“Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrh!” Well you would scream too! Sitting on top of an open top Army truck, through jungle on the Argentine side, they decide to take a photo stop right underneath huge, and I mean (right across the track huge) spider webs only a foot away from your head, with big spiders sitting on them. Probably considering us for their next meal….lol. I am not kidding, we had returned the next day for our speed boat ride to the Falls and these spider webs hanging in the trees above us were huge. Finally after walking down steep steps to the boat and putting on our life jackets we were allowed to take photos as we approached the towering Falls, before putting cameras away with all our other belongings in big waterproof bags that were supplied. We had been told to wear swimsuits and to expect to get totally drenched. What an amazing experience, and while one of the crew filmed our reactions, and kept asking us if we wanted to go under again. Like idiots we screamed “Yeeeeeeees,” the boat was turned and we headed again into the spray. All captured on film, and which I have already spent a hilarious time watching, back home. I am so glad we did this. I have been to the Niagara Falls, but this is much better in comparison, a must see if you are coming to this tucked away place in the undergrowth of upper Argentina and border of Brazil. We spotted a few very large lizards on the tracks and back at the eating area, raccoons came out to treat us to their mischievous behaviour. We were warned not to touch them, as they can become vicious. While taking pictures, one of them got tired of posing and ran for me. After I had changed into dry clothes, I heard one raccoon had pinched sunscreen from out of someone’s bag and about six others raced to play with it. Doesn’t pay to leave your bags unattended or open around these furry little critters.
That night our Leader treated us to a wonderful barbeque and a couple of us prepared salads in assisting him. We all bought wine from a local shop and celebrated the adventures of the day. Our dear Leader had to miss out on the boat ride, due to coming down with a stomach bug the previous night, causing a doctor to be called and administering injections. He had recovered enough by now, to enjoy listening to our stories and laughter. We also persuaded him to let us venture across the border into Paraguay (although not in our itinerary) early the next morning for shopping before heading to Brazil. Next morning bright and early armed with buns of left over steak and salad and slices of watermelon, we enjoyed a wonderful couple of hours bargaining for fake Gucci bags and the like, before heading for our midday flight. It was here while being followed by a young boy trying to sell me, what we call, jandals (or you might call thongs/flip-flops), that an idea for a children’s story came to me. After a short flight we arrived at Sao Paulo. I was intrigued by the hundreds of huge ant hills in paddocks along the side of the road as we were driven to a lovely little fishing village on the east coast, called Paraty in the late afternoon.
Our room, No1, next to the restaurant was accessed by crossing a small deck walkway over a fish pond with a rabbit and two amours turtles in an adjacent fenced area. We had been told that in most parts of South America plumbing is a problem and we were reminded of this by an amusing notice above our toilet reading.. . “Please don’t play…. “ and one of our group was to discover the consequences the next morning. Our evening meal was enjoyed at the corner restaurant.
The morning saw us walking through the cobbled shopping streets and pass colourful fishing boats, to our waiting boat for our lazy day cruising through still waters, stopping now and again, for snorkeling, swimming, and enjoying the included on deck lunch. (Mine was fish in shrimp sauce and hubby’s was chicken) all served with salad and rice. Feed was thrown overboard bringing many fish to swim around us, the beaches sandy and clean, and lunch washed down with your choice of drink from the on board bar. Arrr… this is the life, as one lays back with cloudless sky above and clear blue water below and a glass of caipirinha in hand. (a new Brazilian drink I had been introduced to) Paraty is known for its flooded streets at high tide, every day! We had left in the morning and on our return we found some of the streets were flooded. We were free to spend the few hours before dinner wandering around these quaint streets picking up handmade crafts, and literally playing hopscotch along the boulders. My advice when visiting Paraty is to wear good walking shoes, or better still a pair of gum-boots. We enjoyed a lively restaurant meal in town that night.
We headed by bus in the morning to Rio, our last destination for the tour. Arriving in this large city it is obvious there is a great distinction between the very rich and the very poor. Our hotel, the South American Copacabana Hotel was situated smack bang between Copacabana Beach and Ipanema Beach, in easy walking distance. After dropping our bags off in our beautiful large rooms and a quick bite to eat we headed up Corcovado mountain to get a closer look at the Christ the Redeemer statue. As we climbed the stairs to the foot of the statue he was mostly in cloud and the view below us was non existent. It was as though we were wandering around on a cloud of cotton-wool. While cameras clicked away, the clouds began to move and He appeared just enough for some good photos. It was a very spiritual experience being there. That evening we had our final dinner as a tour group together, in a lovely restaurant where not only the meat came on metal skewers but so did the bread rolls. An open buffet and with good wine we snapped last moment photos knowing in the morning some would be leaving. My hubby and I were staying on for one more night.
Next morning we headed off to Sugar Loaf Mountain by taxi, and catching the two gondolas to reach the top. With clear blue skies and temperatures of at least 32degC it was spectacular and well worth taking the time to stay an extra night. Actually, it would be worth while staying a few more nights, there is so much to see and enjoy. Hubby and I enjoyed a refreshing drink before heading back down and joined the many others who had come out on the beach to swim, board surf, soak up the sun, or simply people watch. We also wandered along to Ipanema beach. What you see in postcards is nothing like the real thing. Later we joined a few from our tour who had flights later that evening , for a quick dinner in an open air restaurant near the beach. We walked back to the hotel after and said farewell as they gradually left, one by one. We took off for last-minute shopping on the beach front market finding trinkets and souvenirs. Later at the hotel we found our flight had been changed and in fact we had been issued new tickets. Unfortunately instead of a direct flight to Santiago as planned, we now were booked on a flight to Buenos Aires then transferring to another flight to Santiago. Now not getting in till 10pm instead of the 4pm to join my dear friend for our booked dinner date, she had to cancel it and we agreed to meet the following day instead. We had been robbed again!
The following morning we headed to the airport, only to find our flight wasn’t even on the board. The woman behind the desk said the flight number had been changed, again, and she issued tickets with seat numbers for the rest of our flights including the following nights one to Auckland. We were to be grateful for the efficiency of this woman later, when in transit a small group of people in front of us waiting to board the next plane were told they could not go on as they had no seats pre booked. Whew! Lucky us! This problem was happening often as Lan Chile and Tam Airlines were merging and cutting flights. We eventually arrived back in Santiago and piled into the waiting car the hotel had sent for us, and after complimentary supper and coffee, we made our way across the street to our apartment on the eighth floor. Very nice it was too. We fell asleep as Santiago’s night life went into full swing below us. Next morning after breakfast we raced to find a new suitcase as the large one we had , had its handles damaged in the last flight and we were unable to use it. Repacking our bags we checked out of our room and left the luggage at the hotel desk. We met my friend during her lunch hour for a quick bite to eat and as she raced back to work we agreed to meet for dinner next to the hotel for one last time.
Hubby and I wandered the streets, window shopped, walked and took photos, passing the time. Right on 6pm my friend turned up and her and family joined us for a lovely dinner. It was wonderful to see her again and it was also very sad. They hope to come to New Zealand in the near future and I can’t tell you how much I will enjoy having them and showing them around our country. We took last-minute photos, kept brave faces and hugged each other as we promised to return. There is so much more we would love to see in Santiago and Chile, but best of all will be seeing my friend again. Tears spill as I write this, thinking how wonderful this trip was and how short it now seems. I miss my dear friend and her family. If we win lotto I will be back in a heart beat!