The good life...
4.2.10 36 °C
Hola to all from Paraty. A quaint little town roughly 4 hours south of Rio de Janerio. It was first established as a port town and all the gold from the surrounding hill sides was sent via boat from here back to Portugal. The streets are built in the typical Portuguese style – rough cobblestones that mean you must watch were you step each time for fear over going A over T and all draining to the middle rather than each side. At high tide the streets closest to the port often have water inching its way up the middle of the street to the centre of town.
The buildings in the old town are all whitewashed with different coloured doorways and window sills and no cars are allowed up these streets making it safe to wander down them, except of course for the cobblestones of death.
We are staying at a nice hostel around 20 minutes walk from town. I know this sounds really far away but if it wasn’t so hot you could walk this in 10. Seriously, I have never sweated so much in my life. Col and I had to speed walk to town to catch the bus the other day and by the time we got there I was wet through. So much so that the locals were staring. I literally had sweat dripping off the end of my nose and my undies were wet through. For those of you who have done Bikram Yoga, imagine this but 10 times worse and all the time!
The beach is literally 20 meters from the hostel door which is great...but the water here averages 1-1.4 metres deep at high tide and the bottom is muddy, meaning the water is not cool and refreshing but hot and like a bath unless you swim first thing in the morning. It really was quite funny when we went swimming the other day and we were out about 400m when we stood up and looked around and the water was only just above our knees. It was then that we decided to head to Trindade the next day; a surf beach about 30 minutes away. We’ve also visited a waterfall about 10 minutes away by bus. Not so exciting except for the fact that the locals ‘surf’ down a massive rock and land in a pool at the bottom that is no more than 1.5 deep and 10 X 2 wide. I slid down on my butt and was petrified the whole way. While the locals and sliding down on their feet and doing tricks on the way down. One guy from the hostel that we were with fell while practicing to slide and split his chin open...6 stiches later he will not forget that visit in a hurry.
Anyway we are here for another two weeks and then I join with another driver, Mick (an Australian who is only new to overlanding) and we run from Rio to La Paz. I will get to explore some places I haven’t been before; Salta, Tupiza, Runnebaque so that should be good. After this who knows....
But I’m sure you are all wondering how the last trip went....let me take this opportunity to paint some pictures for you. After leaving B.A. we headed across the Rio La Plata (the Silver River) to Montevideo in Uruguay. Sounds like a pretty easy journey except for the fact that I had more than half of the passengers with hangovers. Not good when you are trying to get them onto a ferry in limited time at 7.30am with a border crossing and customs to deal with. I think the alcohol leaching out of some of their skins made it easier as customs didn’t want to deal with the stench.
In Montevideo I spent the day chilling out i.e. doing laundry (mine and some passengers) and paperwork with what has become my ‘family in South America’; Gabs, Claire and Mateo.
From Montevideo we headed to Salto hot springs. Sounds lovely and relaxing right...hot springs for tired, aching muscles that have not seen a decent bed in 2 months. It was nice, except for the fact that the air temperature was close to 30 degrees before we even hoped in the water.
But another day and another border. The road from Salta led to a campsite over the border in Argentina and a town called Concordia. A campsite by the river, a nice meal including fruit salad made by a 23 year old who had never made fruit salad before (what the??) toads the size of dinner plates (no exaggerating here, imagine the one we have seen the pictures of in Kakadu and then double it), everything was peachy......until 4.30am. I should have previously explained that on this trip we had 8 pax; 2 women (the girls) and 6 men. The girls had been with us from Santiago and were my type of Chicas i.e. not princesses and ready to tell people how it is. It was so hot that they decide to camp without a fly on their tent that night. I had trouble sleeping that night and had woken up multiple times in a pool of sweat. It got to 4.30 and I was wide awake keeping an eye on some lightening in the distance...well that is until I awoke at 6.30 to a clap of thunder and driving rain hitting my head (afore mentioned pools of sweat lead me to open the window above my head in the hope that I would be cooler). 10 minutes later the rain had stopped but the stoves, tables, seats and cleaning gear (which we had left out the previous night) were now all very wet.
Well I was awake now and set about getting breakfast ready. 3 of the men had risen an
d were pottering around (the way Irish men tend to do) when the heavens opened with not only driving rain but wind that would have made Titan quiver in his boots. OMG! Next thing I hear the girls screaming in their tent (they had woken to put on the fly at around the 4.30 mark when there was lightening in the sky). Imagine my surprise to see their hands and feet holding the tent off them so they don’t suffocate while the back of the tent where they are not sitting has been ripped out of the ground and is approximately 2 feet off the ground. So while 4 men (3 pax and Col) are nice and dry inside the truck I am soaked through trying to calm the girls down and hold their tent, by the poles, off them so that they can get their gear together and get the hell out of there. I now know what it feels like to be hit by a wire brush as that is what the rain felt like as it was trying to pierce holes in my skin between my shorts and where my shirt had ridden up my back. One word came to mind....VARIETY.
For those of you who know me you will remember that when I am scared or nervous I tend to laugh (Kym knows what I’m on about). Well let me tell you there was much laughing that morning. Packing up camp in gale force winds, driving rain and a foot of mud/water on the banks of a rising river is certainly a new experience. But we lived to tell the tale and situations like that certainly show the true colours of people and separate the men from the boys so to speak.
But alas wet and flustered we headed on to the Jesuit Ruins in the state of Missiones in Argentina then on to Puerto Iguazu – the town on the Argentinean side of Iguazu Falls. A lovely camp ground, a day to myself (Pax and Col had gone to the falls). I felt the hand of God had intervened when right next to the internet cafe there was a legitimate massage salon. Fate I hear you say? That is exactly what I thought. I headed into the salon to be greeted by a pimply faced man of 17/18 (let’s call him manchild) who directed me into a room and told me to undress to my knickers. EEEKKK. Anyway by the end of the hour I was ready to take manchild home, lock him in a cupboard and have him only see the light of day in order for him to please me...with a therapeutic massage of course! Aaahhh bliss.
Onto Brazil we went. Foz de Iguazu to be exact....ahh the memories. This time they include a trip to the hospital for a pax to get an antihistamine injection to combat an allergic reaction that had resulted in a hideous rash and swollen lips and nose.
Bonito was the next town in our tour. A magnificent oasis with the clearest freshwater rivers you can imagine. Snorkelling through these is hard to take...NOT. The guys at this hostel were awesome and the chicken burgers have got to be the best I have tasted in South America. But not to be outdone the food in the Pantanal was also awesome.
The Pantanal is the biggest wetland in the world and cover portions of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. It is the natural habitat for the Anaconda, Caiman and Capybara (the world largest rodent and also the cutest). It is the wet season and we drove through some cracker storms on the way to our transfer point. The wet season also means that the Pantaneros (the local name for cowboys in the Pantanal) are moving the cattle along the roadways to higher ground. While waiting to make our way through one herd a Pantanero offered me some of his breakfast (rice and beans). After politely declining we continued on.
All of this water flows into the Pantanal and we got the opportunity to see this in action.
We went horseriding and ended up having to take the horses through 2-3 foot of water that earlier in the day our guide said, was not there. The wet season in the Pantanal also means swarms of mosquitoes. Imagine, we are driving along looking at the wildlife and close to 50 mosquitoes are crazily trying to keep up with the jeep (man they are fast). Each time we stop they catch up with us and bite the bejesus out of us. It is quite funny watching grown men dance around the jeep to try and keep them from landing on them.
But the Pantanal holds fond memories for me; the pair of endangered Azul Macaws flying above us, the toucans nesting in the tree just near the pool, the baby wild pig no more than a month old following the staff around waiting to be fed, the armadillo that dug a hole that you could lose yourself in right outside our door, the pair of giant anteaters wandering the plains, the howler monkeys and coati we took by surprise, the green iguana sunning itself on the bank of the river, the different species of birds and insects and the caiman that was no more than 1 meter away from us at all times while we were fishing for piranha for dinner. The Pantanal is an amazing place.
Campo Grande however is not. It is a stopover on our way to the bright lights, the rhythmic beats, the bouquet of smells (good and bad) and the heat of Rio de Janerio. This 4 day drive via Paraty, is not exciting except for the fact that this time I fell asleep and Col missed the turn off. This lead us on a whole new route ,hat was not noted in the driver notes and resulted in us getting lost in a large town, the name of which I have purged from my memory for all time.
But alas we made our way to Rio...the city the Peter Allen made famous for all Australians N.B. no one else except Australians know this song. This in my mind is a tragedy that we should all be working towards changing.
The ‘kids’ were farewelled and we turned around and headed back to Paraty to begin some much needed rest.
The last few months have taught me an incredible amount about human behaviour and relationships; good and bad. I think I could probably right a book about it by the time I get back. But alas when will that be? I’ll keep you all posted.