Leg Four - Argentina to Paraguay to Brazil

Day Twenty Three - Puerto Iguazu, Argentina to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay to São Paulo, Brazil Big travel day today. First thing, we headed to the Brazilian embassy just down the road from our hostel and double-checked that we didn´t need a visa to get in to Brazil, because we had heard some conflicting information. Thankfully, we didn´t! After breakfast, we packed up and headed to the bus station and caught a public bus to Ciudad del Este, just across the border in Paraguay. We were planning to take a bus straight from Iguazu to São Paulo, but the buses were all booked, so we had to travel to Paraguay and catch a bus from there. We thought we couldn´t get into Paraguay without a visa, but the man at the bus station that sold us our tickets assured us that we wouldn´t need a visa, as we are in transit to Brazil. The bus to del Este took us straight through to the bus station there - it was so packed with people! Looking out the window when we drove through the city, we were glad we weren´t hanging around there - heaps of stalls selling cheap electronics and the streets were packed with people!

We hung out in the bus station for a couple of hours until our bus in the afternoon. We were in the "VIP" section, which was not very VIP at all! Finally got on the big bus to São Paulo. Really nice coche cama seats - comfortable and almost fully reclining.

We got to the Paraguay border, and the bus driver told us to get off the bus to get stamped out of Paraguay. We explained that we didn´t get stamped in, so we didn´t need to get stamped out. He was adamant that we needed to. There were three other travellers on our bus with the same issue - they were told they didn´t need to get stamped in either. So, we all went in to the immigration office, and that´s where the fun started...

Apparently, we did need to get stamped in to Paraguay and we did need a visa. (Just like we told the guy we got our tickets from!) The other people - two Dutch girls and a British girl had all been told the same thing, so at least we weren't on our own! A nice Argentine girl translated between us and the immigration people. They wanted to charge us an astronomical price for not having an entry stamp, but we argued a bit and managed to negotiate something much less. Luckily we had a stash of US dollars with us. The other girls didn't have anything with them, though, so we lent them our spare cash. (Yes, they all paid us back later!) Finally we got our exit stamps and were allowed out! It all seemed very corrupt and not very fair, so we were glad to see the back of Paraguay! The whole debacle held the bus up for over an hour! A few hundred metres down the road was the Brazilian border, which was a breeze.

The rest of the bus trip was very uneventful. Had a great sleep in our reclining chairs!

Observations...

  • At hostel you can get lunch box with ham, cheese, lettuce and tomato sandwich, cereal bar, delicious apple and a bottle of water. All for $12 pesos. Awesome!!
  • Brazilians have a quota of how much electronics they can take back into Brazil from Paraguay. I can see why.

Day Twenty Four - São Paulo

We arrived at the bus station in São Paulo, and it was gigantic and packed with people! We were wondering how on earth Laira (one of our hosts) would find us, and then suddenly there she was! One taxi ride later, we were at Alexey and Laira's apartment. We spent the day meeting their dog, Petrushka, eating and relaxing.

In the evening, we went across the city to a wedding. Alexey was playing in a quartet there, so we went along to watch. We ended up seeing two weddings, because the earlier one was running late - they don't seem to leave much time between them! It was at a big Catholic church. The ceremonies were very formal and quick, and the guests talked through the whole thing, and during the first ceremony, guests for the second wedding kept walking in and sitting down! So weird.

Observations...

  • We catch a lot of taxis. Better than walking!
  • We are getting VERY well looked after.
  • No constant car horns here.

Day Twenty Five - Paulo

We had a quiet morning, then headed out in the afternoon. Ryan conducted the Sphaera Ensemble who rehearsed and recorded his music -In Their Light, Reclusion, The Attic and two NZ pieces Ryan arranged - Pokarekare Ana and Te Haranui. The session went very well and the musicians really liked the music - a great success." Ryan will write a complete post about the afternoon on here soon.

In the evening we went to Avenida Paulista, a popular shopping street with lots of beatiful Christmas lights. We ate Brazilian food at a restaurant there - tasty marinated steak strips and chips made from something that is kind of like potato, but starts with m. Can´t quite remember the name! Wendy drank her first caiprihina cocktail - a very popular Brazilian drink. We also had our first taste of guarana, which is kind of like L&P is in NZ.

Observations...

  • The Sphaera Ensemble is awesome.

Day Twenty Six - São Paulo

We headed out to the supermarket with Alexey in the morning to get food for breakfast. There were so many things we had never seen before. All kinds of bright coloured fruits and vegetables! We spent the afternoon relaxing and planning out the sights we wanted to see over the next couple of days of our stay.

Late afternoon we went out and saw Catedral Se, which is a very beautiful cathedral in the heart of São Paulo. Then we went to Teatro Municipal, which, like all the other theatres we have been to on this trip, was undergoing renovations! We also went to Catedral Monastery San Bento, which is a huge old monastery with a school attached.

We ate at a restaurant with food from Minas Gerais, which is a region near São Paulo. Lots of good food, kind of Middle Easternish.

Observations...

  • Finally we're in a country where motorcyclists have to wear helmets.
  • They also have a law to not use cellphones while driving.
  • Arriving Saturday we thought there was no smog in São Paulo. Wait until Monday!
  • Toast here comes from the supermarket already cooked!
  • Fanta is fanta, but has real oranges!! What?
  • Police are NOT your friend.
  • Buenos Aires street market relaxed and civilized. São Paulo market agressive and uncomfortable.

Day Twenty Seven - São Paulo

Ryan and Alexey spent the morning composing their music. In the afternoon, we went to Estacao da Luz, a beautiful old railway building. Then we went to Pinacoteca do Estado, an art musuem and looked at the Brazilian art there. Then we went to Sala São Paulo, a big theatre, but it had shut for the day.

Our last stop was Liberdade, also known as Japan Town. Lots of cool Japanese shops, restaurants etc.

We had dinner at Black Dog, a popular restaurant there, a bit like Subway.

Observations...

  • Argentina was different to Chile. Uruguay was a little different to Argentina. Brazil is COMPLETELY different to all the rest.
  • There are markings on the floor in the art gallery for blind people. Ummm...
  • The subway here is mega!

Day Twenty Eight - São Paulo

After Ryan and Alexey spent another morning composing, we headed out on our own for a day of sightseeing and activities!

First stop was MASP, the São Paulo art musuem. It was very impressive. We saw paintings by Van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir, a sculpture exhibit by Rodin, and an exhibit of Walker Evans´ photography, which Wendy studied at university. Also saw a cool street graffiti exhibit.

Next headed back to Sala São Paulo in time for the afternoon tour, but turns out the tours are closed for summer. Oh well! Just our luck.

Next we went to Memorial a la Americana Latina. It was pouring with rain by then, so we didn`t hang out for long!

Observations...

  • Sirens here are like a bad soundtrack to a sci-fi film.
  • It's not a tourist friendly city.
  • We think we blend in, but people look at us as if we are some strange creature they have never seen before.
  • Supermarkets don't smell in Brazil like in Argentina.

Day Twenty Nine - São Paulo

Today was Christmas Eve and NZ cuisine day. We had promised Alexey and Laira that we would treat them to a day of typical NZ food.

We made pancakes for breakfast. Ryan did a great job of flipping pancakes. We had fruit salad and syrup with them.

For lunch we had fresh ravioli with garlic and tomatoes. More Italian than NZ, I guess, but it was something that we would typically eat!

In the afternoon, we went to the bus station and bought our tickets to Rio. The bus station was completely packed with people. Apparently there were 200,000 people through the bus station on that day. Crazy!

For dinner we made our favourite chorizo, potato and chickpea salad. We watched fireworks out the window of the apartment. There are lots of parties and fireworks on Christmas Eve in Brazil.

Observations...

  • At shops the gift wrapping is do it yourself.
  • Buying a bus ticket? Write down destination and date. So easy.
  • Pets are big here.
  • Here you stay up and party until Christmas day.
  • Fireworks non-stop from 7pm until well after midnight. Huge crazy ones that are illegal in NZ. Sounded like a warzone.

Day Thirty - São Paulo

Merry Christmas! Oh, actually, Feliz Natal!

We started the day with pao do quejos for breakfast, which is a typical 'special' breakfast in Brazil. They are basically cheese scones served hot.

For Christmas lunch, Laira cooked a fantastic lasagne - very different from lasagnes we're used to, but it tasted great. Thanks, Laira!

We gave Alexey and Laira the presents we had brought with us from NZ. Lots of Kiwiana souvenirs.

We spent the afternoon at Parque Do Ibirapuera, which is a big park around two lakes - lots of families and people biking, walking and rollerblading. As we were leaving we noticed crowds of people gathering around the lake. We found out they were waiting for a fountain light show. We joined the crowds and found a good spot to wait. The show was OK - not quite the extravaganza we were expecting, but we got to see the huge Christmas tree at the park all lit up, so that made it worth it!

We had breads and dips for dinner and red Chilean wine. So, that was our Brazilian Christmas! Thanks, Alexey and Laira, for a great day!

Observations...

  • When we take the stairs, people look at us strange as they fight to get on to the escalator.
  • Don't stare at people on the subway!

Day Thirty One - São Paulo

We headed off to the São Paulo Zoologico today. There were thousands of animals there all with their own little cage. Very different atmosphere from NZ zoos. Crowds of people would stand waiting and would cheer and applaud when the animals moved or did something special.

After the zoo we went across the city to a street full of music shops. There were at least 30 shops there!

Later that night, we had ice cream sundaes from a per kilo ice cream shop. You make your own sundae, and they weigh it and charge you per kilo. Per kilo is a very popular style of restaurant in Brazil.

We were all pretty tired after lots of walking, so we had a quiet night. Ryan and I watched ET on DVD.

Observations...

  • Boy on the train walks down putting lollies in your lap or balances on your leg. Then once given to everyone, he'll walk back down and collect money for the lollies.
  • Full length body suits are in fashion.

Day Thirty Two - São Paulo

Last day in São Paulo today. We headed out to check out the shops in the morning.

In the afternoon, Ryan and Alexey worked on their music.

We all decided to go to the movies and see Avatar (English audio for us, Portuguese subtitles for them). When we got there, tickets were sold out! So we had an early dinner instead and spent the night repacking our bags and swapping photos.

Observations...

  • Bookshops are very hard to find here.
  • In Argentina you say you don't speak much Spanish, they help you and it's easy. In Brazil you say you don't speak much Portuguese and they are persistent with their long sentences.