Paraguay and Brazil
Sunday 19th August
We take the bus to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. The bus stops at Argentine Immigration to get an exit stamp and then goes straight through Brazil without stopping eventually stopping at the shopping centre in Paraguay, which means we have to walk back to Immigration to get our entry stamps.
We leave at 9.50 am and arrive at 11am local time ( 1 hour change) all for 10 pesos. En route we cross the Friendship Bridge and Fraternity Bridge. We stop at Tourist information who suggest a hotel. When we arrive it is very basic and unclean, but when we ask to change rooms we are upgraded to a cleaner room, a 4 bed dorm with private bathroom.
We have a typical lunch at a local restaurant and then make our way to Itaipu Damn on a local bus.
The total length of the dam is 7235 m. The crest elevation is 225 m. Itaipu is actually four dams joined together— from the far left, an earth fill dam, a rock fill dam, a concrete buttress main dam, and a concrete wing dam to the right.
The spillway has a length of 483 m.
The maximum flow of Itaipu's fourteen segmented spillways is 62.2 thousand cubic metres per second, into three skislope formed canals. It is equivalent to 40 times the average flow of the nearby natural Iguaçu Falls.
The flow of two generators (700m3·s−1 each) is roughly equivalent to the average flow of the Iguaçu Falls (1500m3·s−1).
If Brazil were to use Thermal Power Generation to produce the electric power of Itaipu, 434,000 barrels (69,000m3) of petroleum would have to be burned every day.
The dam is 196 metres high, equivalent to a 65-story building.
Though it is the seventh largest reservoir in size in Brazil, the Itaipu's reservoir has the best relation between electricity production and flooded area.
The course of the seventh biggest river in the world was shifted, as were 50 million tons of earth and rock.
The amount of concrete used to build the Itaipu Power Plant would be enough to build 210 football stadiums the size of the Estádio do Maracanã.
The iron and steel used would allow for the construction of 380 Eiffel Towers.
The volume of excavation of earth and rock in Itaipu is 8.5 times greater than that of the Channel Tunnel and the volume of concrete is 15 times greater.
Around forty thousand people worked in the construction.
Itaipu is one of the most expensive objects ever built.
When construction of the dam began, approximately 10,000 families living beside the Paraná River were displaced.
The world's largest waterfall by volume, the Guaíra Falls were drowned by the newly formed Itaipu reservoir. The Brazilian government liquidated the Guaíra Falls National Park, and dynamited the submerged rock face where the falls had been, facilitating safer navigation, but eliminating the possibility of restoring the falls in the future. A few months before the reservoir was filled, 80 people died when an overcrowded bridge overlooking the falls collapsed, as tourists sought a last glimpse of the falls.
An important diplomatic settlement was reached with the signing of the Acordo Tripartite by Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, on October 19, 1979. This agreement established the allowed river levels and how much they could change as a result of the various hydroelectrical undertakings in the watershed that was shared by the three countries. At that time, the three countries were ruled by military dictatorships. Argentina was concerned that, in the event of a conflict, Brazil could open the floodgates, raising the water level in the Río de la Plata and consequently flood the capital city of Buenos Aires.
Itaipu produces 80% of Paraguay's electricity and 20% of Brazil's.
Monday 20th August
Today is shopping heaven, Cuidad de Este is the world's fourth largest tax haven and can't you tell.
Commercially speaking, the main attraction is Ciudad Del Este in Paraguay. To give an idea of its importance it may be enough to say that it is the largest shopping center in South America. In the past annual sales reached upwards of USD $12 billion. The stores in Ciudad del Este sell an endless variety of products imported from the biggest and most advanced industrial centers in the world. There, the tourist can find simple utensils to state-of-the-art computers. The shopper can find quality products made with the most advanced technology, at very attractive prices, as well as many counterfeit items.
I am not sure how the shops all make money though as they all sell the same goods. Hannah and Mark are interested in a new laptop and the prices are very competitive and much cheaper than back in the UK, the difficulty is they don't come with guarantee paperwork etc.
We walk round several shopping centres, packed with hundreds of outlets and all that can be heard is the noise of brown tape being torn from cardboard boxes as electrical items are unpacked, it is quite deafening in some cases.
We cross the border into Brazil at 5.30pm a taxi takes us all the way across and waits for us to get through immigration for a set fee. Although he does get lost finding the hotel and stops for directions unfortunately in Portuguese which he does not fully understand. When we arrive we are at the sister hostal, luckily the manager is there and he offers to take us the other hostal. It is fairly basic, but does have a swimming pool. We also have two ensuite rooms as well. We eat at the local supermarket as they have all you can eat buffet dinner, very good food and excellent value for money.
Tuesday 21st August
Iguaçu is a major city in the state of Paraná, Brazil. It is a gateway to both Paraguay and Argentina, and home of the famous Iguaçu Falls. Together with the cities of Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) and Puerto Iguazu (Argentina), it forms part of one the largest cultural tourism poles in South America.
Today we visit the Brazilian side of Iguazo falls. We catch the bus from the bus station a 10 minute walk from the hostal, this takes about 45minutes and is the same bus that will take us to the airport tomorrow. When we reach the entrance to the falls we have to catch another bus that takes 15minutes to get to the actual falls. The falls are very picturesque from this side and you can seethe whole of the waterfalls not just bits of them. It is amazing the amount of water that flows and the mist that is always present. Mother nature is very impressive.
After lunch Mark and I complete a canopy tour, very similar to Go Ape except at the end there is a 30ft telegraph pole that you have to climb and then throw yourself off to try and catch a high wire swing. The climb is very high and as you near the top there is nothing to hang onto. I manage to sit on the top and just launch myself off, Mark on the other hand manages to catch the swing. Great fun and a challenge for me because of the heights and trusting the wires etc.
We eat again at the all you can eat buffet, everything else is really expensive. Brazil in general seems to be much more expensive.
Wednesday 22nd August
Fly from Iguazu to Rio today. Very good flight, very small airport and flight on time I had a window seat and the flight into Rio was very interesting. We arrive in Rio at 11.30am and get to the apartment at 12.30. It is a block back from Copacabana Beach, it has two double rooms, large bathroom with power shower, all very clean and modern, but needing a little TLC to keep on top of it's initial appearance. Although the apartment is on the fourth floor the traffic noise is very loud, there is no double glazing and below us is a 3 lane and bus lane one way street which is busy 24 hours a day. The agent who meets us there was originally from Leicester, he is very chatty and gives us the low down on the city and tips on places to eat etc. There is a lift in the apartment block, which is quite antiquated, with a sliding door. Andy and Mark have fun racing the lift up the stairs, Mark cheating by pressing the lift button for each floor making it stop.
We will be here for the next 8 days and I am very much looking forward to some sunshine and beach time.
We check out the neighbourhood, find our local supermarket and stock up on groceries. We then walk along the beach to Ipanena to watch the sunset, very beautiful and another one of those pinch me moments.
We cooked pasta for tea and settled down to watch a film on TV. It is great to relax and know we don't have to pack and be on our way in a couple of days.
Thursday 23rd August
Once the capital of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro (River of January) situated itself along he Atlantic coast in the south eastern region. This urban sprawl of over five million inhabitants of Cariocas as they are called lies host to the world famous Carnival attracting over 2,000,000 visitors each year mostly for this lavish and colourful event. But Carnival is not he only time to visit Rio.
Architecturally resplendent yet uniquely diverse, Rio showcases its prodigal high-rise, upscale living quarters, where sand meets sea, immediately contiguous to and often times adjoining pint-sized flats. famous landmarks adorn the area.
A big attraction for the many foreign visitors is the temperate climate. Often times associated with the tropics
Today was chill out beach day. We got up late and were generally very lazy.
GCSE Results announced back home and there is scandal as usual about grades not being correct.
Friday 23rd August
Today we walked the full length of Copacabana Beach, which is 4km long. There are some beautiful people and some not so beautiful people, but there is certainly a lot of bottom on display. There are also some lovely buildings, especially Copacabana Palace Hotel - which is being refurbished probably in time for World Cup 2014 and then the Olympics in 2016. If I had lots of money this is where I would stay.
The beach is immaculately clean white sand with very blue water, there are big waves, which ccan be surfed but the water is cold so not many swimmers. The beaches in Rio are for being seen not for swimming.
We then did some retail therapy and hit the Havaianas shop, I have never seen so many flip flops in all sizes and colours. We bought several pairs as they make good pressies for young trendy things in the know.
We then watched the sunset on Capacabana beach, which is everything you imagine and more.
We ate at an all you can eat buffet /grill which was good value for money considering where we are.
Saturday 25th August
City tour all day today in air conditioned mini bus and English speaking guide..
Picked up at 8.30 first visit were the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanena and Leblon, the latter being very posh although in the not so far distance is one of the most famous and smallest Favella.
One cannot even think of a beach on Brazil without the world famous Copacabana first coming to mind. Located within the city confines of Rio de Janeiro, this four kilometres strip of beach serves up an animated menu of activities and sights as lengthy as its coastline. Swimming in its crystal blue waters, tanning in its sun baked sand, kicking around a football in a game of sand soccer or beach volleyball, with or without your hands, can all be deliciously tempting your round (though June-August does see its share of rain) at this prominent South American retreat.
Named after the conspicuous (you can't miss it) and still distinguished Copacabana Palace Hotel which opened in 1920, to this day attracts the rich and famous. The allure of the wide, white sand beach, the affable locals or Cariocas, round the clock parties, bikini clad beauties (don't worry ladies there's a pile of bronzed back beef cake too) sumptuous restaurants, lively bars and music and night clubs all at very reasonable prices, will instantly gain and keep your attention through out your stay.
Leme beach is part and parcel to the same 4 km stretch of Copacabana, It draws far fewer crowds compelling many families to bring their children.
Popular with surfers not willing to trek the distance to find bigger, faster swells Arpoador is none the less spirited. Positioned between Ipanema and Copacabana, Arpoador forms a natural border dividing the two beaches by a huge rock formation. Standing on either side of the rock affords a glorious view to its neighbours of more notoriety depending on which side of the rock you're standing. Access to this 600 yard strip of beach is by foot only. Many families and the elderly patronize this area as an escape from the suffering crowds. Losing some of the man made accoutrements hardly phases them as none of the natural ones are lost. It's the surfers though who gravitate here for its accessibility and lively surf. It's also a great place to gather to watch the sunset in the early evening.
Just up the coast from Copacabana sits the more up scale and chic though equally lively beach of Ipanema. Brazilians have known for years this is the place to find the tall, the tan, the young and lovely garotas (young women) even before being immortalized by the composer Tom Jobim.
Repudiated as the birthplace of the tanga (tiny bikini) fashionably conscious sleek and tanned vixens along with their equally seductively male counterparts, parade the white sands in full admiration of their surroundings. Despite the fashion statements Ipanema affords the same bevy of activities as Copacabana,' Fruitvale' (no hands volleyball) soccer, belly boarding are all transpiring but in a more sedate and relaxing atmosphere. The water is calmer and more inviting to the casual swimmer. There is even a separate area for mothers with their babies.
Right next to Ipanema and on the same stretch of sand lies an extension of Ipanema. Same stylish atmosphere but significantly less crowded (except on the week-ends when they're all crowded) and even more family oriented.Very popular with single female tourists as the continuous flow of people moving about the area establishes a sense of security and comfort. Female tourists may feel awkward or anxious around the female Cariocas looking to hustle the male tourist at a beach like Copacabana. Lablon is an idyllic escape without sacrificing the amenities.
We then follow the road round Lagoa de Freitas where all the new development is taking place and a very trendy place to live because it has views of both the sea and the lake. Next stop the cable car up to Pao de Acuca, better known as Sugar Loaf Mountain from here you can see beautiful views of the beaches, marina and one of Rio's three airports. It is amazing watching the planes coming into land as it is such a short runway right out in the sea surrounded by mountains. We can also see building wroks taking place on new stadiums for the world Cup and Olympics. The bay will be where the sailing and water sports events take place.
Pao de Acucar
A mere 600 million years ago mother nature's geologic hand formed a princely natural wonder, Pao de Acucar or Sugar Loaf. Original inhabitants deemed it Pau-nh-Acqua, later to be changed by the invading French who dubbed it "Pot de Beurre". Portuguese colonists renamed it "Pao de Assucar" or Bread of Sugar only to be re-invaded by the French who assigned it "Pot de Sucre". By the Seventeenth century the Portuguese had regained their dominance and Pao de Acucar was reborn to permanency. During this time sugar cane was the primary export and upon completion of the processing the finished product was packed into bread like loaves for shipment. Hence the name Sugar Loaf.
Today Sugar Loaf is the most commonly recognized and sought after tourist attraction in Rio. But it has served its past inhabitants equally well. Navigators for years would spot the imposing figure as the entrance to Guanabara Bay. The first Portuguese arrivers chose the landmark as a settling location for the magnitude of visibility afforded towards the sea and mountains assuring their continued protection.
Today's tourists enjoy the ease and comfort of a cable car ride to the top of Sugar Loaf which was first installed in 1912, blossoming the tourists industry to Rio.
Reaching the top of Sugar Loaf is actually done in two stages. The first car ascends over 700 feet up Urca Hill affording marvellous views of Corcovado Mountain, the Niteroi Bridge and Guanabara Bay. Transferring to a second car then elevates you an additional 1300 feet to the top where spectacular views of Copacabana and other beaches can be admired.
Christ The Redeemer
Towering atop 2400 ft. tall Corcovado Mountain stands certainly Rio's most memorable monument Christ The Redeemer (Cristo Redentor). Standing upright at over 100 feet tall, two and a half million pounds with outstretched arms and open, inviting hands, Cristo maintains a 24 hour vigil to all inhabitants of Rio.
The idea of a religious statue was first conceived in 1921 by Carlos Oswaldo who sketched out a design of Christ carrying a cross. When engineer Heitor da Silva Costa was commissioned to build the monument he enlisted the aid of Polish sculptor Paul Landowski and the design was changed to its current form and it was agreed that the statue would be sculpted in France.
Today, as then, a trip to the top is a must for any traveler to Rio de Janeiro. Travelling by electrified train through the worlds largest urban forest is an adventure itself and once to the base escalators have replaced the 220 something steps once required to access the viewing area. At the base is a chapel accommodating over 100 people and a small souvenir shop. But it's the viewing area which attracts the masses.
And the view is spectacular. On a clear day a 360 degree panorama of the entire city, the beaches, the forest, mountains, Favelas and picturesque sunsets, Maracana Stadium, Rio Niteroi Bridge, the Jockey Club, Botanic Garden and more.
The Maracana stadium
Maracana, once the worlds greatest playground for world famous soccer stars such as Ronaldo, Romario, Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, Carlos Alberto, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Falcao, Junior, Pele, Rivaldo, Rivelino, Romario, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Djalma Santos, Nilton Santos, Socrates, Zico and the list goes on
The Maracana was built in 1950 for the fourth World Cup, the first after after a twelve-year absence due to World War II. When the stadium opened on June 16, 1950, it was officially known as the Estadio Municipal. Later, in 1964, it was named after Mario Filho, the founder of Jornal dos Sports, Rio de Janeiro's daily newspaper. However, to the locals, it was simply called the Maracana, taking its name from the small river that flows by the facility. The name given by the people took the place of the formal name and eventually the stadium became known to the world simply as Maracana.
Built in reinforced concrete as a giant oval of two tiers, divided by a smaller intermediate level of open boxes. Circling the rear 34 rows was a dramatic sweeping roof, which, at that time, was the largest spanning cantilevered cover in the world, spanning nearly 30 meters.
This made the Maracana the world's biggest football stadium of its glory days, with an official world-record attendance of 199,854 for the 1950 World Cup Final against Ururguay.
It is currently closed for refurbishment and will open for World Cup 2014 and then be used again for the Olympics 2016.The Sambadrome
The magnificent stadium designed by world renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1984. The stadium's official name is Passarela do Samba Darcy Ribeiro, built in a record 110 days. Prior to the construction of the Sambadrome, the Carnival parades were held on Avenida Presidente Vargas, one of the largest streets in the downtown area.
The Sambadrome is divided into sectors with different kinds of seating arrangements. Most of Rio's who's who finds their way to the 'Camarotes' or mezzanine boxes that are the most expensive in the house. For around US$ 2200, you can be amongst a gathering of international and local celebrities, football players, politicians, and more. Alternatively, several 'Frisas' or runway boxes with six seats and a small coffee table are available for around US$ 400-1,900 per seat. These are about the best seats in the house besides the Camarotes. The special seating is not only very comfortable but offers the best views of the Carnival parades. If you can afford it, spend the extra Real or two as this is a "once in a lifetime" event.
stadium consists of bleachers or grandstand known as Arquibancadas, which present a bigger view of the samba strip. Those without numbered seats are priced lower, but are a great place to be if you want to dance the night away. Each sector in the Sambadrome is well equipped with restrooms, bars, food courts, restaurants, and ice-cream stands. For those planning on joining the spectators in the grandstands, bring a pillow and a raincoat. The pillow provides a soft seat, as the concrete steps can be very uncomfortable. For those who grow weary, the pillow can also be used for quick rest. The weather is subject to change so a raincoat will protect you from the elements. However, neither fatigue nor rain can diminish the power and excitement of the Carnival. The audience usually stands for hours dancing and singing all night long.
In terms of safety, the Sambadrome is considered to be the safest place in South America due to the high presence of security officials and the large number of politicians, royalties, and celebrities.
Samba schools start to practice dance and prepare costumes in September ready for the Carnival in February. When we visited it was open to the public to walk the length of it, so we walked about 200meters.
Catedral Metropolitana de Sao Sebastiao
The fascinating exterior design of the Catedral Metropolitana de Sao Sebastiao was done by architect Edgar de Oliveira as a truncated 106 m wide diameter cone with 75 meter height. His inspiration is allegeable from the Maia pyramids in the Peninsula of Yucatan, Mexico. Contrary to the pyramids which are square, the cone form was supposed to give a proximity to God, reminding a bit of the hats used by bishops during ceremonies.
The capacity of the Rio de Janeiro Cathedral is 20 000 people with a 18 meter high front door decorated with 48 low relief bronze plaques focusing on the theme of faith. The inside of the Catedral Metropolitana de Sao Sebastiao is lit by the sun breaking through large stained glass windows in vivid colours varying throughout the day with different intensity.
Each of the immense four windows goes up the walls to the roof, forming a cross if you look straight up. The windows differ in shape and colour creating a mystical atmosphere and the cone structure gives an excellent acoustic providing visitors with goosebumps when the catholic priests sing their heavenly music!
In the basement of the Catedral Metropolitana de Sao Sebastiao you'll find the Sacred Art Museum illustrating among other things; the fonts used to baptize the princes of the royal family, the statue of Nossa Senhora do Rosario, the throne of Dom Pedro II and the golden Rose awarded to Princess Isabel by Pope Leo XIII to celebrate her signing of the Abolition Act.
Sunday 26th August
Today we walked to the Hippie Market, this is near Ipanena Beach and is stalls selling local crafts and art work. We had lunch there from a stall selling locally produced food and traditional puddings, the best we have had in a long time. Yum!Yum! We back along the beach, the road is closed to traffic on Sundays to enable people to enjoy walking,biking, roller skating and skateboarding along the sea front. The beaches are very full today and this is the Winter season. The weather was overcast but warm, when the sun came out there was a massive cheer from everyone on the beach, it was quite comical.
Hannah & Mark managed to get tickets to see the football tonight, it was a local derby between Botofogo and Flamenco. It was interesting to attend the game but the football was not impressive with it being a 0-0 draw. What a great experience though ad certainly cheaper than watching an English came of football.
Monday 27th to Wednesday 29th August
We spent these days just chilling and strolling round the neighbourhood including the beaches. So nice to just sit and watch people and take time out to relax and enjoy each others company.
Thursday 30th August
Well the day has come to say goodbye to our travelling companions of the last 10 weeks. Hannah and Mark left for the airport at 11am on the first leg of their very long journey home. It was very emotional saying goodbye and we will miss them loads over the coming weeks. It has been great fun and we have got on very well considering we have lived with each virtually 24/7 for the last 10 weeks.
We start our next step of the journey and our final country and City in South America, we are fly to Santiago in Chile.