Monday, June 17, 2013

Brazil Part 2: Foz do Iguacu

Dang. Iguacu Falls is amazing. I'm going to let the photos do the talking - but man oh man were we blown away by the creations of God. Nature is amazing. Imagine being the person that discovered these falls...

After a great couple of days in Registro - we got up early in the morning and caught a bus to Curitiba where we would catch a flight to Foz do Iguacu (btw Brazilian buses are super nice). We drove through the rolling hillsides of banana plantations and little towns here and there. It was beautiful.

We arrived in Foz do Iguacu and hopped in a taxi to our much anticipated splurge of the trip - Hotel Das Cataratas. This was the real deal. It is right in the national park, and you can see the falls from the hotel. We were all pretty excited about the place.

Especially Zara who enjoyed a nice big bed to hang out on for a few minutes after spending the morning on a bus and a plane.

We headed out to see the falls on a beautiful evening. ^^This was the view of some of the falls from right outside the hotel - the falls you can see behind us are in Argentina - we were right on the border. I loved the way that we saw the hotels, as we saw these first and were excited, then as we kept walking on the trail, they just got bigger and bigger.

That is some serious water coming down. I think there are 270 total falls - just everywhere you look.

The constant mist in the air made it crazy green everywhere - providing for some beautiful moss.

Oh ya!

These crazy boats take you up underneath the falls...not the biggest ones, but pretty big falls to say the least. We got excited seeing these boats, so we went on a ride the next day (Julie's parents watched Zara while we went). We were advised to wear our swimsuits and were glad we did as we were soaked to the bone.

Look at these two beauties ^^^Zara  was pretty amazed as you can tell.

It was so much fun to be there with Julie's parents - and to see their love for Zara - even though she is their 25th grandchild - they made Zara feel like she was their first.

We were there at sunset - and here is where another cool perk of our hotel being in the national park came in...once the park closed, everyone had to leave, unless you were staying at our hotel. So we basically had the park to ourselves for an hour or so as the sun set. As you can see, it literally is just waterfalls for as long as you can see. The sound was equally amazing. Similar to the roaring ocean, but just this constant powerful crashing of hundreds of waterfalls.

After walking along the trail for half a mile or so, the water sound started getting louder and louder, until we came around a corner and saw the epicenter of the falls - aka the Devil's Throat. You come in from the left (above) and then follow a bridge out to the vantage point below - looking directly into the Devil's Throat.

As you can see by Zara's expression ^^^ she was a little thrown off by all this mist and water in the air. We were pretty much soaked after 5 minutes or so. Zara loved it for the most part, but come on - enough is enough she says.

It was hard not to take a million photos (I think I got close to that). But it was just so cool to be there, just the five of us with these MASSIVE falls to ourselves since the park had closed. 

It was fun to mess around a bit with the aperture and capture the above photo. We enjoyed the falls until we were soaked, and then headed back to the hotel for an amazing dinner complete with Churrasco (Brazilian BBQ) and every kind of food you could imagine.

Zara was pretty worn out ^^^

Luckily she had her special crib they set up for her complete with her robe, stuffed animal, and flip flops they brought for her. Lucky little girl!

We got up early the next morning to go and enjoy the falls before the park opened. Again, we were taken aback with power and majesty of these creations. This day in the creation of the world was probably pretty exciting.

This shot ^^^ gives you a perspective of the little catwalk/bridge the have built that you can walk out on to. The photo above this one was taken out on the very far right of the catwalk. We walked back up to the hotel and Julie's parents watched Zara while we went on the boat ride up to the falls.

Here is the hotel from the outside^^^

And the pool out by the restaurant. Could have spent a few more days at this place. We were flying out early the next morning so we went and stayed at a not so nice place that night. Though the new hotel wasn't much to talk about (had an interesting dining experience there), it was right next to a really cool bird park full of all kinds of tropical birds that would fly right up to you.

Kathy could make a great bird show person. Look how good she looks with that macau.

The lady in the gift shop there was really excited about Zara and insisted that we all try on their awesome bird hats and take some photos. Zara just liked trying to eat them.

So there you have it. Iguacu Falls. Holy Cow were they ever awesome. I say you must visit to believe it. We woke up early the next morning to catch a flight to Rio. Which is the next stop on our blogocation. Come back soon to see the beauty of Rio.

Let's take one last look at these amazing falls.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Brazil Blogocation Part I - Registro

Julie's parents are currently on their second mission in Brazil...I know, they are awesome. We had planned to go and visit during their first mission, but were not able to. This time around, we realized that Zara would 15 months old before she met two of her grandparents unless we went and visited, and we really wanted to go to Brazil - so we decided to make it happen. Holy cow, are we glad that we decided to go for it. We started planning and little by little a plan came together. First we would go to Registro, the town where Julie's parents are serving for a few days. Then we would go to Iguacu Falls for a couple of days, then on to Rio de Janeiro to finish off the trip. We talked Julie's parents in to coming with us to Iguacu and Rio so we could spend more time with them, and have some Portuguese speakers with us. Zara turned out to be the best traveler of all of us. She was so awesome as she trooped along across the globe - 7 airplanes, a couple of buses, a bunch of taxi rides,  hanging out in the Ergo for most of the day (when she wasn't being held by Grama) and doing all of it with a smile. Maybe it is because she achieved celebrity status the second we landed. Brazilians love babies...they are so darn friendly. They just love coming up and talking to Zara in Portuguese and giving her little pats. We just had to smile and act like we knew what they were saying. 

We embarked on the long journey to Sao Paulo - which included a 9.5 hour overnight flight from Atlanta. Zara dug into her books and was awesome. The flight was full, but she just nestled in between us on the seats and slept the night away (can't say the same for myself...I was sitting next to the Brazilian equivalent of Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson, ok, well not really, but he was big and kind of leaned on me while he slept). Nonetheless, we made it and were greeted in Sao Paulo by Julie's dad and the kind, wonderful Branch President of the branch they are serving in. He insisted on giving Julie's dad a ride and coming to pick us up (roughly a 3 hour drive). He was about the nicest guy in the world. He gave us some great Brazil background knowledge to us via Julie's dad who was our translator. 

Since we driving past it, President Joao (branch president) stopped by the Sao Paulo temple so we could see it. It was beautiful, and it was so cool to see the grounds packed with people young and old coming to visit the temple and do temple work. 

Here we realized how much people liked Zara. These cute girls came up and made friends with Zara immediately. After seeing the temple for a few minutes - we jumped in the car and headed for Registro. We hit some nice Sao Paulo traffic, stopped at a restaurant on the side of the road and had some awesome 'welcome to brazil' rice and beans along with some guarana.

Finally, we made it to Registro where Zara met her Grama for the first time!! She was really excited to meet Grama Kath and be done with traveling for a bit. We changed clothes, and headed out with Mark and Kathy to meet some of their friends in Registro.

First, we went to visit a family that interestingly enough, were all Japanese. Registro was settled by Japanese immigrants. This family runs the main furniture store in town. They've all lived in Brazil for their whole lives. The grandma (on the right) speaks Japanese, so I had a chance to brush up on my skills. They were so incredibly kind, they even had a present for Zara.

On the streets of Registro^^ That night we went to a branch dinner that was being held for the adults. We had some more awesome food and had a chance to meet some of the really cool members of the branch. Not a soul spoke English, so we did our best to communicate through smiles and spanish (that they didn't really understand).

The next day we had the opportunity to go to church. It was so fun to be there in that branch of 60-70 or so. Full of great people. They were pretty excited about Zara. We spent about 90 minutes after church speaking to some of the youth in the ward. They knew a little bit of English, but for the most part we pointed and made gestures again. Julie's mom was there with us and translated. I just love that anywhere you go in the world, you can find a ward or branch to attend and feel the spirit. These people were 100% good.

President Joao and his family. It was really fun getting to know them a bit. They are an amazing example of faith and sacrifice to serve the Lord.

After church, we walked around and met a few more families that Mark and Kathy have been working with. We have been reading about these families in emails for the past 6 months, so it was so cool to actually meet them. You can see, that Registro is a fairly humble farming town for the most part - but so full of awesome people. 

After visiting the families, we headed back to Mark and Kathy's apartment and had some dinner. Mark is a big fan of the bananas in Brazil. I think we tried 5 or 6 different kinds while we were there. Everything we ate was accompanied by some amazing fruit. That night, we had homemade passion fruit ice cream. yum. After a great day of meeting people and seeing Registro, we made some last minute preparations before catching a bus early the next morning to Curitiba where we got on a flight to Iguacu Falls. We stayed at a Pousada (bed and breakfast) just down the street from Mark and Kathy's apartment which worked out perfectly.

Here is the view outside of our room at the Pousada, we were right down on the river. Registro is a placed we won't soon forget. Here we are, these random Americans, yet they made us feel so at home and welcome. It was amazing to see Mark and Kathy in their element as missionaries and see what an impact they are making in the lives of so many, and how much these people love them.

Check back soon for the next stop of the blogocation...the ridiculously amazing Foz do Iguacu.