November was a little crazy around here. The go-live date for the Brazilian job was Dec 15. They wanted me to come for as much of the time as possible, but due to my vacation schedule, holidays both in the US and in Brazil, other commitments I had, and funding issues, I ended up not being able to go until the last two weeks of the project, and frankly by that time they were in hectic finishing mode and I’m not sure that I was that much help. Regardless, my trip was scheduled and moved 4 times making it difficult to plan, or to relax and enjoy plans I had made for the RV.
Anyway, I finally did get to Brazil on Dec 5. This time it was decided that the best use of my time would be to be located where the development team was, which is at the Hortolandia IBM site, near the city of Campinas, about 2 hours away from Sao Paulo. I was delighted to be seeing a new town in Brazil, although the warnings about safety were the same as Sao Paulo, so I didn’t venture out much on my own in the evenings. I had lots of web page, blog work, to keep me busy and we were working long days so that was all fine. Abner (the friend I made last trip to Brazil) works at the Hortolandia site and his girlfriend lives in Campinas, so that was great to see them and hang out with them again.
Abner took me to the largest mall in Latin America (Shopping Parque Dom Pedro), where after wandering around a bit we ate Lebanese Food, which was a lot like Greek food.. Very good!
Another evening Abner, Carina, and I went to a joint that advertised the best hamburgers in the world, and you know, I don’t think I would argue with them. It was a fantastic hamburger! After which we went to a bar. It was happy hour (all night) at the bar, and without ordering the waiters just brought you beer after beer. If you waved your hand while you were talking, suddenly a beer appeared in front of you…. In reality it was kind of obnoxious trying to keep them from bringing more beers after I had 2, and that was more than enough. A third evening Abner an I went out shopping for a birthday present for Carina at a different mall. SO, not extremely exciting to tell about, except that malls are a great place to see the real culture of Brazil, and we had fun. Abner complained that the sales people always try to up-sell him something even when he had been clear on explaining what he wanted. I told him that they left me alone as soon as they realized I don’t speak Portuguese. (Abner taught me how to say “I don’t speak Portuguese” in Portuguese, extremely handy.. but I digress). So Abner decided to spend the second half of the evening pretending he didn’t speak Portuguese and discovered it worked nicely! I thought it was more fun too since I could participate in the shopping more. He thinks he might try shopping like that regularly in the future….. LOL.
But alas, Dec 15th came and the software went live, whether we were ready or not. That was a Friday. We wrapped everything up and the next morning 5am the taxi picked me up to head out on my adventure side trip. This was my visit to Iguacu Falls on the border of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. The plane flew to the city of Foz do Iguacu and arrived by 11am. Valeria had recommended and arranged a guided tour for me since I was alone, I had a driver and a guide who spoke fluent English. They picked me up at the airport and walked every step of the way with me.
Saturday afternoon we saw the Brazilian side of the Iguacu Falls and Brazilian National Park. These are the biggest falls in the world and the sights were fantastic! They have built walkways to get many vantage points and walkways into the spray and overlooking the falls. The falls are located along a 2.7 km section in the Iguacu river. Total system contains about 275 waterfalls. Maximum height is 82 feet, and 1.5 million liters of water per second run over the falls. Pretty darned amazing.
One of the attractions is to take a boat ride up the river and actually under the plummeting water…. “Take a shower in the falls” they say. Unfortunately, they do not recommend that you take a camera on the boat, so I didn’t get any pictures there, but it was nice to see the canyon from the riverbed and exhilarating to be under the falls. The boat ride included a cart ride and a short hike through the jungle… so that was interesting too. Although it was rather expensive, it was a nice addition to the falls experience. I kept my eyes out to see a Jaguar…. didn’t see one.That evening they dropped me off at my hotel at 4pm. I had not been into the town (Foz do Iguacu) and kind of wanted to walk around there a bit. I also had wanted to geocache in Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. The guides had been told that, but when I got to town they told me that they could not take me to Paraguay because Americans need a Visa. Wish they had mentioned that when I still had time to get one! They said there is no border control but if I was stopped my an official in Paraguay I could get into trouble. I tried to impress upon them that I only wanted a geocache, I only needed to walk across the friendship bridge and get to the geocache near the border and come back… One hour maximum in Paraguay… but they didn’t bite. I asked the hotel reception the same question and got the same answer. I was undecided, but I really cannot risk any international immigration incidents that would jeopardize my job. In the end I decided to take a taxi to the friendship bridge and see if I could get a good photo of the bridge and Paraguay. So I had a taxi ordered.
The driver didn’t speak English so came into the hotel reception to translate where I wanted to go. The reception guy gave me the evil eye and said “You cannot go without a visa to Paraguay”.. I explained that I knew that but I was just going to “see” it.. I don’t think he believed me (not sure my husband does either… if it wasn’t for the job thing.. I’m not sure I would have believed me either). The hotel reception guy told the taxi driver that I wanted to go to the bridge. She started getting upset and yelling in Portuguese. I couldn’t understand her, but pretty sure she was saying, “I won’t take her to the bridge because she is an American and she doesn’t have a visa!” Guess they must have a lot of Americans that go over illegally. (Upon reading the geocaching posts there are a lot of Taxi drivers who will “arrange” it for you!) In the end the hotel reception and the taxi driver agreed that she would drive me, stop and wait for me to take pictures then bring me back to the hotel… Oh well, ok… At least I would be safe. I had her drive back through town so that I could see the town too. And actually, the bridge was in a bad neighborhood, and the town was all but closed up by 6pm.. SO, this arrangement was fine. She dropped me back at the mall (yet another mall!) so I could get dinner and walk back to the hotel. I was surprised that after what I had read, that the bridge would be crowded with people walking over, (They go over to buy cheap electronics and goods.. very similar to a Mexican border in the US) instead the bridge was deserted… again a function of it being 6pm, and toward the evening it gets very unsafe to walk.
The next day Fabio (my guide) and Luis (the driver) picked me up at 8am to head to the Argentinian side of the falls. The drive is an hour, and there is an hour time change, and the park opens at 8am, so we arrived just as it was opening. This is important because when you enter there is a train to take you out to the Devil throat, the only fall that plummets the entire height without an intermediary step. If you are on the first train of the morning you can go straight there. If you are not, you take the train half way then get off and wait in a line a minimum of a half hour long to go the second half of the way.
The view of the falls on the Argentinian side was completely different than the Brazilian side. Both were spectacular but in different ways. The Brazilian side you viewed the falls, on the Argentinian side you experienced the falls… It was wonderful. Lots of hiking, and lots of stairs.
SOO MANY GOOD PHOTOS… I just don’t know how to stop!
On Saturday the geocaching was a bust, in Brazil I didn’t get good enough phone signal, in Paraguay.. well you know that story. I wasn’t too disappointed with Brazil, because I have logged geocaches in Brazil before, but I was determined to get one in Argentina. The phone signal was a little better and I looked up a couple potentials when I was in the hotel. I described Geocaching to my guide, who said, “Oh, I think I helped an Israeli guy put one of those out.” So I showed him the couple that I had saved and he said, “Yeah, that one there. The picture of the guy who put it out.. that is the guy!” Small world! So he told me we would be walking right by it, so I got that one… is that cheating?
After the morning at the falls we went into Foz do Iguacu for traditional Brazilian Steakhouse Lunch.. yum. Then we went to a Bird Aviary. That was nice, saw a lot of Toucans and Macaws, but frankly I was tired and ready to head on out. The weather had been fantastic those two day, although HOT (nearly the summer solstice in Brazil.. 90 degrees F) and Humid (jungle).. but the rain hit HARD just as I got to the airport. A couple of flights were delayed, but mine got out on schedule and got back into Sao Paulo with plenty of time to collect my luggage that I had stored, change my clothes, and check in for my flight back to the US. Good side trip, and good overall trip to Brazil.
I did manage to take a few video clips at the falls and over the holidays I was able to research video editing tools and learned to use one (Shotcut), to create this video… I’m pretty pleased with it, and plan to do more video blogging (vlogging) in 2018.
By the way HAPPY NEW YEAR! Be sure to keep watching for more adventures are to come!