I’ve been in Brasil for two weeks now and it feels as much a life time as it does a fleeting moment. Travelling thousands of kilometres from the country’s coast to the very heart of the continent, I’ve experienced a slither of what is on offer. I was crippled by a flu when we camped in the pouring rain of Brotas after a ten hour drive just to get there. The next day I bounced over rapids and floated down a swollen river on a tube, blissfully forgetful of my congested head and chest.
The next long drive took us deep into the expanse of Brasil, passing through endless towns and country fields. We camped behind a petrol station on our way, sitting on stools and eating pasta until bed time. Truck drivers cleaned their vehicles before us, one man pumping out Gangnam style on multiple occasions. It was the furtherest thing from what I’d expected to see in South America. The next morning the sun rose above the the small community of three houses that also resided behind the forsaken petrol station, dew glittering off the long grass.
Finally reaching the Pantanal, the heat and mosquitoes were a rude shock. The glorious abundance of animals could only be appreciated in small breaks. Toucans, macaws, eagles, caimans, marsh deer, rheas and even an ocelot awaited in the tropical wetlands outside.
Bonito danced around its name, presenting both the meaning to its name and quite opposite. Mangy little kittens squinted at me through crusted eyes from a dump of a house as I walked to the hostel dorm. Skinny dogs slunk around the streets. Buildings were broken and worn, their owners sitting out the front in plastic chairs. The heat melted the moisture from your body, leaving it trickling down burnt skin. Yet driving from the town to a small farm, I experienced a true highlight. Rio da Prata, its waters bubbling from springs in limestone, was like swimming through air. Clearer than glass and crystal, you were sealed in an underwater world like no other. Large fish flew lazily around you, a turquoise mirror rippling above. Lush clumps of aquatic grass speckles the light sand that bubbled in certain areas. Leaving the weightless clarity, the turquoise river sparkled between overcrowded banks. Tree branches and drooping vines reached across the water protectively as bird calls echoed among the greenery.
The next morning was yet another world, struggling through bleary eyes to pack the truck. Lights glowing sickly in the early morning darkness, we nestled down for the over fifteen hour drive ahead. The sun rose through fog, revealing endless fields of healthy corn. Chunky ford trucks rumbled past, their drivers in jeans and large straw hats. A nudge of homesickness returned as the calming and simplistic country plains rolled by.
We passed many towns stained by chestnut mud, their inhabitants eyeing the truck warily. Their gazes did not hold the same amused or impressed attention usually drawn. Instead disdain at the careless show of first world world wealth followed us as we bumped over the potholes. Even wearing the last days underwear and living from a rough truck cannot take away the blessing of my background, the sheer luck of being born in an Australian town.
Eventually the sun set, the brilliant fiery orange saluting the last minutes of the day. I think it was the one of the few times in my life I’d been present for both sunrise and sunset. A huge yellow moon rose as the midnight sun above the city of Foz du Iguacu to further highlight the beauty I often miss daily at home. A small vow was taken to appreciate my world more often.
In Foz we visited Iguazú falls and words can barely describe. Conquistador Ivar Nunez Cabeza said, “the river gives such a leap over very high rocks, and the waters such a blow on the earth beneath, that… the froth (mist) of the water which falls with such force raises two lances high…” (Pictured below is a few of the smaller falls.)
Indeed the falls were all and more, the humongous pour that thundered down La Garganta del Diablo caused the breath in my lungs to disappear. Fine mist greeting my skin in the heat, a gentle welcome from the violent cascade below. Butterflies swirled around the park, and rainbows formed through the spray. Argentina has the falls but Brasil certainly has the view. Across from the view was the Parque das Aves where I finally got to see the red macaws I’ve been waiting for, plus a few more! (Note the fruitloop next to first toucan – it wasn’t me!)
Today is my last day in Brasil. Tomorrow we head into Argentina where I can finally utilise and grow my Spanish. Its been an experience for sure, the people and places defying my prior expectations. I saw amazing things, and I saw disappointing things. In a place so torn by time, culture and people, it is no wonder my memories will be mixed.
Chau Brasil, hola Argentina!