February 1st marked the start of our Brazilian adventure. We had spent a good amount of time in Buenos Aires trying to plan out where and how we’d get around Brazil in the sixteen days we would have. We knew we wouldn’t be able to see everything but we’d make it to Rio de Janeiro to join the Carnival partying.
With so many options we decided first to head to the southern coastal city and island of Florianópolis. From there we’d head north to Curitiba and get a flight up to Rio before making our way south again to São Paulo.
We crossed over the Friendship Bridge that separates Paraguay and Brazil and got our immigration forms filled out and passports stamped. We were back in the border city of Foz do Iguaçu which our bus to Paraguay had zipped past when we left Argentina. There were lots of hotel options catering for Iguazu Falls visitors and we managed to book a bargain in a nicer place than we were used to. Hotel staff opening doors for you equals luxury. It was late evening and food options were few and far between but we found a mall and a Burger King! Our three month old Spanish was of no use now and everyone’s Portuguese sounded like arabic compared to our few words. We only had an overnight in Foz and we thought we’d enjoy the hotel as the city was very quiet. I spent the night glued to CNN watching the Iowa Caucus votes come in while John made use of the quick wifi – we were in the first world again!
We were pretty sure our overnight bus from Foz do Iguaçu to Florianópolis was going to be our last in South America and this made the 15-hr journey a lot more doable. It was actually one of the nicer buses with loads of legroom. We left at 6pm and woke up as the bus drove the last bit along the coast. Florianópolis is a fairly big city and area with close to a million people. It’s situated on a large island (Ilha de Santa Catarina) connected to the mainland by two bridges with half the city on either side. We had booked an Airbnb halfway down on the east of the island near a town called Campeche.
Following our Airbnb host Daniele’s directions, we got off the local bus at a petrol station along the main road and walked down a side road. The ad had stressed how there were yoga places nearby and an alternative feel to the area. We noticed this straight away as the lamp posts were all painted by hippies with bright colours with sparkly things hanging off them. There was also a fairly well-off feel about the area – the gardens were kept really well and there were tons of cats and dogs, but not of the feral variety though! Daniele lived downstairs with her kids and upstairs she had split her place into two wooden loft apartments. Bright, cosy (aka small) and perfect for what we needed.
The island has a real laid back vibe – lots of surfers, skateboarders and tattoo artists. We took another local bus (that’s how everyone gets around) to a nearby town of Lagoa da Conçiecão which is right on the Atlantic coast with a large lagoon separated by a bridge. There were lots of people just sitting out and enjoying the evening sun so we decided to join them. But not before we picked up a few Brahma cans and settled in for the sunset.
It got dark and we needed food badly. We stumbled across a festival-styled food court with vans parked up serving whatever food you wanted. Given we were in Brazil we headed towards the burrito stand and ordered steak ones with lots of guacamole!! The food court also had a skating park just behind it which provided some entertainment as we ate and saw skateboards in the air.
We took another day trip to the south of the island and walked around a cliff to find a somewhat secluded beach. It was our first beach day in ages so we just chilled pretending we were on a beach holiday for the day and just swam and read. I was still getting through one of two books I brought on the trip.
After three days in Florianopolis, it was time to move on as we had a flight to catch from Curitiba the next day to get up to Rio in time for Carnival. Curitiba was a five hour bus trip north – this time a day-bus… hurrah! Besides their flag, one thing that was everywhere in Brazil was the colour green. The areas we travelled in from Florianopolis and Rio were so lush in green vegetation. Almost jungle-like and more so than the flattish green fields you see all over Ireland.
Curitiba is known as a very planned city with a large student population. We arrived on the Saturday of the carnival weekend and we’d read up not to expect much celebrations around the city. Everyone travels to the bigger cities and shuts up shop. We had checked into a cheap and cheerful hotel and headed out for the evening. All three of our restaurant recommendations we had looked up were closed unfortunately. Most of the places had signs saying they were closed for the festival. We ended up finding a lovely Japanese place in a St. Stephen’s Green styled glass building that had an elegant food court. It was about 10pm and we followed the sound of outdoor music and stumbled across the beginning of Curitiba’s carnival parade. What luck!!
It was just beginning and we wandered along the railings for a good spot. Just like we found in Rio there were loads of street sellers with iced cans in polystyrene boxes that they were lugging around. The parade was a lot more low key compared to Rio and the other big cities, but it was great to get a taste of it before we flew up to Rio the next morning.
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