Florianopolis Day 1 (Praia Mole Beach)

I woke up today at 10:15, just in time to miss the hostel breakfast.

I asked at reception if my brother had arrived yet, and they said no. I started to worry a little bit because his flight had flown into Sao Paolo yesterday afternoon. He didn’t know a word of Portuguese.

Around noon time I decided I was going to go to the beach for a few hours and would check back later since there wasn’t much I could do. I walked into my room to grab some stuff- and my brother was sitting up in his bed staring me in the face! I was completely caught off guard, apparently he had arrived at 5 in the morning and for some reason reception didn’t know.

We left the hostel to go for a small 1.5 hour hike to Praia Mole beach. It was a beach just over the hills to the South.

Me, my brother, and our new Brazilian friend Dan headed out for the hike. I didn’t realize it was going to be dirt and somewhat intensive so I wore only flip flops. My flip flops became uncomfortable so I ended up just doing the whole hike bare foot.

(Me and my Brother)

We got to the top of the mountain and there was a great view

(view hike)

We saw some interesting flowers

(flowers)

And some crazy huge ant mounds like a foot high and 8 inches wide

(ant mounds)

We eventually arrived at Praia Mole Beach

(beach)

(jump bro)

We grabbed a drink here from a stand and listened to some Reggae music.

We caught the local bus back to Barra de Lagoa just in time for the free hostel drinks and to relax.

We went out again at the beach, but it wasn’t very good. There were mostly all vacationing Argentinians here which are pretty closed off and cliquey. So after a couple hours we gave up and called it a night.

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Florianopolis Day 1 (Bus Iguacu Floriapolis)

The bus ride to Florianopolis was pretty smooth. It was only a 1 level semi-cama bus with no food served.

It was supposed to take 14 hours but what do you know it ended up taking 16. I don’t know how these busses always leave on time if they always arrive late.

Some loud portugese guy boarded the bus in the middle of the night, as they made stops all throughout the night. I didn’t sleep well when people boarded because I was worried about my bag. The guy ended up being friendly, almost too friendly so I was cautious. Somehow we managed to communicate using sign language as he knew not a worried of English and I knew not a word of Portuguese. I did manage to gather that he wanted me to marry his 17 year old daughter though. I also ended up meeting a couple from Chile that could speak some English.

We arrived in downtown Florianopolis at around noon.  The city was a lot bigger than I expected, I was expecting a small little beach city but in reality it is a big modern city. The currency here is called Reals and is worst a little less than 2x the USD.

(currency)

The bus station had an information center so I stopped in. I had the address to my hostel scribbled down and planned on just catching a cab.

The information desk was extremely helpful though and it seemed pretty easy to get there; a couple bus transfers . So I decided that I would just try the bus thing out since the bus was only $R3 and worst case if I got lost I could just grab a cab and at least it would be closer/cheaper to my destination. A cab the entire way would have costed me $R90. I was going to the East Island, Barra da Lagoa. I took a right out of the main bus station and walked for about two minutes and there was a local bus station. From here, I caught bus #330 which took about a half an hour to arrive to Lagoa da Conceicao, the main Lagoa bus terminal. I transferred to bus #360 and a half hour later I arrived at my hostel.

I grabbed some random food from a stand in the station, I was ravenous from not eating. It was something like a fried mozzarella Panini with fries for R7, or approximately US $4. About standard price for the US in a mall or a little low priced for a bus station, in my opinion.

After I crossed a foot bridge and walked up a steep hill, I arrived at the hostel.

(view from bridge)

The Beach Club hostel is absolutely beautiful, it is built into a hill on the ocean. It has a great atmosphere, free surf boards, body boards, and wet suits to use. Its 50 Reals a night which is pretty expensive for South America but worth every penny. The place is like a resort.

I checked into the hostel at the same time as a girl named Lee from Israel did so we got lunch together in town.

(food)

Every evening at 7pm we meet at the top level to have a free drink with this view:

(hostel view)

That night we went town to the beach where they have a beach bar and everyone chills out by the rocks, we met up with some other people from the hostel. Great day!

My brother was supposed to arrive at 10pm and I checked reception but he still hadn’t arrived.

 

Iguazu Day 3 (Argentina Falls)

I woke up at 7am again today to go to the Argentinian side of Iguazu falls. I was excited for this part as I heard it was much better than the Brazilian side. I met Haus in the main area and we sat down and once again had 2 shitty pieces of toast and half a bowl of frosted flakes for breakfast.

I went to reception to ask about a bus to Florianopolis Brazil for tonight. She informed me that it was Sunday so she couldn’t book it for me and I would have to go directly to the bus station to get the ticket.

I also asked about my missing charger for my camera, I left it in the room plugged in (I mean, who steals a camera charger..?) and it was gone when I returned last night. Nothing had been found. Grr. I think the cleaning lady stole it. It is going to be impossible to find another one down here. But luckily I am meeting with my brother so I will be able to share his.

So I went across the street to the bus station and bought a ticket with Catarinense. The ticket was I think 120 Pesos. It would be a 10 hour bus ride, leaving at 8pm from Iguacu Brazil and arrive in Florianopolis at 10am.

We caught El Practico S.R.I. bus to the Argentinian falls. This bus was only 10 pesos each way and a 20 minute ride.

Now.. this place was fucking AMAZING. One of the most beautiful places I have been up there with the Grand Canyon and Macchu Piccu. It compared nothing to Niagara Falls.

Once we arrived, we paid our 100 Peso entry fee and took “Sendero Verde” (the green trail) over to the main hub. From here, we headed first to the “lower circuit” as we were told to wait until the afternoon to head to Garganta del Diablo which is the main fall.

We saw some fantastic views on the way, this place blew the Brazilian side out of the water. There were way less people, and a lot more trekking in through the woods. The paths were still all paved, but there were less restraints so in some areas you could wander off the paths (probably frowned upon).

There were tropical birds, butterflies, countless amounts of those ant eater things, and fish.

(butterfly)

We made our way to Isla San Martin, which is a quick 1 min ferry ride across the river at the bottom of the falls. Here there was a swimming area, a beach, and a fantastic view. I felt so alive when I jumped in the water. The place was perfect.

(View Isla San Martin)

There were a couple trails here as well to climb to the top. Haus is kinda fat so I went by myself. It took me about 40 minutes to hike up and admire the views. There were fantastic views of the falls Salto San Martin and Salto Mbigua. There was some misting so I came back down to the beach pretty wet.

(View top Isla San Martin)

From here, we headed back up and made our way to the upper circuit. It was about a 25 minute walk up stairs and Fat Haus had to take his Fat breaks. Don’t get me wrong the guy was cool but I mean he was 50, not my ideal travel companion I guess.

The upper falls gave a different perspective, not as good I wouldn’t say but definitely worth seeing nonetheless.

(upper falls)

Another 45 minutes or so later we hiked up further to the main hub. We caught a 20 train ride to Garganta del Diablo. The train went really slow.

Here, there was about a 20 minute walk over raised platforms to Garganta. There were giant catfish-type fish in the water, very cool. Probably about a foot long.

(catfish)

Garganta del Diablo itself was absolutely breathtaking. It was so monstrous; so much water. Did I say this place was awesome??

(Garganta del Diablo)

Unfortunately (fortunately?) my camera died here. Perfect timing I guess.

The crowds had picked up in the afternoon here as well and I lost Haus. I had to leave for my bus at 5:30pm so I really didn’t have time to search.

I took the bus back again (they run every 15 mins) after exiting the park.

I packed up my stuff which I had in luggage storage at the hostel. My camera charger had not been found.

I went back into my old room like I owned it and helped myself to some Asian guys baby shampoo to quickly rinse off.

I went to the bus station and arranged a cab for 5:30pm. It would cost 120 pesos but the hostel wanted 150 for it. There were no busses that would bring me to Iguacu Brazil so I needed to take a cab over the border. Also, Brazil is 1 hour ahead of Argentina so I needed the 1 hour for the transit plus 1 hour for the drive plus customs.

The taxi driver wasn’t very talkative, and customs was a breeze, I was pretty used to it at this point. Hindsight if I’d have known I would have done Iguacu falls second so I could have just caught my night bus from there. Or I don’t know if I would have done Iguacu at all. But like Haus said, he is glad he did it because if he didn’t he never would have known what it was like. This is true. Maybe better weather less crowds more sleep and less (preferably no) hangover would have made it a better experience.

Iguacu station in Brazil was small and easy to figure out. I withdrew some money at the ATM (not sure of the name of the $) but I know that it is 2 Brazilian is 1 USD approximately.

It is definitely going to be challenging here, not knowing a single word of Portuguese. I have a phrase book, and I can get by in Spanish, and it seems like the languages might be similar enough that I can get by?? Well I don’t have much of a choice so well see.

I am headed to an area called Barra da Lagoa. It is in Florianopolis and seems to be a long stretch of beach. From my guide book I learned that it should be about 5 miles from the bus station and the state is Santa Catarina which is supposed to be a relatively wealthy area which is reassuring. My brother reserved a hostel for $25/night, I didn’t look into it at all. He is supposed to be meeting me in the afternoon some time, he rented a car in Sao Paolo.

Our return flight is out of Sao Paolo and we have about a week and a half left. I don’t know what my brother has in mind but I was thinking it would make sense to hangout in Florianopolis for a while, then maybe head up to Rio for a while then a couple days in Sao Paolo before our flight out. But of course well see what we learn from other travellers.

Iguazu Day 2 (Foz do Iguacu)

I ended up going out last night with a 50 year old Dutch guy named  Haus I met on the bus.

We had a beer at the hostel (cheap, local beer at the hostel was less than $1 each) then strolled around to explore the city. My expectations were that it would be a small tourist town, but in actuality it was a small city. It isn’t the nicest city either, kind of run down.

Anyway, we ended up downtown and sat down to have another beer. A live band came on playing local music, it was a great experience. So naturally, we got another beer, then ended up getting pizza. This place was fairly “high class” for the area and the total bill came to only $15 for four beers and a really good pizza. Really varying prices around here though because today I got a sandwich for $10 US.

After that, Haus went to bed and I went out to meet with a couple Australians and some French people at another hostel.

Having a good buzz going, I was in search for Bambu. I got some directions, this place was in the middle of no where. Finally I got there and found out that I had gotten directions to Bambu restaurant.  Armed with some new directions, I finally arrived at Bambu hostel.

I got a giant rum and coke for us $8 and hung out there. I had to wake up for 7am to head to Foz do Iguacu (Iguacu falls on the Brazilian side) with my new 50 year old friend Haus so I headed back to the hostel.

I thought I got lost on the walk home for a while when I was really just around the corner. I saw a Shell station I recognized and found my way back. I was a little sketched out being lost and like I said it was a little sketchy so it felt good to be back in the hostel.

I woke up at 7am, with a slight hangover and only 4 hours of sleep. We strolled over to the bus station after a brief breakfast at the hostel of shitty toast and a half portion of frosted flakes and caught our bus Cruceron Del Norte to Iguacu Falls. We were told we would need about a half a day there.

(Cruceron Del Norte)

The bus was 50 Pesos. It was about 15 minutes before we reached customs, had to exit the bus and get our passports stamped, then re-entered the bus. Another 15 minutes later and we arrived. All together it took about an hour, of which I slept every possible minute.

Once we arrived at Foz do Iguacu, we paid our 140 Peso entry fee and got in line for a shuttle bus. The busses were all custom painted all differently.

(bus)

The park was extremely touristy and a turn off for me. The day was overcast until late into the afternoon, but the falls were impressive. We were constantly getting shoved around or trying to squeeze past people. The path was paved with handrails with a few different places to take pictures etc.

(Waterfall  1)

(tourists)

There was an elevator (of course with a line) to get to a high viewpoint.) The view here was the best, and we took some photos.

(waterfall 3)

I am not sure what this animal was (anteater or something?) But they had zero fear of humans as you can see. He was just kicking back around the park.

(animal)

Haus was getting on my nerves, I was tired, hot, and cranky. I wanted to get back but he was obsessing over pictures, and wanted to return to the falls since the sun was out. I told him I was going back and we could meet up later.

I got some icecream (awesome) and met some people in the pool at the hostel. I couldn’t communicate well with them, some from Israel and some from Spain? So I bailed. Haus returned and wanted to get icecream so I got more icecream.

After packing, I passed out of the night, I was so beat.

 

 

Iguazu Day 1 (Buenos Iguazu)

I arrived in Buenos Aires and felt much more comfortable and confident, returning to a place I knew. I walked a little ways from the marina (that’s generally where sketchy cab drivers try to pick up dumb tourists) and caught a cab back to my old hostel, the Milhouse (30 Argentinan Pesos, ~$8 USD).

When I went in I tried to meet up with Jose to book a bus up to Iguauzu. The people at the hostel were being douche bags and wouldn’t let me go in to look for him or put my bag down. So I tried to message him on facebook when I saw him walk from downstairs. He said he could no longer come with me to Iguauzu because he didn’t have enough time since he had to go home now and his flight was on Monday.

So I booked my ticket alone, for $120USD one way to Iguazu from Buenos. This was for a “semi-cama” bus which reclines but not as far as a “cama” bus which folds out to a full out bed.
The full cama didn’t leave until later at night so I didn’t feel like waiting but it was only slightly more expensive. A flight costed around 950 pesos or $250 one way.  It was about 10:30am and my bus was at 1:30pm.

So I headed over to Ritz hostel where I had stayed before and showered/changed/booked my hostel in Iguazu/updated facebook status from the bathroom.

I went and ate at a nearby restaurant and caught a cab to Retiro bus station. I was anxious again because I heard about another Canadian that got robbed there, and the agent that booked my ticket also reminded me to be careful.

It was so easy and not scary this time around, first of all the cab dropped me right at my bus pretty much I didn’t have to walk 5 miles through the enormous station. So I chilled out, with ample time for my bus. It’s always more comfortable being in a familiar place. I double checked with an English speaking Uruguayan who confirmed I was in the right place for the bus.

(picture of bus)

We took the bus company Expresso Singer to Iguazu. The bus ride was pretty bad. It was supposed to be 18 hours but ended up taking 25:

We had barely left the Retiro bus station when the bus pulled over for an hour. We had to change busses (something wrong with the water on the bus?).

I then got seated next to this huge guy and was served a moldy sandwich for lunch. I mentioned to the guy and at a gas station he bought me another one at our next stop which was nice of him. I am sure I am not the only passenger on the 2 story bus that got a moldy sandwich, but they probably just ate it without noticing. Gross.

(picture inside bus)

On the bus I met a guy from Holland who speaks English which was nice. I also met a couple girls from France that also speak English. One of them came across like an arrogant bitch but I guess all the French do?  This is a more “touristy” bus route versus Uruguay so there seems to be more English speakers here.

The bus left at 1:30pm. At around 5am the bus pulled over again. I tried to ignore it and just sleep but eventually the heat and stuffiness became unbearable. When I went outside to see what was going on I heard that the bus had started shaking in the middle of the night. There were only 2 lug nuts out of 10 holding the wheel on, so fucking ridiculously unsafe.

(wheel)

(waiting outside)

The engine also wouldn’t start for some reason, so we couldn’t get our luggage out. A few hours later, people who had carried their luggage onto the bus were able to board a separate bus. An hour later, another bus came and the rest of us got on it without our luggage.

Little did we know but our new bus was going a round about way to our destination. After 25 hours, we finally arrived in Puerto Iguazu at 2:30pm the next day. They didn’t give us any food the second day, so we were starving.  The Dutch guy and me treated ourselves to a nice lunch, coffee, and icecream. The icecream was amazing, I guess I had just chosen the wrong flavor last time. Dulche de Leche I guess is what Argentina is known for and it was damn good. Almost like a creamy butterscotch chocolate.

3 hours later our luggage arrived on another bus.

Shower, clean clothes, shave, and clean teeth- I felt like a new man!

We are staying at Marcopolo Inn Iguazu. It is pretty nice, I haven’t explored the area too much yet. Iguazu also revolves around the tourist industry, with lots of hostels and shops revolving around tourism.

(picture of hostel)

 

Uruguay Day 2 (Punta Del Este)

I had plans to go out last night with a few Argentinian guys but ended up falling asleep in the hammock.  I kind of regret it but I was so exhausted, I guess from being in the sun all day. But word has it the nightclubs are open 24/7 and people go out from like 2-7am. The beers are 12-14 USD. I was told it is the most expensive place in South America.

I finally got a chance to sleep in this morning. I woke up, sunburnt, and had some hostel breakfast (corn-flake type things with yogurt).

I started talking to some germans that were staying in my room and I forgot how it came up but it turns out my watch had the wrong date. There is timezone 1 and 2 on my watch and my timezone 2 I was using said it was the 10th instead of the 11th. So basically, my bus had left that morning at midnight, so I went online and had to book another ticket ($50 down the drain).

I also commented to a couple Argentinans that the water tasted good, they then pointed out that I wasn’t supposed to drink it (clearly marked sign). Was a little nervous but lady at front desk said its OK if I’m not sick then I can keep drinking it. So drink it I did!

I lazed around the hostel all day until about 4:30 when I had a city tour scheduled. I played a game of volleyball with the Argentinians and they invited me to go with them to some beach down the road but I didn’t really have time plus I was sunburnt so out of commission.

It was tough there, I was the only English speaker I met. Many Argentinians or Uruguayans from a nearby city called Montevideo come there for vacation. Everyone was surprised I was “only” staying a couple days because most of them stay at least a week. I really wish I did have at least one more day though, to see another beach, city, or just relax more I guess.

The city tour was 4 hours long. The guy came and picked me up at the hostel, it costed $30 US. Unfortunately the guide talked very little English so I couldn’t get too much out of what he was saying.

On the tour, I learned that the city of Punta Del Este is actually both a city and a state. Within it, there are different areas. The highlights of the tour were seeing the giant hand in the sand, right by the bus station.

(giant hand)

We also went to Beverly Hills, it is the richest area of Punta Del Este. Really nice houses, that have names not addresses. They are also not built in a typical grid format like a normal city but just random extensions and turns on roads. The guide said that to give an address, you write the bus stop number as a reference, then the road name, then the house name. In the middle of Beverly Hills we also went to a museum, Museo Ralli.

(this houses name is TGIF)

Punta Del Este is not the “real” Uruguay the Taxi driver said who is from a nearby city, it is a fake paradise build on wealth. There are 18,000 permanent residents and over half a million come only for the summer months of December to March. So most of the giant houses here are left vacant most of the year. Over 50% of them are owned by rich Uruguayans and Argentinians. The rest are owned by people from the States, Europe, etc. He said a lot of celebrities live there, he gave Bruce Willis a ride from the airport the other day and saw Angela Joe Lee on the beach. He said celebrities like it there because no one bothers them like they would in the US.

He showed us a crazy bridge in La Barra:

(bridge)

But the best part of the tour was Casapueblo in Punta Ballena. This place was built by a famous artist named Carlos Piez Vilaro. The place was very impressive, build into a hillside over the water like Macchu Piccu. Apparently the guy kept expanding on his house to help inspire his artwork. I wish I knew more information but I couldn’t understand the guide. They have a tour there for US $6 where you can look at his artwork and watch the sun set. Unfortunately, it was raining so we didn’t get to see the sun set but I bet it would have been amazing.

(Casa Pueblo)

(Casa Pueblo Inside)

So after the tour, I kinda caught up with some people I met but had to catch my bus at 12am. I showered up real quick and didn’t realize it but left myself really tight on time to catch my bus.

I walked 10 minutes from my hostel out to the main road where apparently there were no bus stops I was just supposed to flag down a local bus to the station. One just blew right by me, which really sucked because I thought I was going to miss my bus back to Buenos because they ran every 15 minutes plus a 20 minute ride to the station. I started trying to hitch hike (I read in my guide book this is normal, and I saw a bunch of other people doing it). No one picked me up, not surprised (at this point I also noticed a FERRARI in front of a restaurant.. in South America.. WTF??). Luckily, a bus came and picked me up, in less than 10 minutes. The bus costed 36 Uruguayan Pesos back to the station (<US $2) and I got to the station at 11:53pm for my midnight bus.

It was easy to find the bus since the station was really small. But then the bus ticket guy tells me I am not on the list for the bus. He’s arguing with me, over what I thought he was saying was that my bus was supposed to be tomorrow night since the ticket said midnight, but turns out I actually bought the wrong ticket AGAIN. So I bought a ticket for the 11th and the 13th but tried to catch the bus on the 12th. No idea how I did that.

Anyhow the guy let me on, think he felt bad for me.

So after a 4 hour bus ride, where I slept the whole way, we ended up at the station in Colonia (the port city between Argentina and Uruguay) with customs and the ferry to Buenos Aires.

(customs ticket)

The transfer was easier than I thought , and was very modern and organized. Went straight from bus to customs to the boat. I couldn’t believe how big this boat was, it was the size of a small cruise ship, with first class on the first floor and tourist class on the 2nd floor. I slept this entire ride too.

(Buquebus ferry)

 

Uruguay Day 1 (Bikini Beach)

So I made it! The bus left right on time at 11pm. I didn’t sleep very well on the bus, I kept getting too hot, then too cold. Should have brought a jacket on board. They gave me some alien food and you better believe I ate that shit up.

We rolled up to customs around 3am, and after spitting out something in Spanish the customs guy took my passport. I wasn’t very comfortable with that, but I just followed everyone out of the bus and kept my eyes on him.

It turned out that the guy was collecting everyone’s passports that weren’t from Uruguay so they could get an entry visa for Uruguay.

Some confusing bustling and we were back on the bus. We got to Uruguay around 830 am, it was 1 hour ahead of Buenos (3 hrs ahead of EST).

The bus station was fairly small so less intimidating. I knew that I had to change my money there, so I changed it over from Argentinian Pesos to Uruguayan Pesos. The exchange rate was 20:1.  It is weird because for example my “$25” taxi ride to the hostel actually ran up at $500 Pesos.

I arrived at the hostel, checked in, and immediately wandered out to “bikini beach”.

Apparently it is famous but I have never heard of it. I strolled around, swam, bought a soda which was 100 Pesos, or $5. Fucking rip off. Not a very nice beach; water was brown, overall by my standards I was not very impressed. Everything is so expensive here, apparently it is one of the most expensive places in SA. Small thing of 50 spf sunscreen was $50 US, large beer $8, 20 min taxi ride from airport $25.

I came back to the hostel (El Viajero hostel), met some people, everyone was just chilling. Laziest place ever. Hammocks reggae pool, everyone was just lounging all day.

I am the only person not from Argentina or Brazil here that I have found. So I am getting a lot (too much) spanish in.

I booked a tour for tomorrow, to that giant hand thing, and tour of downtown. I have to get back to Buenos to meet with Juan for our trip to Iguauzu falls so I have to leave here on Thursday. Since the night bus I took on the way here leaves at 9 I don’t have time to catch it. With some trouble, I managed to book my trip home on the Buquebus website.

I catch a bus at midnight on Thursday to Colonia, which is a small city across the bay from Buenos Aires. The bus ride is 5 hours then a 1 hour boat ride from there to Buenos. Since I took it at such an off time I got it for 250 Pesos, the same as I paid for the 10 hour overnight bus.

When I arrive back in Buenos at 730am, I am going to book the night bus. I won’t need a hostel since I will be sleeping on the bus again but I will probably try to shower there and stuff, store my stuff in my friend’s rooms.