: the unabiding love for concrete.
But, Curitiba has a historical centre, big parks and many trees along the roads, all things you come to appreciate more after spending a few days in Sao Paolo. The link to the Germans comes from 19th century immigrants – not only from Germany but also Poland and the Ukraine – who until today are found in the names of the shops, businesses and in the way “things get organised”. That doesn’t mean necessarily good, but at least someone has spend some time thinking about it.
A mix of work related activities and weather that was not really up to the summer heat I had been threatened with promised, meant that we could not visit the city and its surroundings as much as we would have liked. Another place to come back to?
Admittedly, I was not that keen to drive two days across the country – and two days back – to see the Iguacu waterfalls. Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel but I wouldn’t have mind spending a few days on the beach not doing anything.
Bad weather and the kind insistence of my fellow traveller closed the deal. Sunshine, beautiful landscapes and unasphalted rural roads which are really fun to drive were the much appreciated results.
After spending New Year’s Eve on a lake admiring the Milky Way which seemed close enough to touch*, we arrived at Foz do Iguacu the next day. Starting the year with seeing – and almost touching – Toucans can only be a good sign.
The same evening, we crossed the Argentinian border where we missed the one hour change to a different time zone in our favour and were really early the next day on the way to the Foz do Iguacu park. The park itself is very well organised with a train carrying visitors to four different walks giving a complementary view on the falls. We saw a few animals like wild toucans, an armarillo and even a monkey but the most spectacular sight – the falls itself – beats everything.
It’s the way, the water rushes over the cliffs and bursts into a mist of water reaching high up in the sky. It’s the noise created by the tons of water falling down; the freshness of the air and the realisation that this never stops.
Even though it was dry season and the falls far from being full, they are very impressive. Plus, it is relaxing to walk through the green jungle around them, to have a swim in the Iguacu and to drop on the bed exhausted after a full day of discoveries.
The secret to discovering Brazil is to enjoy driving. Or to spend time in over-night buses. Of course, you can take a plane. But a couple of hours flight won’t reveal as much about this country – or more precisely the tiny area we visited – as driving on the asphalted and non-asphalted roads will.
One of the first images that ingrains itself is the one of roads. Long, straight roads cut through a country of slight green hills covered by forests (occasionally) farm land (frequently) and cities & villages (frequently as well).
The next one is the sheer width. All we did, to understate the endeavor, was to cross one federal state: Parana. It’s by no means the biggest state but it still takes 7-10 hours. Belgium, in comparison can be crossed in 4 hours; and that is the longer extend including a traffic jam in Brussels.
The remaining though not last image is the beauty of the country and of the people. While the cities are concrete nightmares, outside of them, the dominating colour is green. Even the coast in Parana has been preserved quite well (one might add: so far) and is not disfigured by story buildings. Last but not least are the people. Wherever we went, people were friendly, showed us the way, and asked about the where, from & tos.
The feeling I had was indeed that Brazil is a country where many people have foreign roots and are curious to learn more about newcomers no matter if they are de passage or likely to stay.Though, it really does help to speak Portuguese in order to have those conversations in the first place as English is by no means wide spread.
The two weeks we had went by way too fast. No wonder with the 3000 km we spent on the road. But, it is the perfect way to discover a country in which, hopefully, I’ll have more time to spend.