Squid and Goober-Girl's Adventure to South America

November 17 - December 3, 2000

Tuesday, November 21, 2000 - Ilha Do Mel

Yes, I realize that I am getting a late start to this damn journal. This is the first chance I have had, really. Not that it is a good thing…

We’ll start at the airport in Seattle. Carol took us there and we got up to the counter, only to find out that our plane to Chicago was delayed 2 hours and was in Denver getting fixed. Uh…. Problem. We only had a 50 minute layover in Chicago, so this flight was pointless. The best that United offered was a flight that left 8 hours later and went to Washington D.C. Then, after a 4 hour layover it went to Miami. In Miami, it was an 8 hour layover before we’d catch a Varig flight to São Paulo. We were supposed to have arrived in São Paulo at 11am Saturday, and this arrangement would not put us in until 6:45am Sunday!! Then we would STILL have to wait 2 hours for the flight to Curitiba. I was absolutely livid! It took everything I had to not strangle the innocent women behind the counter. So, not seeing any other choice, we took the new itinerary (and our free meal voucher good only at Sea-Tac for 24 hours, real fucking useful) which put us traveling for twice as long as before, and we left the airport. I shared my “horror story” of my travel to Costa Rica last year, and Sunny listened nicely, unaware of just how fucked up things could get.

Our flight to D.C. left at 10pm, and since I can’t sleep on planes I was awake when we landed at 5:40am Eastern time. Dead tired. We rounded up shirts, glasses, magnets, pencils, etc & dozed in and out of consciences until boarding started. (Oh, did you know that you can (could) buy a Tipper Gore magnet? Sorry, Sheila, I ain’t buying that shit for you….)

By the time we got on board I think we were on our 6th wind, so we stayed up for a portion of the flight, trying to plan for sleep accordingly. Sunny slept later, I tried but I didn’t get much, as usual. The only thing going for us thus far was that we were on exit rows, so I could stretch out.

We arrived in Miami just past 11am Saturday, when we were originally supposed to be in São Paulo. Crankiness set in. We were so early that Varig wasn’t even open, so we had to wait until 3PM! Argh! What about sleep? We couldn’t leave & come back or do anything other than wait. We did have a nice meal at the “Top of the Port” restaurant, though. Miami is a huge airport and we walked aaaaaaaallll of it.

As 3pm drew closer, I started to get worried because our flight wasn’t even listed on any monitor. A United guy eased my brain later. Finally, they opened the counter. We walked up with our little blue flight voucher the bitch at Sea-Tac gave us, gave our little sob story, and awaited our boarding passes and our fate.

What’s this? Another fucking problem? Wait, what!? HUH!? What did he just say?? It’s half in Portuguese…stand… what? STANDBY? WE HAVE TO FLY STANDBY?? EX-FUCKING-SCUSE- ME??? WHY!? Did we or did we not just pay 1300 fucking dollars to catch these flights? Were our plans fucked up by United? YES!!! And the best we could get after 2 flights and 12 hours of waiting was to finally get to our final flight but be standby???? No. Fucking. Way.

Ok, so we had no choice. My ass still hurts from the major fuck we just got by United. Varig could not just ‘give’ us tickets, since we did not buy a Varig ticket; we bought United. While I see their point, I fail to see what their “Star Alliance” with United is good for if this is how things work. I bitched and ranted at both Varig and United, but that was all we could get. Totally strung out and fed up and about ready to give up, we began our 4 hour wait to MAYBE catch our flight that we should have taken in Chicago, 24 hours earlier. We sat on the floor in the terminal, waiting and dreading...

Wednesday, November 22. Morning, 8:30? 9:00?

Hmmm…. They said it is summer here, but I don’t believe it. It seems like Seattle. Rains, clouds, more clouds, rain, etc. It hasn’t been too hot (hard to be when the sun doesn’t shine.) So, anyway, I woke up right at 7 this morning and was ready to go. Sunny was still being a lazy sleepy headed snoozing pumpkin goober, so I wandered around. I just had breakfast, so I figured I’d continue my bitch session...

(When we last left Guido, heroic world traveler, he was trapped in Miami, awaiting his fate….)

The 3 hour wait until boarding started was the longest, most boring, difficult, and painful 3 hour span of time I have dealt with since the file restores of last year’s HVAC disaster. Plus, the airport was full of Cubans, Brazilians, Argentineans, and Germans, so hardly anyone spoke English. I kept trying at the gate to get the standby shit resolved, but I either got ignored or told “I have to wait for my supervisor”. When they started boarding, all of the standbys flooded the counter, about 10 or so. Then they started to hand back the tickets the could not do… 1…2…5…6, then a pause. The guy (who only spoke in Portuguese) stared to hand us ours, then took them back and muttered something about seats and left. What the hell was going on? I was about ready to cry or kill, slowly seeing this downward spiral of a vacation slip away. Finally, he came back and we got our seats: 40L and 35D. Whew! Thankfully, the guy in 40K switched and we got to sit together. I had no room, the plane was hot, but we were finally underway. We got fed, I had a drink, and we slept most of the way.

We arrived in São Paulo without additional problems. Luggage OK, customs OK, everything fine. (Oooh! Oooh! Mango juice! Woo Hoo!) I started to feel a lot better, tired but no longer stressed. I slept during the 50-minute flight to Curitiba. Good landing, baggage OK, and there was a guy waiting us for at the airport. Sigh… Things were looking up!

The hotel is Hotel de Parana Suites. (Parana is the state Curitiba is in.) It’s a nice little place downtown, and the room is small but nice. Bathroom, fridge, bed, couch, desk, TV with ESPN (how much soccer can one stand??) Nice place.

Sunny called João and Raphael (her friends down here) to let them know we arrived. Raphael and his brother Bruno (they’re Italian) own a restaurant about 10 blocks away, so we walked down there to meet them. Yay! They spoke a little Ingles! Woo Hoo! Sunny knows them from when here going to school, I think. Anyway, the restaurant was very nice, the food was both Italian and Brazilian, and you got served buffet style and paid for it by weight. It’s an original approach! Very good food, too. I think we are playing pool when we get back. We did some grocery (beer) shopping (Penguin beer! Penguin beer!!) and it was only $0.26 a can, (Holy cow!) then went back to the hotel and slept.

Monday morning we took a cab to a tour agency to pay for our tours and lodging. Elisette was very nice, however the did not take Visa for payment. Ok, no problem, we’ll just go to a bank and get the 2,932.60 reis (about $1500) we needed.

Frustration sets in again. Bank #1: Totally clueless about Visa. Bank #2: ATMs, but don’t take Visa, and clueless clerks. Ok… Bank #3: Huge. Walls of ATMs. I tried mine for 100 Reis. Success! Tried for another 600… Woo hoo! Tried again, no luck. Then Sunny tried. Nope. Other machines… nope. Shit. Thank god for Sunny and her Portuguese. She could talk to a very helpful bank worker who got us to the front of the line at the counter to get money. Sure, we waited a damn hour, but we got some. I got all I needed, but Sunny’s bank only allowed 700 Reis, and she needed 800. Arggghhh! We stormed back to the hotel, called the bank & got her limit waived. Elisette showed up to get the money, and we had to tell her what was up. She was cool with it, so we went back to the bank and waited another ½ hour. Finally got it all, paid Elisette and got our instructions. Everything was cool again.

Now it was food time. We walked everywhere looking for a Churrascuria (shoe-haz-ker-eee-ya), which is a place with a Salad bar, and the waiters bring sticks with meat on them & cut off pieces for you. We had no luck until we hailed a cab and found one.

OH MY GOD!!! So much food! Such good food! How are these people not 360lbs?? The food… just… kept… coming…. Belly… full… can’t stop… eating! Definitely have to go back.

On Tuesday morning, our guide Sebastian brought us to the train station to catch the Litorina to Morretos (moe-hetch-ease). I’ll write more on that later. Pencil is dying…

Thursday, 10:30-11:00am 11/23/00 Turkey Day.

(Ok, I have to get caught up here, or else this journal is gonna just suck…) The train ride is about 2 ½ to 3 hours long. Sure, you can take the highway there, but where's the fun in that!? It’s an interesting ride as you pass by all these old and defunct stations, small bananananana farms, and when it’s clear (which it wasn’t) you can see the mountains and valleys this train winds through.

We arrived in Morretos and Sebastian was there waiting for us with the Van (a Kia! Kia makes a van?) We drove around a bit, then went to Madaloza for lunch. Nice place! It’s right on a bend in the river, it wasn’t busy, and the best table in the house was reserved for us! Wow! Such attention to detail! They start you off with a salad and bread bits, then some potato salad (salada de batata) and these yummy yummy YUMMY fried crab cake balls… I could eat 6 pounds of these! Their main disk is called Barreado (bah—something) and it is a mix of beef stew, mandioca (man-joke-ah) flour and rice and maybe some banana slices, and it is sooo good! And so much of it! So, while I’m sitting there snarfing down all this food, THEN they bring out fried shrimp (camaraô) and fish and more crab things. So… much… food! Tummy happy! This was the same place that Sunny ate at last time she was here.

We got back into the van and went to a very evil (mau) gift shop full of wicked things, statues, fish things, chimes, magnets, etc. I walked out of there with a nice bagful of goodies, all for about $20! Woo hoo! Oh, before lunch we went to the main church in Morretos to look at it. It was very nice and very, very old. After the gift shop we drove to the town on Antoninia to look around. Most of these little towns are full of historical buildings that haven’t been touched or used in 150-200+ years. We went into another church built in 1715. (Someone shut that fucking’ kid up or I am going to go over there and shove my dirty underwear in it’s mouth! Oh… sorry…) We walked down the aisle (snicker!) to get a look at the alter & the floor. I think this was the oldest building I have ever been in.

We were going to explore Paranagua as well, but were running late so we headed straight out to the ferry, which ended up taking about an hour with all the damn speed bumps. We were on our way out to Ilha do Mel, our “Island Paradise”…

Sebastian was/is a wonderful guide. He stayed with us when needed to be sure things went OK, then disappeared when things were set (like lunch). He was informative, knew the area & history, and was very nice.

It had been raining all day, and when we got to the ferry we had to wait an hour because we just missed the boat. Sigh… oh well. The boat reminded me of Gilligan’s Island. Funny, because when we got to Ilha do Mel in heavy rain we discovered that there was no power! It was dark, and we were cold and wet, and there was no power!?!? And why won’t anyone speak English? What is she saying?? Why is she talking so damn fast? Sunny! HELP!! What’s going on?!? AAAAAARRRRGGGHHH!

I had a bit of a breakdown. We had no power, which meant we had a limited number of options; the rain, I was frustrated from all the difficulties we’d had thus far, and I didn’t know the language enough to have a clue without Sunny’s help, there was a kid here who wouldn’t shut up (the reason for the profanity earlier…), and it all kinda came to a head. I had a moment, then later as I got better the power came back on, and we had some pizza. Then we went to bed.

I woke up yesterday morning just before 7am. The power was still on! Woo hoo! Hot shower! Sunny was being a lazy butt. So I had breakfast and wrote yesterday’s entry. Once the pencil died I went back to the room at about 10:30 and Sunny was finally up. Lazy butt. Oh, and the damn power was off again! WTF? So, no shower for Sunny. There were some other difficulties and the day started to look bleak. But, we went out and combed the beach, played in the water, messed around all day, and had a wonderful time. Even without power, we had a yummy lunch at a place on the Island. We had rice and beans, chicken (frango) and French fries (batatas fritas!) Oh, and more caipihrinha for me! Woo Hoo!

After lunch we walked down the beach to an old fort. I scraped my foot on a cannon mount. Not too bad, but I’ll call it my ‘battle wound’! We found a ton of sand dollars on the beach, but we practically had to run back to avoid the biting flies. Stupid flies! :)

We got back to Prai do Farol around 7:40 and there was still no power! (I’m having a hard time not getting pissed about this) Ok… so we set down with our snacks and some cards and candles to play round, then the lights came on. Good. Woo hoo! (stupid vacation gods) Then we discovered how burnt we were. Sunburned, that is… lobster city.

We stayed up eating batatas fritas and drinking, and talking to a woman who works here. Her name was…. Uh, something. It was fun, dealing with dual languages and cultures. We talked about tan lines because I have obvious ones. Did you know that tan lines on a Brazilian man means that he is a stunted bull who is a cheater and is ashamed to be naked with his woman? Whew! Good thing I am American! I can get away with it. I got harassed about it for a while, then it turned towards Sunny, with her 3-tone Neapolitan scoop neck and chest. So, now we have to wear those itty-bitty bathing suits she gave us. We’ll see. They are very small. (it didn’t happen. No. freaking. Way.)

Woke up this morning at 7:30 and there was NO FUCKING POWER!!! Again! The work scheduled for 2 days on the underground cable has spilled into three. (Why the agency was not told of this, I don’t know, and it pisses me off. I want a discount.) Anyway, I insanely took a cold shower (stop that snickering!) and have spent the last 1.5 hours or so writing this. I think I will go play somewhere. Bye!

Um… 4-something

We lathered ourselves up and played in the ocean again. No additional burns this time, which is good. We stayed out for about 1.5 hours, then went back in and took what faintly resembled a shower. Lunch time! There’s a restaurant nearby with rice and beans that we went to yesterday. This time, since there was no ice, no caipirinha! :( The wind picked up, so lunch and games were cut short. Sunny turned into a pumpkin and is now sleeping, so I went exploring. More on that later. I stopped at the restaurant for a drink and to write, but there is a kid who is coughing and crying and wheezing and gurgling and risking her life, so I am leaving. Be right back…

Ah…. Better. Now the only prominent sounds are the wind and the surf. Ilha do Mel (Honey Island) is a biological reserve 20 minutes off the southeast coast of Parana, Brazil. It’s sorta small, but long. The largest part of the island I have only explored the beach of, down to the fort. The middle part of the island is very, very, narrow. It’s only 80 yards across and shrinking with erosion every day. Soon it will be 2 islands/ We are just past the narrow part. There is a lighthouse close by that we will investigate tomorrow. I walked down to a nice beach on the other side which we will also need to explore. It’s where the surfers go.

I just wish we had power. This vacation has had more problems, obstacles, and frustration than I anticipated, but overall it has been good. I haven’t thought about work, which I guess is the point. I did check my work email before we left Curitiba & Ken did ‘something’ with a new NT group, but I have no clue what it was. Oh well. I don’t care.

We are here until Saturday. This part of the trip is/was not as enjoyable as I would have hoped, but oh well. Things are changing. Once we leave here we will be one day back in Curitiba, then on a short flight to Iguazu Falls. There, we are supposedly staying in a 5-star hotel in a room with a view!! Plus, we’ll take trips to Argentina and Paraguay. I think if Iguazu is very nice, we will stay another day, 3 nights instead of 2. Yay!

Still, I would have no problems with this place if I could shower and things were normal. Power was only supposed to be out for 2 days, and it is now the third day. Sigh…. They have stuff! (Ooh! A song comes to mind: Da-da da-da-da-da da-dah, Da-da da-da-da-da da-duh, Dah-da da……. Tequila!) Ahem. Sorry. If I can’t shower, at least there is liqour and cheapo penguin beer. Ooh! Did I mention it was only 26 cents a can??? Woo hoo! Sure, an IPA or Don’s brew it is not, but for a quarter I’m not complaining. I’ll drink fizzy yellow beer….

I hope I don’t sound too complainy. Things are not that bad. It’s just not exactly what I though it would be thus far. Costa Rica it is not. And I think my expectations & comparisons are drawing away from it I just need to relax and roll with it. I do need to go back to Los Cocos, though. They have $100 of mine and I think a trip there in May with Sunny for my birthday would be great. Just a week, though.

Oh GOD! The coffee! Ay-yi-yi! It is called café (caff-aye) or cafezinho (Sunny will kill me for that spelling) and it is like espresso, but much more yummy. I have to know how they make it so I can dupe it. Plus, I am down to my last bag of Café Britt from CR, so I need to stock up. It’s cheaper here anyway. I won’t get 20 pounds, though… :)

Money? The currency is called ‘real’, pronounced “hey-all”, I think. Plural is reis, or ‘hay-ice’. The exchange rater is about 2 reis for every dollar. Woo hoo! Yay cheap! I have about 133 reis in my pocket. Tomorrow or Saturday we will buy trinkets and t-shirts. I’ll get some bread in Curitiba.

Curitiba is a nice city. Once we come back from Iguazu, we will do the tourist thing and see the sites. Nice place. Imagine a ‘third world’ Seattle.

You know, sometimes not knowing the language is fun!

Goddamn it is windy! My short hair is vertical!

Besides caipirinha, mandioca is my faaaaavorite thing here. But so far, not everyone has it! Mandioca is a root, much like a potato (batata!). Everyone has batatas, so I am OK. Yay batatas fritas!

I think I will read over what I have written thus far. Bye!

Monday, November 27th, 8pm Iguazu City

Oh, god. How do I begin? I wrote my last entry 3+ days ago while sitting on the deck of Pousada Prai do Farol drinking tequila, feeling fine even with no power. I went back to the room and Sunny was up. Later when the power came back on (7:30, nightly) we had dinner and played cards until it was pumpkin time. (I have eaten so much French fries…)

(Friday) Once every other night or so, I have a hard time sleeping either due to bugs or heat, or freakish weird dreams. This was one of them. So, when morning came I was still very tired, power was off early, so we had breakfast and went back to bed. I don’t know why but I didn’t get up until 1pm. Bizarre! Once we were up, we bummed around had lunch and walked around a bit. We were both a bit dehydrated, tired, and just sick of the lack of power. But then the weather started to cool, the wind picked up and we stayed up playing cards and eating fries. But oh… the storm!! After a late afternoon nap we awoke to dark clouds and high wind. There were what looked to be 3 separate storms converging over us. Lots of wind, lots of cool lightning and thunder loud enough to break eardrums rolling along the clouds. We stayed out on the deck during the storm and watched it as long as we could stay dry. I was reminded of Costa Rica. Once it got colder and wetter we went back in and compared our burned flesh. (mmmm…. Bacon…mmm… ham…) Power came on late and then we had a wonderful rice and beans (Sunny’s favorite) dinner. Then, nighty-night. It rained all night.

(Saturday) Feeling much better, we had breakfast and spent our last morning on the Island exploring. It was still raining, which was good because we were sooo burnt. We went out to Prai Grande (prai = beach) which is the surfer beach, and played on the rocks. Then we went up to the highest point (300 meters) on the island to the Farol (lighthouse) It actually still works! You can’t go up it, but the view is cool. Actually, we walked up the beach to what we thought was the steps, but it was just rocks. So, we were bad and scrambled up about 100 meters. Bad tourists!! We found the real trail on the way down, though. Then we walked down ‘crabby alley’. It’s a swampy path that has hundreds of these tiny brownish greyish crabbies. They have the HUGE orange claws that are about as big as the rest of the crab. They are so cool! They look like little scurrying cigarette butts!

Our ferry back to Ponta do Sul left at 2, so we got on board with Cleoma (Clay-oh-mah), the nice woman who took care of us at the cabina. Oh, and it was still raining, so the surf was a bit rough. You cross a very deep channel that the HUGE boats coming to and going from Paranagua use, and, uh… we met one. Funny. You don’t realize how huge those big tankers are until you are sitting it a little Gilligan boat sharing the waves with it. It was very humbling. It was moving at a very fast clip, too. Where’s my life jacket!?

We got back and we took Cleoma on the van with us to Paranagua. We toured the port (in heavy rain) and went on an old battleship. Old, old ship, back when they still used cannon balls. Verra kewl! Wet and cold, we piled back into the van. We let Cleoma off at her house and later arrived back at our home base hotel in Curitiba. Ahhh! Power! Showers! Food! Air conditioning! We showered, ordered more fries and a 4 cheese pizza (only $5! only $5!!) and relaxed.

(Sunday) On this day, we departed Curitiba to Iguazu Falls. We were picked up around 10 and went around the airport for a little. Our flight was delayed about 40 minutes (better than before!). Each temperature or climate change has brought on headaches, but some juice and Canadian codeine kills it. Yay! (sometimes, stronger measures are needed, heh heh heh….)

Our airline was VASP, which I interpreted to mean Very Ancient Stupid Planes. Eh-GAD this 737-200 was old! But at least they feed you, even on a 55 minute flight. Our decent was a bit rough, but OK. We landed and our new guide Nelson (ha-hah!) was waiting for us. Although, my sunburn was really peeling and I probably left half of me on the plane…) I was expecting to go straight to the hotel, but we went to the falls first…

OH MY GOD!! SO COOL! So many falls! (270 of them!) I can’t even describe it. If you are alive, you have to come here. Sunny took a bunch of pictures, I went through 2+ rolls of film, oh my. So awe-inspiring! My only hope is that our pictures came out good. Hopefully, I can add more to this later.

Now, the hotel. It is the Bourbon, and it is/was a 5-star hotel, my first. Yay! It is only about 10 minutes from the falls, and it is a huge place. 350+ rooms 5 restaurants, pools, gym, bar, etc. Very, very nice. Our room is nice as well. I’m now sitting at the bar with my third caipirinha, trying to update this damn journal.

Today, Monday, we went to a dam, Paraguay, and Argentina. I will write about that tomorrow, as I need to go find Sunny and get some food. Writing in my journal while sitting at a bar and drinking is my new tradition! Yay traditions! I will finish this up later. Bye! (Man, this place makes a mean caipirinha!)

November 4, 2001

This is the end of the journal, as written while there. The way the vacation went did not give much opportunity to just sit around and write, so I ended up spending all my time writing about things that had occurred 1 to 3 days prior. I could never catch up, so I abandoned the journal.

The sad part now is that since I did not finish, and did not finish the transcription until almost a year later, I now don’t have much to say to conclude the trip. Maybe once I get to adding in some pics I will fill in the rest. We had a wonderful time in Iguazu, and our last few days in Curitiba went very well. We had fun, we ate a lot, we met up with friends, and we left with only little hitches.

When I update this again, I’ll let you know.

Paul Gagliano

Go back to Squid-land!

This page was updated last on: April 17, 2006 12:15:49 PM.