Equator Gringos

August 12, 2008

Back from our vacation

Well, we’re back from 6 weeks traveling in Brazil and Argentina, with some Uruguay thrown in for flavor and a couple of hours in Paraguay for spice. My in-laws, Bettye and Bob, traveled with us for nearly 3 weeks in Brazil, and together we had a blast. The plan is over the next couple of weeks to write a few separate pieces about some of what we saw and experienced.

The view from Sugarloaf over Rio de Janeiro

The view from Sugarloaf over Rio de Janeiro

Here is what we visited with a brief description:

  • Sao Paulo, Brazil: Bob gets mugged in broad daylight on day 1. Uphill from there, perhaps the highlight was being approached one day by Brazilian tourism students and having them show us around the wonderful Sao Paulo Market while they took pictures of us for their class project.
  • Paraty, Brazil: On Brazil’s island-studded “Green Coast,” Paraty was a beautifully preserved colonial port that shipped out all the mineral wealth from Brazil’s gold mines.
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: “A Cidade Maravilhosa” (the Marvelous City”) was even more beautiful than I remembered it. Surely no other city sits in as beautiful a natural setting. Stay tuned for pictures of me doing a long technical rock climb of Sugarloaf peak in the heart of Rio’s coastal neighborhoods.
  • Ouro Preto, Brazil and other colonial mining towns of Minas Gerais (the Brazilian state whose name translates as “General Mines”): a highlight from my previous visit to Brazil 20 years ago, gorgeous colonial towns with cobblestone streets winding around beautiful old buildings and ornate yet elegant churches. We visited 4 different towns in this region (perhaps one or two too many, but each had its own charms), Bob and I swam in an underground lake in the bottom of an old gold mine, we all took a steam-train ride on “Smoking Mary,” and Joy and I paid a “moto-taxi” visit to an amazing natural rock garden and cave.

    Incredible Iguazu, showing a tiny fraction of the falls

    Incredible Iguazu, showing a tiny fraction of the falls

  • Salvador da Bahia, Brazil: several days in this northeastern heart of “African Brazil,” the city that spawned the dancing martial art of Capoeira, and the animistic faith of Candomble. It felt ancient and poor, lively and warm, a city that is unselfconsciously making the most of its cultural richness and heritage, despite or because it was the center of the Brazilian slave trade for centuries.
  • Iguazu Falls, Argentina-Brazil border: truly one of the most beautiful places in the natural world. Soon enough we’ll show you enough pictures to either convince you or bore you, but no number of pictures can capture the scope and magnificence of this complex of over 200 waterfalls.
  • Corrientes, Argentina: fifteen years after meeting him in Austin, I finally got to visit a friend from Argentina in his hometown. Now a successful but admittedly disillusioned lawyer with a beautiful wife and baby , Nestor showed us the full extent of Argentine hospitality, including a fishing trip on the immense Rio Parana where Joy caught a Dorado.
  • Colonia and Montevideo, Uruguay: quiet little Uruguay sits across the mouth of the Rio de la Plata (River Plate) from much larger Argentina, but we really enjoyed our time there. Great old buildings, wonderful museums, fantastic food and smart, funny, friendly people more than made up for the cold, windy, rainy conditions we endured for most of our visit.

    La Boca neighborhood, Buenos Aires

  • Buenos Aires, Argentina: it was great to be back in the city where I’d lived and worked for five months 20 years ago. I’d been dreading a diet of nothing but world-class steak, pizza, and pasta, but I had it wrong. Though it’s true that ethnic restaurants are in remarkably short supply in such a world-class city, Argentine restaurants serve up wonderful tarts, quiches, and stews, and the ice cream was even better than I remembered. Food aside, we visited Evita’s grave (coincidentally on the anniversary of her death), saw some great museums, a bunch of incredibly huge “gomero” trees that grace the plazas and parks, took in a tango show, and hung out with some Academia Cotopaxi colleagues and another old Argentine friend.

Can you tell we had fun?


1 Comment »

  1. We had a wonderful time with you guys – at first glance it looks like you covered the highlights.

    Comment by Bettye Kelso — August 17, 2008 @ 3:20 pm

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