Monthly Archives: April 2007

A View of the City

April 13, 2007
Day 562

Picture of Rio.

Rio de Janeiro at night.

Today was a clear day so I decided to go to Pao de Acucar, or Sugar Loaf Mountain, the famous 395-meter mountain that sits in Guanabara Bay and overlooks the southern half of the city. I rode the city bus once again through the horrendous traffic for over an hour just to cross two neighborhoods and ended up arriving with only an hour left before sunset.

The first cable car went to Morro da Urca. The area was quite large with a park, restaurants, a helipad, and a movie theater. There was an interesting movie about the history of the cable cars and how people dreamed for many years about being able to go to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. The mountain is so famous it was even featured in the James Bond movie Moonraker, where Bond and Jaws had an epic battle on the way to the top.

I walked to the other side of Morro da Urca and took another cable car to the very top. There was another gift shop where one could buy a $1000 hand-carved stone parrot statue or a $1 postcard. There was also a small park with monkeys running all around. But the big attraction was the view of the city. Rio is located in a unique setting because there are beaches, mountains, and Atlantic rainforest (Tijuca is the biggest urban forest in the world) all within the same city. Pao de Acucar seems to be located in the perfect place, where one can put aside the nastier parts of the city like the high levels of violence and ridiculous traffic and just enjoy the view.

The sun was blinding as it was going down behind Rio, but I still got to see Corcovado Mountain, Copacabana Beach, Guanabara Bay, and the Santos Dumont Airport before dark. After the sunset, the city lit up in a dazzling display of colors and lights. It was clear at that point that every inhabitable part of Rio was lit up, with patches of darkness where the forest still remained. Many people say that Rio de Janeiro is the most beautiful city in the world. I don't know how you could say it tops Paris, but it at least gives it a run for the money.

The photo album for this entry is here.

Saying Goodbye

April 12, 2007
Day 561

It was time to go back to the mainland. We had a great time on the big island, a tropical paradise full of amazing beaches, but my parents had to catch their flight back to the US today. The first step was to take the ferry back to Angra Dos Reis on the shore. It was very hot and sunny, so the sea breeze blowing onto the boat felt great.

Once we got to Angra, we realized we had a problem. If we took a bus back to Rio right away, we'd have about three hours to spare before having to go to the airport. With the horrendous traffic in Rio, three hours isn't enough to do much, but it's too much to sit around and do nothing. We decided that our time would be better spent in Angra. We walked around their small market of touristy crap and had a drink by the dock. Next we took the twenty-minute walk to the bus station and nearly died from the heat. We took a bus with wonderful air conditioning back to the Rio bus station, and got another bus from there to the airport.

I stayed with my parents to make sure they got checked in and didn't encounter any surprises with canceled flights or airport taxes. I found out there was a steep $40 departure tax for all international flights, but it was already included in my parents' tickets. When they were checked in, the flight was still a few hours away because of the aforementioned time gap, but I wanted to get back into the city before it got too late, so we said our goodbyes.

I think the visit worked out well. We got to see the waterfalls, a bit of the national park around Iguazu, many exotic tropical animals (albeit in captivity), the exiting city of Rio de Janeiro, and a beautiful tropical island with lots of beaches and forest walks to do. Not getting robbed or kidnapped was a plus, too.

When I left the airport, I took the bus back to Francisco's apartment in Leblon. The bus had engine troubles from the start and broke down in a bad neighborhood. I waited on the bus for a new one to come, but the new bus took a different route than the first bus would've taken, resulting in a ride of two hours just to get to the other side of the same city. There's a huge traffic problem in Rio, in case you didn't already notice.

Another Beautiful Beach

April 11, 2007
Day 560

Today I made the long walk to the other side of the island on the only road I've seen so far. There are no regular vehicles allowed on the island, so the only people who use it are park rangers and police. The town on the other side was home to about twenty families, and of course there was another beautiful, almost deserted beach nearby.

An Even Sleepier Place

April 10, 2007
Day 559

Today I walked over to Praia de Palmas, another beautiful beach on the island. The walk was pretty easy, but it went up a hill for the first half, so there was a good lookout point on top. There was a tiny village on the beach that made Abraao look like a bustling metropolis. Ilha Grande is a big tropical paradise.

Over the last few days, my dad has been trying to find something good on TV. I hadn't really even tried watching television in Brazil yet, but on the island I found out how humorous the shows are here. For instance, there was the cow auction channel, which is just how it sounds. Every now and then my dad would say "That cow's a beauty, R$300 for her is a bargain!" Then there was the variety channel. They once had an ugly guy wearing a wig, no shirt, and tight leather pants singing horribly and striking out with every girl in the audience. They also had a forro band on, which would've been interesting to watch, except they never played anything. They just held their instruments and talked to the host for fifteen minutes before going to commercial. Then there was the news channel, which wouldn't have been interesting, but the news was delivered entirely by puppets! It was surreal to think that Brazilians could stay current with world news by watching a bunch of puppets talk to them, but there it was. And of course, there were the plethora of prime-time soap operas that encompassed just about every other channel. Actually, come to think of it, I think Brazilian TV is more entertaining than American TV!

Parrot Peak

April 9, 2007
Day 558

Picture of me.

Me on top of the island.

This morning I walked with my parents past the town of Abraao and over to Praia Preta, the black beach. Next to the beach were the ruins of the Lazareto Prison, which was originally a shelter for travelers and immigrants in quarantine from 1871 until 1910. It became a prison later, and prisoners were held there until 1954. The place was interesting to walk through, but smelled horrible inside. Another nearby attraction was the 175 meter-long aqueduct, which was built in 1893 to supply water for the prison. There was also a view of Pico do Papagaio, or Parrot Peak, a rocky summit 959 meters high.

The weather was cooperating better, so I decided to walk to the top of Pico do Papagaio this afternoon. It was a long walk to the top, but I made it without any problems. The view was excellent from the top, with the whole island, especially Abraao being visible. However, the clouds soon rolled in and I heard thunder in the area, so I had to head back down quickly before a major storm hit.

A Big Paradise Island

April 8, 2007
Day 557

The Portuguese Godfather was at it again today. He loomed over me as I ate, just waiting for me to make a mistake. This time I was too freaked out to ask him for anything extra. After breakfast, we packed everything up and checked out. When I paid the Portuguese Godfather, he just took the money and gave me an evil sneer. He didn't even thank me or anything.

Our next destination was going to be Angra Dos Reis, a small city a few hours south of Rio. The only problem was that I didn't know when the buses went there, especially given that this was Easter Sunday and the schedule might be different from normal. I asked the Portuguese Godfather if he knew anything about the bus schedule, and he told me to take a taxi to the bus station if I wanted to find out. Wow, thanks for being so helpful. I asked if I could call, and he scoffed at the idea of me spending his money via the telephone. I pointed to the pay phone next to the desk and said I'd use it, but he told me he didn't know the number of the bus station. You know, they have this new invention called a “phone book" that contains all sorts of telephone numbers, and most hotel employees are more than happy to let me look a number up in it. I pressed him for more info and he said that the buses leave every fifteen minutes, clearly a ploy to get me to leave. I knew I should have asked him this stuff before paying. That was my only leverage with the guy.

We decided to take a city bus to the bus station and take our chances from there. It took forever to figure out which company had buses going to Angra Dos Reis, but eventually I found it. And the added bonus was that by the time I had the situation figured out, the next bus was only fifteen minutes away. At about the time we were supposed to leave, two buses from our company pulled up, but somehow neither of them was our bus. There was mass confusion amongst everyone waiting to go to Angra, and we ended up waiting another half hour for the correct bus to come. This stuff is quite normal in South America, and usually I don't even take enough notice of it to bother writing it down, but the inefficiency was a new experience for my parents, so it stood out more in my head.

When we got to Angra, we learned that the last ferry of the day to Ilha Grande (Big Island), our goal for the day, would be leaving in forty-five minutes. The dock was a twenty-minute walk from the bus station, so it was good timing. The walk took us past polluted beaches, an unsightly government-run oil rig, and some pretty rough looking neighborhoods. Angra wasn't the ideal place to spend a vacation, so I'm glad we made the ferry today.

The ferry ride lasted one and a half hours. Along the way, we passed many mansions and upscale housing develpments on small, secluded islands. The rich occasionally passed us in their yachts. The ferry appeared to be full of Americans, but maybe I just noticed them because they were the loudest ones. One particular group of guys eagerly told me about all the partying they had done since arriving in Brazil.

The ferry dropped us off in the small tourist town of Abraao, which was the biggest settlement on Ilha Grande. We were led to a great hotel run by a very nice lady. The place was surrounded by greenery, so it didn't have that "crowded resort" feel to it. The room had an air conditioner, cable TV, and a hammock outside, amenities I'm not used to having. Unfortunately, shortly after we settled into our room and were ready to explore the island, it started raining hard and didn't let up until late at night. The power went out for much of that time, so there wasn't much for us to do except sleep.

We went out to get dinner when the rain finally slowed and discovered that most restaurants on the island were really expensive. We ended up going to one of the cheaper places, but that was a mistake. We each ordered a plate of spaghetti, which was the restaurant's special for the night, and waited, and waited, and waited... A couple other groups of people came in after us, but got their food first. They just ordered cheeseburgers, not too complicated, but we got the special, something half the people in the restaurant were eating. How long does it took to cook a plate of pasta, anyway? The answer came an hour later when our food finally arrived with no apologies from the wait staff. My mom asked for some Parmesan cheese, but was told that it would cost extra. I yelled at the waitress saying that after waiting an hour, the least they could do was give us a little cheese. She didn't care about my logic and moved to the next table with her usual mean look on her face.

There were more issues when it came time to pay for the food. Somehow they charged us for four drinks, despite the fact that there were only three of us. It took a long time to convince the guy at the register that this didn't make sense. The other problem was that they automatically included a 10% tip in the bill. I hate this. It gives the staff no incentive to do a good job, which is obviously the case here. I told him I didn't want to pay a tip, but he said I have to pay. I told him fine, but now you have to recalculate the tip because you had to remove the drink that you overcharged me. This kind of math was way over his head, and he seemed astounded that the new tip was slightly smaller (by 10% of the drink he removed) than the original tip. He looked at the calculator and then at me like I pulled some kind of medieval magic trick on him. Customer service ain't what it used to be, even in Brazil.

The photo album for this entry is here.

Jesus on a Hill

April 7, 2007
Day 556

Picture of Jesus.

Jesus Christ!

As is normally the case in Brazil, breakfast was included today at our hotel. However, instead of the normal potpourri of fruits, pastries, and fresh juices, here we just got some bread, crackers, and a cup of coffee. All of the tables already had the food set up for one person, but when my parents both sat down at the same table, the Godfather immediately went to work counting out the exact amount of bread, down to the last crumb, that would be rationed for two guests. He then stood right next to them as they ate, making sure they didn't try anything funny like taking a cracker from another table.

When I ate my breakfast, I decided to test the Godfather a bit. I quickly drank my cup of coffee and asked him for another cup. From his reaction, I thought he was going to give me a kiss on the cheek, but he returned a few minutes later with a fresh cup. I started talking to another guest who's an American with Portuguese parents. He said that the Godfather came from Portugal, and his reaction to my asking for more coffee was typical for someone from that country. So this Godfather's not Italian? The Portuguese Godfather. I like the sound of it.

Some other lady made the mistake of sitting at a table away from the entrance to the breakfast room. The Portuguese Godfather made her move across the room and proceeded to turn the lights off in the area where she originally sat. It was a cool day, so my dad didn't have the air conditioner running. Nevertheless, as soon as he left the room, the Portuguese Godfather flipped off the switch with ninja-like reflexes. Are all Portuguese really like that?

A visit to Rio isn't complete without heading to the top of Corcovado Mountain to see the big Jesus, so that was the first place we headed to this morning. At the bottom of the mountain, a guy with an official looking ID and nice uniform offered us a ride in a taxi to the top. He said he'd stop at a couple places along the way, whereas the train went straight there, and offered us a deal for slightly more money than the train would cost. That was a horrible deal! Taking an unofficial route should cost less, not more. His starting price was so high, I didn't feel like haggling with him would even be worth it. Instead we opted to take the train, which itself was ridiculously expensive. You've gotta love these tourist attractions.

Picture of family.

A self family portrait.

My guide book said to sit on the right side of the train for the best view going up, but there was a problem: The seats were facing opposite directions, so there was no right side! Oblivious to the situation, I started to sit on one side, then noticed that I was on the left and switched to the other side, but I was still on the left. I was so confused I wanted to cry, so just stayed put. I don't know about the view, but I was glad I chose the side I did because I could instantly pick out the annoying American lady on the other side as she yelled at a guy for not having change for her large bill with which she wished to purchase a can of Coke. I would've gotten a headache if I had sat any closer to her. Why do Americans have to be so loud all the time?

The ride up was littered with scary statues of kitty cats and religious figures. A few brave souls chose to forgo paying and were walking the 710 meters to the top next to the train. I say that they were brave souls not because it was a high walk, but because robberies along that path are common. We stopped a couple times along the way to get views of the city's landmarks, but it was too cloudy to see much of anything. I sure was glad I skipped the taxi ride.

Once at the top, we were free to walk up the platform with Cristo Redento (Christ the Redeemer) on top. Because of the clouds, the view was generally less than spectacular. However, every now and then I got a glimpse of Ipanema, the Maracana, the favelas, and of course Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain). We stayed on top for nearly two hours hoping the clouds would fade, but it never happened. Just for the heck of it, I sat on the left side of the train on the way back down.

In the afternoon, I had some major problems getting money. Rio is littered with ATM's, but on this lucky day, none of them wanted to feed me. Most of them claimed they couldn't read my brand new card, which was scary indeed. My parents' cards weren't working either. We tried about of hundred machines, but none worked. I've almost never had a problem with even a single ATM, so this was really bad timing. How could any of us continue our trips without money? I was getting ready to start washing windshields when I decided to try one last bank. It actually worked! I took out as much money as I could and nearly kissed it. Thank you HSBC, my parents' vacation would've ended in a real bad way without you!

Picture of parents.

My parents with their drinks.

The original plan was to go to the top of Pao de Acucar this afternoon, but it was still cloudy, so we decided to put that idea on hold. Maybe we'll have time to squeeze it in before my parents have to leave. Instead, we took the bus to the famous Copacabana Beach and tried to go to the fort that overlooked it. Unfortunately, it was already closed because it was a weekend. We ended up getting a beer and coconut and watching the sunset over Copacabana.

We went out for pizza for dinner tonight. We ordered one big pizza for the three of us, which was brought out impossibly quickly. The waiter gave us one piece each and took off with the rest of the pizza before I could protest. I was starving, so I started to whimper at the prospect of trying to get full on one slice. When we ate our one piece, we were getting ready to leave, but suddenly the rest of the pizza reappeared! The waiter explained that he was just keeping it warm for us. Then he brought out cold glasses to pour our beers into if our original glasses had gotten two warm in the five minutes since we received them. And I thought I had already seen it all in South America.

Corcovado Photos
Rio de Janeiro Photos.

Checking Out Rio

April 6, 2007
Day 555

Picture of flowers.

A flower.

It took a long time to get to Rio de Janeiro. The taxi showed up early and the driver was eagerly waiting for us. That wasn't a surprise; he slyly set the meter to "2," the higher rate that's used during nights and weekends. We got to the airport way too early and easily could have slept another hour. Oh well, it's better than showing up late. We had two flights to get to Rio, stopping for an hour in Curitiba along the way.

From the airport in Rio, we took a bus into the city. We went past all of the wonderful favelas of northern Rio on the way. I asked the driver when we'd pass Largo do Machado, in the Flamengo district, and he stopped the bus and told us it's just two blocks to the right. That was lucky. I thought we were on a different road that would take us right past it, so we almost missed it altogether.

Flamengo used to be where the rich people of Rio lived, but once the tunnels through the surrounding mountains began being completed about one hundred years ago, the rich moved further and further away from the center, a trend which continues to this day. Nowadays, Flamengo is a middle-class area, so it's still pretty nice and safe, but it's not near any swimable beaches, so it's relatively cheap. I scoped out the area a few days ago and found a few decent hotels, which I led my parents to today.

I could tell my parents weren't very fond of the first place I showed them, so we went to another one nearby. The guy at the reception desk was old and skinny with slicked back hair and an emphysemic voice that made him kind of like a thinner version of the Godfather. I had my work cut out for me on the bargaining front, but eventually I got him to knock the price down a little bit. My parents had an air conditioner in their room, and when my dad asked the Godfather how to use it, he sneered at him and flipped a switch behind the desk to turn it on. The guy was a real cheap bastard. My dad neglected to turn off the air conditioner when we left because he wanted the room to be cool when we got back, but I didn't like the looks of it.

We took the bus out to the botanical gardens, which are just south of the Jesus hill. It was a huge park with lots of trails, many different types of flowers, monkeys (see, I told you they exist), and even a lot of royal palms and huge trees similar to the one I saw the miners cut down in the Guyanese jungle.

Next we walked over to Francisco's place in Leblon. I picked up a couple things that I had left behind, and we spent some time visiting. My ever-observant mother noticed that Francisco's window was open and asked if he ever had a problem with pigeons flying inside. Francisco began to answer that he normally kept the window closed, so he's never had any problems, but before he could even finish, a pigeon flew right into the window! I grabbed a broomstick and pushed it out before it could do much damage, but we decided that it was time to head out after that faux pas.

When we got back to the hotel, the Godfather was fuming. Not only did my dad leave the air conditioner running when he left, but we also neglected to leave our keys at the desk. If we had gotten robbed, he would have had to spend money to replace them. I told him I was sorry, we're just foreign tourists who don't know any better, please don't kill us. I'll even leave my light off tonight, purely out of respect.

With the long flight and all of the running around the city, this was a long day, so we went to bed early.

The photo album for this entry is here.

Brazilian Iguacu

April 5, 2007
Day 554

Picture of me with parents.

Me with my mom and dad at Iguacu Falls in Brazil.

Today it was time to see the Brazilian side of Iguacu Falls. At the entrance was a museum explaining the history of the falls and the ongoing effort to protect the area's phenomenal nature. It was a nice introduction to the falls and everything was written in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, so the vast majority of visitors could read it.

Next we rode an open-air double-decker bus to the falls. Along the way, the different areas of the park were explained in the three aforementioned languages. It was already evident that not as much walking would be required here than in Argentina. The bus took us right up to the falls, and there was only one short path to follow to the main viewing platforms.

The weather cooperated better today. It wasn't too hot but it wasn't raining, so it was better than any of the last few days in the area.

Picture of falls.

Some of the waterfalls next to the viewing platform taken from above.

There were once again lots of coatis on this side of the falls. Signs were posted all over saying that they will bite you, but most people couldn't get past their cute, cuddly appearance. I even saw one guy trying to pet one of them. I guess he didn't see its large pointy teeth. Two kids, on the other hand, had the opposite reaction. They screamed and cried anytime a coati got anywhere near them. So were the coatis more like cute little Tedi Bears or devious raccoon wannabes? The question would be answered definitively later in the day.

The walkway took us past most of the waterfalls of Iguacu, but it was further away than the Argentine side. People always argue over which side is better. Some like hearing the roar and feeling the mist of the Devil's Throat from five feet away; others prefer to get a good perspective of hundreds of waterfalls at once. I think a trip to the falls is not complete without seeing both sides.

This time we somehow forgot to bring food, so we got a small lunch from the overpriced cafe at the end of the walk. I gobbled up my sandwich in seconds and hoped it would hold me over until dinner. My parents were working on their food too when a group of three coatis crawled under the wooden fence and entered the eating area. Lots of people took their cameras out and went "awwww," but these rascals were searching for a target. They found a young couple nearby who were about to start eating their hamburgers. The couple just smiled when they sauntered up to the table, but then within a blink of an eye, two of them jumped up onto the table, swiped a hamburger each in their elongated snouts, and ran away before the couple could protest. The couple just gave a look of confusion, like they couldn't believe what was happening, but everyone else just laughed, thankful it wasn't them. So that solved the coati question. Or did it?

A few minutes later, another coati crossed the fence and started sniffing around. I had had enough of them, so I got up and chased it away. My mom didn't appreciate this gesture and called me a “meanie." I couldn't believe it. The little bastards just stole two $5 hamburgers and I was the bad guy! Don't judge a book by its cover, folks. Coatis are evil pests, not cuddly companions.

Picture of snake.

My mom holding a deadly snake.

We weren't quite ready to go home, despite all the commotion. Across the street from the falls was an aviary with a sign that proclaimed it was the “Best Bird Site In South America." It seemed pretty sketchy at first because before we even got inside, there was a guy saying “Over here, over here, just ten dollars to enter." That seemed expensive, and if it really were the best bird site in South America, they guy trying to draw in tourists wouldn't be necessary, but we figured we'd check it out as long as we were there.

The first section was pretty bad. The cages were so small the birds barely had any room to move. The bars were so close together, it was difficult to see the birds properly. One of the birds was clearly blind, and another one was just hanging and not moving at all. I thought it was dead until I saw it blink. I thought we had gotten ripped off for sure.

But immediately after that first section, everything was great. The landscape opened up so most of the birds could roam around freely. There was even a complete forest in one area. They had many rare birds, including the hyacinth macaw, which is nearly extinct in the wild, and the harpy eagle. There were also lots of other macaws, toucans, weird looking birds, and a few non-birds like marmosets and lizards. It took hours to see everything, and we were exhausted by the end. So it wasn't a ripoff after all.

Back at the hotel, we discussed our plans for heading to Rio tomorrow. We had a very early flight, which means we'd have to take an expensive taxi all the way to the airport because the buses don't run all night here like they do in many places. I inquired about changing our flight, but it would cost way too much to do so. The good news is that we'll have a good amount of day left to see Rio tomorrow, so we're not wasting any time.

Picture of toucan.

A toco toucan.

Brazilian Iguacu Falls Photos
Aviary Photos

World's Largest Dam Propaganda

April 4, 2007
Day 553

Picture of me and mom.

My mom and I at Itaipu.

It was already time to leave Argentina, so we decided to do a bit of shopping early this morning. My mom wanted to get some mate (the tea made from yerba leaves that Argentines are always drinking), and she was overwhelmed by the number of choices. They really take mate seriously here.

Getting across the border was much easier this time. We quickly got a bus from the main terminal in Puerto Iguazu to the border. Everyone had to get stamped out or show their IDs when leaving Argentina, so the bus waited for us to complete the task. The bus didn't wait at the Brazilian border, but this time the next bus seemed to arrive quite quickly. Maybe it was the fact that the weather had cooled significantly since raining yesterday. The next bus took us all the way to the center of Foz do Iguazu.

Foz is a city of 300,000 people, small by Brazilian standards, but still much more hectic than the chilled out town on the Argentine side of the border. My parents discovered this right away as a guy started harassing us and trying to get us to go with him to a hotel as soon as we walked off the bus. The guy would not leave us alone; I couldn't read my map of the city or even think clearly because he was constantly barking at me to go with him. I'm not a violent person but it was a real test of my patience not to give the guy a good beating. This kind of thing happens a lot in South America, but I was hoping my parents could avoid this aspect of the culture. We come from a "don't call me, I'll call you" society, so any attempts at "help" like this one are generally met with hostility. I checked a few hotels on my own, but they were too expensive. The only reason I really went in them was because I was hoping the guy would go away, but no dice. Finally, I waved the white flag and agreed to go with him to one of his hotels. It actually turned out to be quite nice with a swimming pool and big breakfast, and reasonably priced. The guy didn't leave until it was confirmed that he would get his commission, then I never saw him again. Man I hate those guys!

Picture of dam.

Itaipu Dam.

After settling in, we took the bus to the Itaipu Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric dam. We signed up for the free tour and were led to a movie theater, which showed us a movie in Portuguese with English subtitles. The movie showed all kinds of token statistics having to do with the dam's construction. Enough concrete was used in its construction to build 210 Maracana Stadiums (the largest soccer stadium in the world, in Rio de Janeiro), the amount of iron and steel in the dam could build 380 Eiffel Towers, forty times more water spills through the dam each second than all of Iguazu falls, etc. The movie constantly talked about how great the dam is. It powers 93% of Paraguay and 20% of Brazil, produces clean energy because it comes from water alone, and some of the money generated from the project is used to plant trees and help with wildlife conservation. Strangely, the movie never mentioned the 1500 families whose home were wiped out by the dam's construction, the 700 square KM of rain forest that were cut down to build the dam, or the fact that the dam destroyed the Sete Quedas, previously the world's most voluminous waterfall with thirty times more water spilled than Iguazu. The one-sided movie and free tour almost made it seem like the folks who manage Itaipu were going out of the way to justify their project.

After the movie, we were taken to a comfortable bus and driven all around the dam. It was huge, but impossible to tell just how big it was until I saw a bus drive past the massive generating units. Later we drove over the dam. We were technically in Paraguay for about five minutes when we crossed over the dam, so I guess I introduced my parents to three new countries.

Back in Foz, I walked with my dad to buy snacks at a massive supermarket that was so packed it was impossible to move. We had to wait in line for half an hour because the guy ahead of us wanted to buy an entire shopping cart of chocolate Easter eggs and his credit card company wouldn't approve the purchase. Then I found out that one mango went for over $2 in these parts. That's truly incredible considering that I used to pick and eat at least three per day for free when I was in the Guianas and northern Brazil.

The photo album for this entry is here.