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Southern Brazil, a little Uruguay and a bare mention of Argentina

August 4, 2019

On a Sunday morning at the end of April, we crossed from Paraguay to Brazil at Ponta Porã.  With the knowledge that Rachel's passport was due to expire in July, we were hoping to obtain a Temporary Import Permit of 90 days for the van, to cover the period of our intended June trip back to London.  The idea was to have the van stored and legal during our absence.  The National Police officer at Punta Porã was having none of it... so we were given 60 days.  We were told the issue would be resolved by visiting the Police and Customs in São Paulo.  That subsequently turned out to be a waste of time.

 

We headed north towards Bonito, spending our first night on the way, sleeping at the side of a petrol station.  The owner and staff were very friendly, but they spoke in alien (Portuguese).  I've taken an age to get my head around Spanish and to be suddenly confronted with a closely related language - it sounds Eastern European - words that have the same spelling and meaning are often pronounced completely differently.  I digress, the owner's son spoke some English, so we got by.

 

Bonito is a large handsome town and is a staging post for trips into the Pantanal (the world's largest tropical wetland area) and a number of local Eco tours to attractions on the enormous estates/farms.  We booked an afternoon float/swim on one of the crystal clear rivers and a visit to a cave.

 

Off we headed for the river float.  Lunch was included, so we arrived early to eat and relax.  The location is an enormous working ranch and the set-up for visitors was high standard.  The lunch was a fantastic 'all you can eat' buffet and I love my grub.  Later, creaking from excess, I waddled off for the river adventure.  The water for the most part was crystal clear and full of colourful tropical fish.  Rachel was lucky enough to have two Giant River Otters swim close to her.  I was oblivious, happily bobbing along.  It was a great afternoon.

 

The following day, our cave tour was cancelled due to heavy rainfall raising the water level, so we headed east for São Paulo.  Rachel had booked an AirBnB apartment, with parking.  The van almost squeaked fitting into the parking space and we almost squeaked fitting into the apartment - very nice, but small and over furnished. 

 

The city is huge.  We were in a lively area and surrounded by great restaurants.  We did plenty of walking, travelled on the ultra modern metro system and local buses.  Mrs Page organises a mean City Tour, I'm surprised we don't wear through more shoe leather.  We really enjoyed São Paulo.

 

Moving on, we drove south with the intention of doing the southern part of Brazil, then crossing back into Uruguay, where we would leave the van for the duration of our trip home in June. 

 

We visited the Caverna do Diabo, near Eldorado.  It was fun scrambling around the cave and finding a few spiders and took a guided hike along the Rio Betari to see some waterfalls in the State Park of Alto Ribeira.  Due to our lack of Portuguese, we were not aware that it involved wading across the river 8 times on the way out and the same on the return.  With no way to dry our hiking boots, we had to remove them 16 times and wade across the rocky bottom.  A reasonably difficult hike/scramble, but great fun and two lovely waterfalls at the end.

 

Next up, Curitiba, state capital of Paraná.  This is a great city, transformed in the 1970's by a forward thinking mayor who pedestrianised downtown (under cover of darkness), introduced express bus lanes, created parks and planted trees.  This is where we visited our first Oscar Niemeyer (Architect) building, a museum and art gallery named after him.  Our lucky day to find an Ai Weiwei exhibition - stunningly good.

 

After Curitiba, we took a scenic drive to the coast and from Portal do Paraná a ferry to the small island of Ihla do Mel.  We spent two nights on the island, taking long walks.

 

Once back on the mainland, we followed the coast to pass through Florianópolis onto the large island Ihla de Santa Catarina.  We visited and stayed at a number of places on the island and as it was low season, a lot of the time, we had the tourist spots to ourselves.

 

Continuing south, again on the mainland, we headed into the Parque Nacional de Aparados da Serra to see the the Cânion Itaimbezinho.  Our campsite was great, but the weather was poor on the day we visited the canyon, and the drive up was something else, we weren't going to repeat it the following day when the sun shone!. 

 

We drove on south, crossing into Uruguay at Chui.  This is a lively border town we had visited previously.  All frontier towns have a little edge to them.

 

The weather had been pretty foul for a few days, so we decided to take the most direct route across Uruguay to Colonia, where, we rented a rustic cabin in the dense forest, where we could prep and clean the van prior to heading to London.  It was a great place to stay and we had friends, Graham and Angela visit for a large lump of Uruguayan beef, plus plenty of wine.

 

A few days later we stored the van on a farm and took the ferry to Buenos Aires, for the flight to London the following day.

 

 

 

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