Monday, February 27, 2006
SO YOU WANT TO DRESS UP?
Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo: two Brazillian cities of immense contrast. Different one from the other, and huge contrast within each city.
Rio is about 8 million and SP 20+ (pop of Aust!) Huge numbers of poor. Lovely warm people. Security and health - 2 issues that hit you in the face when you come here. Great little corner stores and small bakeries, but also huge shopping malls and chain stores. Quite reasonable prices (though more expensive than Argentina.) Traffic! Traffic! Traffic! Great not driving. Stop signs and stop lights are really just guidelines here as we found last night coming home from Carnaval in a taxi. Big Spanish and Portuguese influence everywhere and Japanese in SP. Efficient and well-patronised metro and bus systems. Nearly all 4 cyl vehicles with the ODD Mitsubishi Pajero. (Like our car.) Pajeros cost a heap (R$200,000) and are often tagetted by bad dudes, so they put in bullet-proof glass! Even seen 5 Commodores!
The 30 m tall Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks Rio was erected in 1931. It is a reminder of Christ´s love for us all, with the statue´s outstretched arms. Indeed, Christ IS the redeemer!
And Carnaval! Unbelievable! Such activity, costumes, elaborate floats, everyone dancing. Hey, costumes doesn´t do justice at all! I think we took as many photos as we did at the falls. The floats and dancers from each school took over an hour to go the full length of the straight with us and everybody else up in the stands resembling the straight at Bathurst car races. There were 7 schools represented, with each school having 4 to 6 gigantic floats. The place was lit up like fairyland.
Too bad I don´t have enough time and space to tell you about dinner at Buffalo Grill. Like the Mercedes Benz version of our Sizzlers. Talk about Food Glorious Food! But then you had to be there .... dining with Jovita, Marcello the King, and the Renata/Roberta/Mum trio. Even Peta pigged out. Glad Jeremy had a crack at the chicken hearts too.
See you in Peru.
Friday, February 24, 2006
IGUAZU FALLS - MAGIC
There´s no way I can do justice to this spectacular sight. (Thanks for trying Deb.) We get used to relying on photographs and movie/video footage to tell our stories, and I have not been able (yet) to get a photo posted here except when I have my own computer.
Firstly the falls are HUGE! No, they´re GIGANTIC! There are various parts to the Iguazu Falls. There are three countries that share the falls – Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. One day we went to the National Park in Argentina and wandered about, seeing aspects of the Falls. They are absolutely awesomein the amount of water going over, the shape of the falls, the extent of the many waterfalls and the spectacular river they drop into. We decided to hang the expense and take our travel agent´s (Kim) advice and have a speedboat ride to the bottom of the falls. It was a real thrill, a heap of fun and the driver took us under the falls, not once but three times. He would ask us (in Spanish) do you want to go again, and we would shout DOOCHA (well something like that)… which meant shower! We were absolutely drenched! Head to toe! Couldn´t have got wetter if we´d fallen overboard which Jeremy threatened to do.
Entry to the park was 30 p each and 45 p each for the speedboat ride. Total about $35 A each. Pretty reasonable.
The next day we took all our luggage, our excess baggage and the five of us headed for Brazil. It sounds simple, but it´s a tricky operation and you can come undone pretty easily. You first get to a checkpoint where you are exiting Arg. So far so good… passports etc. Then another 2 km and you reach the next checkpoint – entry to Brazil. This time take all luggage with you. Off the bus. Next you have to take your passport and other documentation and go and see that bloke in the booth up there. Hey it wasn´t so bad after all…I think we got lucky. Thanks Lord.
When we reached a bus station, we were directed to a small store – a souvenir shop. Here we could stash our 7 pieces of luggage (doesn´t count our day packs/hand luggage) for a small sum of money.
We bussed to the park and went walking. Here you get a really good overall view of the falls and could see where we were the day before and where we went in the speedboat. We went out on walkways perilously close to massive overflows of water which would solve Sydney´s water shortage I´m sure. More photos.
At the end of the day, 4 weary travelers, with their stashed luggage headed on a bus with semi-reclined seats for Curitiba. Just a nine hour trip…. Nothing to write home about. Thank goodness for books, iPods and Sudokus! Thanks for your computer Jovita and Marcello.
Friday, February 17, 2006
WE´VE MADE MONEY!
Life is all a matter of how you look at it! Is the glass half empty or is it half full? (Our engineer daughter would tell us we´ve got the wrong sized container!)
We were trying to get to the airport from the centre of the city of Buenos Aires in Argentina. We could take a bus for 0.8 p each or a taxi for 17 p. We would need 2 taxis! (there are 5 of us now that Debbie has joined the party.) I plugged for the bus just to save 30 p ($13.50 A). We had to catch a bus 37 but the driver told us we´d need a 37 - 4, not a 37 - 1. Waiting...waiting...Question: How long do we wait until we decide to catch a taxi? I suggested we wait another 15 minutes. Twelve mins later along came a 37-4. Next challenge was for 5 of us with luggage to climb aboard the bus before it took off. That was a challenge. This was just a regular city bus and we were the only people on the bus with airport luggage except for a Lleyton Hewitt look-alike off to a tennis tournament.
Once we got to the checkout counter at the airport the REAL action started. The lady was talking, she was writing, she was explaining and she was weighing our luggage. First bit of news came filtering through. We were not gonna catch this flight! The flight we´d booked for back in Sydney. There were 5 of us trying to get our brains around that bit of info. There were discussions between us and amongst us. We had a Spanish speaker, a Portuguese speaker and 3 dinky-die Aussie speakers. Then another bit of information - we were OVERWEIGHT! Our luggage was over the limit of 15 kg per person by a total of 23 kg for all of us. So, how much are they gonna charge us? 4 p per kilo. (4 x 23 = 92). $41 Aust! The team is visibly shaken. Upset? Traumatised! Gobsmacked! That´s unaustralian!
Fay says, Kim said we could have 20 kg each!
Deb says, I know I should have checked the small print - (she´s our frequent flyer.)
So far, we´ve missed the flight and now they´re gonna make us pay forty bucks!
Then the lady at the check-in counter tells us she´ll give us vouchers for free lunches...FIVE FREE LUNCHES!
* * * * * *
They´ve charged us 92 p and now they´re giving us over 100 p of lunches!
WE´VE ACTUALLY MADE MONEY!
Currently we´re in Curitiba after having spent 2 days wandering round looking at the most spectacular waterfalls in the world! Iguazu Falls. More on that next blog.
Thanks Cesar, Marcia and Miguel for looking after us for a couple of days and finding a good picture of an aeroplane opn your computer!
Monday, February 13, 2006
O/S 06 RULES
Here are our rules.... even though there have been some breakages:
1 TRY NOT TO LOOK LIKE TOURISTS
2 DON´T FLASH WALLET IN PUBLIC
3 DON´T CHOOSE RESTAURANT WHERE MENU IS ALSO IN ENGLISH
4 ALWAYS PAY WITH SMALL NOTES
5 ALWAYS WATCH LUGGAGE
6 DON´T PAY BEGGARS (except with food you can´t eat). OPTIONAL TO PAY ENTERTAINERS
7 BUY/DRINK BOTTLED WATER
8 KEEP SHRAPNEL (CHANGE) FOR TIPS AND BUSES
9 REFER TO PEOPLE WE DON´T KNOW AS DAVO, RICK AND TRACE
10 STAY CLOSE TO JEREMY - HE SPEAKS SPANISH AND HE´S BIG
11 IF IN DOUBT SIT DOWN AND HAVE A BEER
12 EAT EVERYTHING THAT´S FREE
Have we missed out anything that you can think of? Jem also prefers restaurants that have good looking waitresses, but that´s not a proper rule. I´m sure these will change from time to time.
Friday, February 10, 2006
The trip across the spectacular Andes Mtns was just that! We just don`t have that sort of geography in Oz. It cost us nearly $30 AUS each to do the 4 hour bus journey. Most people advised us to fly Santiago - Buenos Aires, but we have no regrets...yet. Only suggestion is make sure you do the Santiago-Mendoza trip in daylight. All those magnificent switchbacks, the valleys, the snow, the glaciers... we loved it.
Our appreciation of the humble Peugeot 504 (Pug) went up when a taxi driver took us from the Mendoza bus station to the hostel where we`d booked - the one in the CITY of Mendoza, not the one in the STATE of Mendoza, 3 hrs away (see earlier blog.)
It must`ve been midnight when we booked into the room...a room for 6 which fitted the 4 of us nicely. PJ and I went out to the desk to ask if there was any chance of rustling up a bit of grub (tucker, food.) Within 10 minutes, the 4 of us were sitting down to a feast of carne (meat), cooked vegies, and a cheese/apple/cabbage/honey salad. Plus a large jug of red wine! While we were wining and dining, a sing-a-long started. So we were entertained (at 12:30 am) by some great SA music.
It was maybe 2am when Fay and I decided to quit. PJ and Jem did likewise a few hours later! (Great to be young.)
The next day we paid our bill ($14 AUS each for accomm and all the food and wine) and taxied to Francisco`s place to stay with him for a couple of days which turned out to be 3. Francisco is a local SERVAS member. He and Maria and Anna-Marie looked after us really well.
We have not been very long in this country but Jeremy said he`s coming back to marry an Argentinian! (I did try to line him up with one of Trev and Lois` girls in Dubbo.)
We`re now in San Luis. It`s even more fantastic than Mendoza! You`ve gotta come visit and have a day`s trekking in the National Park Quijadas. Unreal! Be great if I can get some photos on here... skills not too crash hot I`m afraid.
Tomorrow we bus to Buenos Aires (BA). I`m happy now because I had a 42 km mtnbike ride today. And PJ`s ADHD has been addressed by a bit of shopping... for herself and friends!
Talk to you when we get to BA or thereabouts. Hope we find Debbie at the airport Sunday morning.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Staying at San Luis tonight. They eat late in Argentina.
We went to a restaurant and took a young 18 year old lad with us. He is also staying at the hostel where we`re staying.
2 of us ate chicken schnitzels - big ones. Jeremy and I ate steak, ham, eggs and salad. And the carne (meat) was beautiful. We had 3 serves of chips altogether. I also forgot to mention we had a large bottle of beer and 3 Pepsis. Sandwiches came with the beer... we didn`t know that. Then there was also rolls and what looked like breadsticks. (Fay says they were breadsticks!) We hardly touched the chips which came late in the proceedings. Total price was 51 pesos (Argentinian). If the Aussie dollar is worth 2.2 p or even 2.5 p then the whole meal cost 20-30 dollars! Unbelievable. My steak sure was lovely. I didn`t finish it, but then neither did Fay or Pete or our guest.
I just wanted to share that with you. I have info re what`s been happening...maybe I`ll write that tomorrow. Free use of the internet while at the hostel. Great. Cheers to all. Tomorrow we go walking in a National park near here. As long as we get to Buenos Aires by Saturday!!
Saturday, February 04, 2006
MENDOZA IS A STATE!
After a 15 hour flight from Sydney to Santiago on a Boeing Airbus 340 we landed safely in the capital of Chile.
Mendoza is a state! It is not just a city. I knew it was a city. The city of Mendoza is between Santiago and Buenos Aires, Argentina. We had decided to go by bus and thought we´d find a youth hostel in Mendoza as we were arriving there about 11 pm. So we booked a youth hostel for 4 of us in Mendoza. What we didn´t know was that the Youth Hostel we´d booked was in Mendoza, the state, and was 3 hours from where the bus would be dropping us. Luckily we picked up on the fact that the area code for the phone number was different. Having found out in time, we changed the booking.
There were some great one liners thrown around. Fay offered some knowledge which turned out to be invaluable. (She knew Mendoza was a state!) Jem immediately replied with Hey let´s allow file sharing! Later Peta said she was oblivious and she´d stay out of it. Jeremy, You should stick at what you´re good at Peta! So we changed the hostel and we´re back in the game!
Our Spanish speaking son Jeremy (27 yr old son often called Jem) has been a huge help in ordering, booking, asking, cancelling, inquiring, phoning and negotiating. We all believe we´d make it without him, but in the meantime, we have survived pretty well and we´re quite relaxed about all the arrangements. Thanks Jem!
Peta´s crook foot that she´s supposed to rest has handled the extensive walking OK.
Hey, tonight we´ve been out for the evening meal. We were just returning to the hotel when we were stopped in the street and given tickets for FREE BEER! Peta and Jem thought all their Christmases had come at once. So back we went to a groovy pub called Schopdog for free drinks. So much for Chile. Next Argentina!
1 What is the capital of Chile?
2 How long in hours was the trip from Sydney to Santiago?
3 How much does it cost in pesos for a jug of free beer in Santiago?
4 How many km long is Chile?
5 What countries border Chile? (There are 3 of them.)
Answers next post.
GUESS how much it cost the 4 of us at a flash restaurant to have a meal and a bottle of Merlot? (Answer in thousands of pesos please.)