19 February 2012

Week 81: Trip to Foz do Iguaçu Days 1& 2

We've been telling people that we are driving down to the Iguaçu Falls for Carnaval, and they all think we're crazy; but after going to Salvador last year, a 20-hour trip to the south doesn't seem so bad. We might even bump into a few people we know down there as well since this is a popular travel destination.

We actually managed to get everyone up and out and on the road by 6AM on Saturday. That was our goal. We made good time driving today. The roads were dry, sky was sunny, and traffic wasn't heavy. Like we noticed when driving to Salvador, most of the main roads are fairly well maintained. We only encountered one section of road that was pretty bumpy for about an hour, but still very passable. One nice thing about the southern route through Goiana is that much of the route was four-lane divided highway as well. We were able to make it to our destination in 12 hours just as we had planned.

I drove through a highway police checkpoint today. They waved a truck to the side and I didn't realize that they wanted me to stop as well. They chased me down, pulled me over, and since the police cars always have lights flashing and rarely use sirens, it took me a little while to figure out that they wanted me to stop. Of course, they asked me why I didn't stop and asked for my registration papers, which I fortunately remembered to grab just before we left that morning. I apologized stating that I misunderstood them since I had not seen this kind of thing before, then they let us continue.

I saw a maned wolf dead on the side of the road about an hour south of Goiana, so I turned around to get a picture. These are an endangered species largely due to human encroachment and destruction of habitat. I never thought I'd see a wild one even though it was dead.

We even found the hotel easily as it just off the highway in Presidente Prudente, which was convenient since the 3G was not connecting on our devices. I have a prepaid plan, and the iPad says there's a signal, but nothing was working. Rebecca found this hotel through www.decolar.com.br, a travel website for flights, hotels and car rentals in South America. The reception staff were very helpful and put us into an apartment suite and two double rooms, but there were enough beds in the rooms to sleep 11 people. We have learned that the moderately priced hotels are quite basic in comparison to the hotels in the U.S. At least this one had free WiFi and a good continental breakfast.

Here are a couple photos of the rooms:

Sunday morning after breakfast as I was taking a couple photos of the hotel, I noticed the large sign advertising the amenities.

I didn't recognize the center word, but was able to make a match with a sign in the bathroom.

This particular tool is used to was one's undercarriage so that you can comply with the request to not flush the piece of blotting paper provided for wiping down the toilet. I also found the sprayer useful in pushing floaters down with the flush.

We planned for our second day on the road to be only 8 hours, and once again we made good time and reached the city of Foz do Iguaçu by 4:00PM. Along the way, I was struck again by the beauty of Brazil. We also passed huge tracks of land devoted to growing sugar cane and soy beans.

As we got further south, it started to look more like the American Midwest during the fall. The soybean fields were brown and harvesters were out collecting the crops. Unlike the central part of Brazil, the south has been experiencing a drought, and the ground and plants looked dryer.

Driving the highways of Brazil is probably a lot like what driving across the United States would have been like 50 years ago. There are not freeways, divided highways are rare, and one gets to see a lot of the countryside. Along the way are "postos", which are large truck stops with gas stations, restrooms, restaurants and gift shops. Some of the older ones are pretty worn down, but there are a few newer establishments like this one, Posto de Madeira, that are quite nice:

What made this one particularly fun was the children's area complete with fish, ducks, chickens, horses, rabbits and guinea pigs.

And there no locks on the cage doors, so it was also a petting zoo.