We traveled to Brazil in the early August 2018 which was the winter season in the South Hemisphere. Our love for the outdoors, we visited Iguazu Falls, explored the Amazon River and Rio de Janeiro.
Iguazu Falls are the largest waterfall system in the world located in the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Parana. We observed the Falls from both countries.
We landed the Brazilian Foz do Iguaçu International Airport (IGU) airport at noon. Our guide Adrian from Say Hueque picked us up and drove us to the entrance of the National Park. We bought the tickets and started our journey. We wandered the walkways along the Iguazu River and arrived the best part of the Falls in the Brazilian side, the panoramic view of the falls at Devil's Throat. The best is yet to come. We crossed the border in the evening, enjoyed our dinner at a local restaurant La Rueda 1975 and checked into Mercure Iguazu Hotel Iru.
After breakfast, we continued our journey in the Argentine side. Once again, we needed to purchase a separate entrance ticket. First, we headed straight to the train station and took the jungle train to the Devil's Throat. This time, we enjoyed the magnificent spectacle view of the Devil's Throat from the top and up close.
Then, we took the train to the starting point of the upper circuit, which consists of trails and bridges that run along the top of the falls, while the lower circuit leads to the base of the falls. It took us about two hours to walk the circuits.
We went to the starting point of the upper circuit by the train. The upper circuit consists of trails and bridges that run along the top of the falls, while the lower circuit leads to the base of the falls. It took us about two hours to walk the circuits.
There are a few options for lunch in the National Park. Food was not exceptional, but we were not here for food.
After lunch, we joined the excursion Gran Aventura. In this excursion, we experience the true power of Iguazu Falls. In the rubber boat trip, the Falls provided a refreshing "natural shower". Life jacket was provided. All we needed are water proof jackets, pants and camera!
In the evening, we crossed the border to Brazil and enjoyed our buffet dinner featuring traditional Brazilian and international cuisines at Rafain Churrascaria Show. Traditional folkloric music and live dance of Latin America were showcased by dancers in traditional costumes from Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Argentine tango and Brazilian samba were also performed.
We arrived Manaus airport in midnight and spent a night in a nearby hotel. After the breakfast, the shuttle bus from the Amazon Ecopark Jungle Lodge picked us up to the pier, our first encounter with the Amazon River. After 20 minutes of scenic boat ride, we arrived the Lodge.
There were a wide range of activities in the Lodge. We first took a quick boat ride to observe monkeys in the Monkey Forest. The guide was funny and showed us the habitat of monkeys. He gave the monkeys bananas and raw eggs. The mother carried the baby monkey on her back and fed her baby food.
Although there was only one restaurant in the Lodge, lunch was exceptionally delicious. You could not expect more in the Amazon Jungle. It was served in buffet style. Food was fresh, clean and delicious. Dishes did not repeat themselves during our stay. During breakfast, two chefs are ready for cooking eggs in your own way. One may have an omelette or a Brazilian tapioca crepe. Tapioca porridge with many choices of fruits is also available.
Beautiful parrots will fly to the restaurant for food. So bring your camera when you head for meals.
We went on a piranha fishing tour in the Amazon river in the afternoon and an alligator spotting tour in the evening. After dinner, we took pictures of the milky way.
Milky Way in Amazon
The next morning we went on a 2-hours Ecological trekking encircling the lodge. Alejandro, the lead tour guide knew many languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and even some Chinese phrases) so that communication was not an issue. He led the trekking by introducing us the local insects, wild animals, medicinal plants, and flora. For example, tree bark smells like cinnamon; the oil from tree fibers smells like WD40 and uses as insect repellent; we tasted tree saps that is supposed to be good for your liver; ants give off pleasant smell when crushed. We also learned how to communicate in the rainforest by hitting different parts of the tree trunk that give off different notes. The most memorable moment was my encounter with an army of the bullet ants coming out of its nest. Bullet ants has one of the most painful stings of any insects. To put it in perspective, Its sting is 30 times worse than a bee sting and contains a neurotoxin that can give an intense and burning sensation for up to 8 hours. The other tour guide Toca was the local who weaved a bracelet and crown from tree leaves and tree fibers. He also demonstrated how to effortlessly climb a tree using the tough fibers from tree, a useful survival skill to navigate the dense rainforest. I tried to do the same, but unsuccessfully.
In the afternoon, we took another motorboat to learn about the Caboclos, who live in villages along the Amazon River. It was a small village, where we met the Cabocolos. First, they showed us more medicinal herbs such as Boldo (bitter-taste herb for liver), Murmure (a tablet or cream) (anti-inflammatory for the joints), Raiz do Açai and Sucuba (regulate blood sugar level for diabetes), andiroba (tea or a few of oils) (anti-inflammatory), uxi-amarelo (anti-inflammatory for female), Juca (ease muscle pain or clean wound), Lingua de pirarucu, xixua (stimulant Viraga), and Crapanaúba (mosequito repellent when burnt).
Then, we learned about the history of rubber plantations and rubber-making starting with rubber tapping. I was abhorred to learn about the exploit that took place in the rubber plantations many years ago. The manager of the rubber set both the low wages and high price of the necessities so extreme that the labors would be in constant “debt”. Hence, they worked so hard to meet the rubber production quota to support their family. In one of the pictures, I tried to be the labors by wearing an oil lamp head with no protection. One can easily imagine the oil would overflow and scorch the labor’s head if he or she made a big movement.
As seen in the pictures below, a lump of rubber is being cured over sooty fires (stove with a chimney was setup to provide heat and smoke). This is a laborious process as I was rolling the rubber and adding the rubber gum layer by layer. At the end, the white rubber gum turns into a blackened lump with the rubbery texture.
Then, we learned about how to remove the toxin, Linamarin, in the Cassava root (A manioc tuber) which can be decomposed to hydrogen cyanide after digestion. Hence, the processing procedures require 1. grounding the root into pulp, 2. soaking the pulp into large amount of water for 3 days, 3. squeezing the starch-rich liquid out of a long woven tube called a tipiti, and 4. fermenting the liquid. In the end, the final starchy flour can be used to make Tapioca and the famous pão de queijo.
In the evening there was a chance seeing the meeting of the two waters. That was the meeting point of the black and white waters.
The Lodge was in the black water and the water was not suitable for the living of mosquito.
We rented an airbnb for a few days in Rio de Janeiro. It is located only 200 meters from the Ipanema beach with an indoor roof-top swimming pool, gym, housekeeping service and 24-hour security guards. So basically it's like a hotel. The living room was cosy, with a balcony facing the Ipanema beach. We had breakfast in the balcony facing the ocean. The open kitchen is equipped with all sort of utensils and cookware. We made our coffee and prepared our dishes. Both bedrooms are en-suite, and with balconies. The bathroom is clean and spacious. The check out time is noon, but we left at 6pm. Is it pricey? No, no, it's around US$40 per person per day.
Pedra do Telegrafo
We climbed to this small rock island, which divided and united two awesome beaches. The left is Macumba beach (with white sand stretching 8km) and the right is Recreio beach (18km).