One of the best parts about having a best friend who is an expatriate is that it allows an opportunity to visit areas of the world that may not have been up for consideration. For us, there has never been any real interest in visiting South America, other than the Amazon Rainforest and the Pantanal Wetlands. Due to their remote locations, however, they require visits to larger cities, where there is higher crime rates and Travel advisories from the US Department of State recommend increased caution. Travel to South American also recommends several vaccinations, the most common being Yellow fever, but also on the list is medication and vaccination to help prevent measles, typhoid, and malaria.
It takes a lot of planning for such a trip. Without a tour guide or a host to show you around it is almost impossible, it can be done, but it is a lot of extra work. When the opportunity came knocking for us to pay a visit to our friend in Sao Paulo we jumped on it. Not right away, it took 4 years after the first offer before we were able to finally book the trip, but at least the time had finally come.
It was the experience of a lifetime, and I regret not going sooner.
The plan was to fly into Sao Paulo, Brazil. Where our friend worked and lived for the last 4 years. Sao Paulo is the 12th largest city in the world by population, with over 12 million people residing in the city. It is also a smorgasbord of ethnicities, as Sao Paulo has several ethnic neighborhoods. While it is the largest porteguese speaking city in the world, it is also home to the largest Japanese, Italian, and Arab diasporas. People from over 200 different countries call Sao Paulo home.
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Our main home base during our stay in Brazil would be with our friend who resided in the neighborhood called Pinheiros. The plan was to spend 2 days in Sao Paulo and the fly to Campo Grande. Then drive 3 hours into the Pantanal where we would be staying at Refugio Da ILha Ecolodge for 5 days.
Refugio Da ILha Ecolodge
From there we go back to Sao Paulo, rest for a day, the fly to Foz do Iguaçu, where we would be staying at the Belmond Hotel while we visited Iguazu Falls.
Iguazu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu
The funny thing about Iguazu Falls is that it is shared between Brazil and Argentina. We would be visiting both sides. While each side can see the other, and are literally just separated by a river, the only way to visit each side is to drive an hour around.
Brazil side of falls to the Argentina side of falls.
The drive is only 24 miles, but what takes so long is that a large distance is through National Parks, where the speeding limit is strictly enforced. Our driver had informed us that they are given GPS monitoring units which monitors their speeds while in the park and if they go over the speed they face disciplinary actions.
After 4 days at the falls we would then fly back to Sao Paulo, rest again for a day and a half, then fly back home.
Over the course of 14 days that we had dedicated to Brazil we would be spending 3.5 of those days traveling. Other than the safety concerns, the amount of time spent traveling was another reason why we weren’t in a hurry to make the trip. It is almost impossible to find a direct flight to Brazil, and depending on how much you are willing to pay the wait for the connecting flight can be as short as an hour to as long as 8 hours. The total time for our flight, including the connecting flight would be a total of 17 hours for our arrival flight and 13 hours for our departure flight. When you are traveling for that long, ideally the travel is a trip in itself. We were fortunate enough to be on a flight that included breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus. I figured it would be best to start the Brazil trip with the way it started: with our flight!
Expat friends will ask you to bring them some stuff from home, so expect your luggage size to double.
The most important button on an overnight flight.
Movies and privacy.
Sao Paulo coming tomorrow!