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South America – Holiday with a Difference.                                     By Jayant DoshiWith years of successful tri...
a ranch while the other six decided to take a boat trip in the delta. I opted for the ranch. We were                      ...
metal pathway built to go to the nearest point takes us quite near to the falls, and gives a veryexciting view of the fall...
period and so had to miss that spectacle. Rio is unique. It has a range of mountains dividing the city                    ...
what exotic fruits we can buy, or where we canget juices or anything else that may be ofinterest to others. Members of our...
shop owner could speak English, and was firm follower of Buddhist religion, and a staunch lover of                        ...
and Amazon creates a line of demarcation which shows black one side and brown waters on theother side, as if the two water...
heavy rains when we were planning to rest. At                                                       3.00 we left to visit ...
S america
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S america


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S america

  1. 1. South America – Holiday with a Difference. By Jayant DoshiWith years of successful trips, Navnat BhaginiSamaj has built a reputation that ensuressuccess for every trip. However, when the trip toBrazil and Argentina was announced, it did notdraw the same sort of support. Partly due tolack of publicity, partly due to a feeling that theitinerary lacked lustre and lacked somedestinations like Peru, meant that only 18members signed for this trip. And before the tripstarted, one member was taken seriously ill andhad to drop out. The small group had aninternational hue – two from India, two fromCanada (who joined from Buenos Aires) andrest from England.On Tuesday 27th January 2009, 15 members ofthe trip were given a farewell by president and committee members of Bhagini at the airport, and themost welcome lunch pack, which as before became a blessing in disguise. After almost an eleven hourovernight flight, we reached Sao Paulo where we were in transit for our next flight to Buenos Aires,with a wait of almost five hours. As was to be expected the food on the flight was not filling, and everyone opened that Bhagini lunch box and had a good meal at the airport. We reached Buenos Aires, and settled down in our hotel. Some walked around the hotel, and after dinner some went walking while rest decided for an early night after the long flight. Buenos Aires is a modern city with lot of European influence in its buildings. Next day we had a city tour and after driving through its busy streets, we stopped at May Square. This square is famous for all political protests in this country. At the end of the square is a pink government building, and to stop protesters blocking that building permanent cordon is kept to protect the building, and people who use it. We visited anearby cathedral with the usual stained glass windows, paintings and statutes. After that we visiteda unique type of cemetery where families have built mausoleums to bury every member of the familyover decades or even longer. Each mausoleum is built in style and using expensive stones andstatutes. It was impressive, though now this sort of cemetery is not possible due to lack of land.Lunch was in an Indian restaurant. The Indianowner was married to an Argentinian lady whohad adopted lot of Indian culture and way oflife. We had nice lunch followed by the best icecream we have ever tasted. After lunch it wasfree time, and we took a local train to the riverside. We had a long walk to the river, and alongthe bank of the river. We satisfied everyone’sdesire to taste the local famous ice cream. Onthe way back we walked through a streetcalled Florida which is similar to our CarnabyStreet, with no cars allowed, and lot of vendorsand entertainers on the street. Next day we had a free day also and had totake our own excursion. Eleven decided to go to
  2. 2. a ranch while the other six decided to take a boat trip in the delta. I opted for the ranch. We were given a brief history of the Gauchos, who are like the cowboys of South America. Their distinguishing attire is the poncho. We drove through the country side to arrive at the ranch which has been developed basically for the tourists to give them a taste of life on a ranch. On our arrival we were offered horses or horse carts to ride in. There was a huge lake nearby, and the horse ride gave a whiff of the country side. Later we all took a ride in a tractor through the forest. After a sumptuous lunch we were entertained by a group of dancers, and shown some skills in horse riding. The day turned out to be a great success. Seeing the beauty of the countryside, and all the activities we did during the day made it a successful excursion.The other group of six, who had planned a boat ride in the river delta were not so lucky. The trainwhich they had to take to reach the boat never moved, and as they were running short of time theyhad to come back. In the evening, we were taken to a show in a modern art décor theatre. Afterdinner we were entertained by a stage show that included tango dancing. South America is famousfor its tango dancing and everyone enjoyed a demonstration of the same.We had a flight to catch to go to Iguazu Falls.We all had to wake up before 4.00 a.m. tocatch our flight which left at 7.00 a.m. Wewere picked from the airport and drivenstraight to Iguazu Falls. The falls is on theborder of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Thesight of the falls is breathtaking. I have seenNiagara and Victoria Falls but the spread ofIguazu and the force of the water comingdown is just amazing. The falls spread over athree kilometre stretch. The height of the fallsmay not compare with Niagara, but theamount of water gushing down those falls isamazing. Iguazu Falls is trying to be listed asone of the wonders of Nature.We saw the falls from different levels of platforms and paths built for tourists. We saw from a lowerlevel where we can see the mist created by the water falling, and felt the splash of the water on theviewing platform. We went to the upper level and saw the majesty of the falls from the top. While inNiagara one can take a boat ride and go behind the falls, here the boat ride can go only about a hundred yards away from the water falls. The force of the water splashing and the mist it creates is so much that in the boat we were almost drenched in spite of good covering. The boat ride was fantastic and every one enjoyed it. The boat went to the main falls till we got the water on us, and it went several times to an isolated falls in speed to give the thrill to the participants. We went back to the hotel and spent some time in the swimming pool and the sauna. Next day we crossed into Brazil, and visited the Iguazu Falls from the Brazilian side. While the view from Argentina side is spectacular, the view from Brazil side is no less exciting. The
  3. 3. metal pathway built to go to the nearest point takes us quite near to the falls, and gives a veryexciting view of the falls. After lunch, we had afree afternoon and we decided to take anexcursion. We were taken through thick forest ina open vehicle. We had a good glimpse of thevegetation of the thick forest, some lovely birdsand butterflies. Some of us walked along theroute. Later we had a ride on the boat on theupper level of the river. We had some speedrides in the boat, and later we were given anopportunity to do kayak canoeing. Three of ustook up the challenge and tried our hand atcanoeing. We struggled, and kept going roundand round. In the end we got hang of it, andmanaged to make back to the boat without anyassistance. Next day was a day of relaxation. We had an early morning yoga sessions where most of theparticipants took part. After leisurely breakfast, we left for a gift shop at 11.00 followed by lunch.Everyone had an afternoon nap. In the evening we had dinner with a folklore show with combinationof Latin music, dances, and colourful garments. Each dance represented different states and culturesof South America. We woke up at ease, and after breakfast went for a walk and found the site which marks the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. We talked to the guide about this site, and the whole coach was taken for the rest of the group to take photos at this site. Today we were flying to Rio de Janeiro, and while we had time for our flight, we planned to leave early so we can get a chance to taste sugar cane juice on the way. Just as well, because that an extra hour came to our rescue. While we had crossed the border twice the day before, today we were entering Brazil. At the passport control, one passport was held back. At first the reason given was that the passport number could not be read bythe machine, but it later transpired that the passport happened to have the same number as apassport of a missing person in USA. We waited for long time in the coach. Offices in Sao Paulo wereon lunch break and nothing could be done to expedite matters. It became obvious that all faces hadsigns of worry. Our tour manager offered to stay provided others were allowed to go for lunch. Afterlunch we waited for half an hour before the matter got cleared. Suddenly, it seems, they realised thatthis was British passport, while the otherpassport was American. This delay meant thatwe had to forego our sugar cane juice, and hadto head straight to the airport. We reached Rioat 8.00, had dinner and retired to our rooms.Brazil is a country where the racial divide hasbeen erased over the centuries. One can seepeople of every colour and hue, a result ofintegration of various ethnic groups. There is nosign or inkling of any racial prejudice or visibledifferentiation. While rest of South Americaspeaks Spanish, Brazil speaks Portugese. Riode Janeiro, or Rio in short, is world famous forits beach, and for its annual carnival whichtakes place at the end of February. For variousreasons we could not plan our holiday over that
  4. 4. period and so had to miss that spectacle. Rio is unique. It has a range of mountains dividing the city into two. The south part is the richer part of the city, while the north has lots of slums. A three kilometre tunnel joins the two parts of the city. We were staying in the south part. Our hotel was right in the middle of busy street with shops and stores of every description. Just down the road, about a few hundred yards, we come to the most magnificent beach called Copacabana. The sand is like fine flour, and the beach is broad and long. We took a long walk along the beach in the morning. The sea waves were very inviting but we were not prepared for that. That morning we had a half day sight seeing tour of the city. Then we visited one of themountains with a huge statute of Christ. It is normal to see Christ statute or picture in a position oftorture – either nailed to the cross, or carrying the cross on his shoulder or with a crown of thorns. Butthis Rio statute is different. The huge statute shows Christ with his arms spread in a welcomingposture, and facing the Atlantic ocean. It is said that the statute symbolises Christ welcoming peopleto this land. This posture was selected after submission of different designs from many people, andthis posture was selected. The surprising fact is that the design was not even done by a Catholic or aChristian, but by a Jew. Lots of photos were taken at this site. The spot also gave a wonderful sightof the whole of Rio from the top of this mountain.We went for lunch to a restaurant which went outof its way to please us. A statute of Buddhadecorated the room where we were sat, and somephotos of Hindu deities added to the decorations.All the waitresses had bindi on their forehead,and their aprons had pictures of Indiangoddesses. Incense sticks were burnt, and Jainstavans were playing on the CD player. It wasvery impressive effort and pleased our group.Coincidentally, while we were in Brazil, a newsoap opera had started on the national televisionand the soap opera was based on an orthodoxfamily in India, and some way connected to afamily in Brazil. The soap opera was meant togive an insight and knowledge of the Indianculture and religion. In the early episodes the origins of the caste system were explained to apopulation totally unawares of the Indian culture. During our stay, we could see that there was keeninterest in the soap opera which was broadcast for an hour at the peak time. However, we, and specially the ladies in our group in sarees, became the centre of focus wherever we went, and quite often we were asked questions about our attire, the bindi and other general questions about India. After lunch we had some rest, and then went to the ocean and enjoyed the huge waves of water that splashed on our bodies. Wave after wave did not even give us a chance to recover from the previous wave. Hot sunshine, and warm sea waters that splashed on our bodies, giving a wonderful massage, gave us so much pleasure that there was no desire to leave. Next morning we had a long walk along the beach. During our walks we would find out
  5. 5. what exotic fruits we can buy, or where we canget juices or anything else that may be ofinterest to others. Members of our entouragewere very happy with what we did for them.Today we were taken to the Sugar LoafMountain by cable car. From the top of thismountain one can get a wonderful sighting ofthe Jesus Christ statute, and also the city ofRio. Later we walked through the city’sbotanical garden with acres of trees and plants.After lunch we had a visit to the moderncathedral, designed in a very modern style, andbeautifully made. We had afternoon of restthough some ladies went for shopping. In theevening, though it was raining we went ontothe beach and had good time in the sea withdifferent sort of waves. Today any one standing on the edge of the water would be splashed by theon coming waves. Next day was a free day at leisure. As usual some of us went for the morning walk, and dipped intothe sea and enjoyed the strong waves that splattered our bodies. After breakfast we went again on a walk, looked around the shops, and drank cocoanut water. After long search, we at last found a place to get sugar cane juice and every one had the pleasure of drinking that juice, having desired the same ever since our trip began. We purchased some passion fruits and custard apples for everyone, and went back to the hotel for our lunch. After some rest in the afternoon, some of us again were on the beach in the sea enjoying the wonderful beach and the waves in the sea. The waves were strong, and much nearer the shore line, and knocked us down many times. At night, after dinner in an Indian restaurant, we went to see a popular folklore show. The show was magnificent, the costumes colourful and some of the dances werewonderful.Today we were travelling to our next destination, and we had time for that. We slept till late as wehad a late night. During our morning walk we found custard apple juice, tasted it and then webrought every one to try it, and every one appreciated that. While we had tried custard apple milkshake in the past, it was first time that we tried its juice. Later the coach took us to the sea side resortof Buzio, a sleepy fishing village which becamefamous after the beautiful French actressBrigitte Bardot made it famous. To day thefishing village has become a thriving touristresort with lots of hotels, yachts and visitors.We spent the evening swimming and relaxingin the sauna.During our stay in Buzio we were taken to avegetarian restaurant for our meals. On theground floor there was a shop selling all sortsof things of Indian interest, including statutesand photos of Buddha, and other Hindus godsand goddesses, incense sticks, and otherhandicrafts and items connected with Hindureligion. They also had dozens of differentbooks in Portugese on yoga, meditation etc. The
  6. 6. shop owner could speak English, and was firm follower of Buddhist religion, and a staunch lover of India. He visited India every year. Upstairs another lady ran a vegetarian restaurant, and she also loved India and went to India every year. They catered for people who were vegetarians, but the food was not much to our liking. Our ladies soon became friendly with the owner and arranged to make certain things in the kitchen for our other meals. One day we had pav bhaji, and one day we had paratha and potato curry. Next day we had a open tram sight seeing tour of the area. We went through thick forest and saw all the beaches in the surrounding area. The small village is beautiful. A bronze statute of Brigitte Bardot is placed on the beach, and the path along the beach is named after her. Lotof shops have grown up to cater for the tourists. That afternoon we rested, and in the evening had along walk in the town. Some of the ladies had booked massage. The day after we took a boat ridethat took us around the Buzio and the surrounding islands. The boat made three stops in not too deepwaters to let the passengers come out and take a swim in the blue waters of the ocean. I had bookedmassage after lunch, but found out later the masseur had misunderstood and thought I had cancelledthe appointment.We left for Rio airport at five in the evening, andthe four hour flight to Manus was at 10.45.However, because of the two hour timedifference it was 2.00 a.m. by the time wereached our hotel. It was a long day for us. Wehad to wake up at 6.00 in the morning to get onthe coach to Eco Park in the Amazon forest. Afterbreakfast we had some time and we walked inthe city of Manus. Manus is the biggest city inthis part of Brazil, and has lots of development,industry and mining which has broughtprosperity to this part of the country.We reached the Eco Park before mid-day. It is aresort built right inside the Amazon forest.Wooden huts have living accommodation, andcentral restaurant and reception area comprises the whole resort. It is built on the shores of Negroriver, one of the tributaries of the huge Amazon river. But even this tributary was huge with width ofmore then a kilometre. The water here was totally black, and we were told that certain tree leavesemitted that colour. Due to heavy rains, we could see parts of the forest, and lots of trees half in water. We had a boat ride scheduled to see monkey feeding but we were told that the program had been cancelled for that morning. Following lunch and some rest, we went in a boat to see crocodiles, alligators and dolphins. We saw some dolphins, but it was no more then a glance from a long distance. We saw a few crocodiles and alligators. We had a long session of playing cards after dinner. Today we had a whole day trip planned in the boat, going down the Amazon river. We sailed along Negro river with its pitch black waters, and joined the main Amazon river with its coffee coloured brown waters. The meeting of Negro
  7. 7. and Amazon creates a line of demarcation which shows black one side and brown waters on theother side, as if the two waters are refusing tomix and mingle. We passed Manus with its tallconcrete buildings, busy river front withcontainers, and ships, industries that spreadall over the area. By boat it is 7000 kilometresdistance between Manus and Rio. TheAmazon at this juncture looks more like theopen ocean.We stopped for our lunch and saw somedolphins and then we were taken in smallboats in deep jungle, the boat manuoveringbetween the trees and the thick growth that isthe characteristic of this forest. We saw somecrocodiles and alligators en-route. We stoppedat a cottage shop on the river, and some ladiestook the opportunity to spend some money. The local people, including children, had pets thatincluded different species of small monkeys, pythons, snakes and small alligators which they wereholding in hand, and we were offered to take photos with these animals – either standing with thecarers or to hold them ourselves. Some did venture to have the python around the neck to take thephotos. We headed back to our resort around four. Soon after, the clouds started gathering and became thick and dark in no time. Rain was in the air, but we were not prepared for what happened later. Before six, it was very dark. Lightening and thunder changed the whole atmosphere. Bright lightening like a zigzag from the sky to the earth in the very dark clouds looked like as if tube lights had been lit in the sky. The noise of the thunder was frightening. Rain started lashing, and cold winds started blowing everything. Our group panicked. Rain coats and warm clothes came out. Look of fright was apparent on faces. Most of our colleagues took refuge in the only corner available with shelteron their heads, and huddled close together. I guess this way they were close to each other supportingeach other, and perhaps keeping warm. Some were trembling and shaking. The boat was rocking.Some had their hands folded in prayer and looks of fear were apparent on most faces. Some of usbraved the storm and went near the pilot cabin to gauge the situation. It was so dark, and the rain onthe window was making it impossible for the pilot to see ahead. He kept coming out of the cabin andswitching on and off the flood lights to see ifthere was any rock, land or obstruction ahead.Rain had now slowed down but the winds werestill strong. As there were lots of trees and rocksin the river the boat had to move very slowly toavoid any mishap. We reached our resort almostat eight, and one could see a sigh of relief on allfaces. Some thanked the almighty, and otherswere glad that their prayers were answered.Today was our last day in Eco Park. In themorning many of us planned a walk in the thickforest. Walking through the growth on theground, avoiding low trees and branches,listening to the birds, and getting sight ofdifferent species of birds was a new experiencefor most. Later we went to see monkeys being fed. For the first time in our trip, that afternoon had
  8. 8. heavy rains when we were planning to rest. At 3.00 we left to visit a local Indian village. There we were given a demonstration of their music and dancing. Today was our last night. Normally it is the gala night. But here we had no option to arrange such a night as we could not have special dinner made for us, nor could we organise any music. However, our ladies came up with a brilliant idea. Every one had packets of savouries given by the tour company. The ladies organised to make bhel out of it. They asked the kitchen staff to cut onions and chillies, and some sauces were concocted and we had nice bhel for dinner.This was a holiday with a difference. We were only seventeen, which made bonding much easier,and there were no squabbles over things like seating in the coach, or dining table, to time wasted inwaiting for any one. Being a small group, we collected a kitty and all common expenses were madefrom the same. Members of the group enjoyed various fruits and fruit juices from the kitty, whichmade it easy to purchase and share out things. There was no checking-in, sleeping, packing the bagsand checking out almost every day. There were no long coach trips travelling from point to point, andlooking through concrete jungles. We had lot of easy going, relaxing times along the trip. We had lessof concrete monuments to visit but a lot of nature to appreciate. We had relaxing time, and lots ofactivities. Swimming in the sea with huge waves, going on boats, and swimming in mid-sea,canoeing, walking in the forest, boat ride along the river, staying in the midst of thick forest, watchingbirds and wild animals, watching some wonderful dance and folklore shows represented a holidaywith a difference. The amazing Iguazu Falls, the boat ride and walking around that huge falls wasamazing. Every one enjoyed one way or the other. Some made the best of every moment, while otherstook it easy and enjoyed in their own ways.We did not have the usual Indian food all thetime, but whatever we got was satisfying andfilling. We had lots of fruits at breakfast andother meals also. There was laughter andchatting all along the trip, and days flew bywith joy and pleasure. Everyone hadmisgivings about the trip, and many like myselfhad come with the philosophy that these arecountries we are not likely to visit again infuture.We had some time in the morning. Two of usdecided to do canoeing in the river in themorning. Our guide took us in the canoe. Wetried canoeing for a short while. The guide tookus in the submerged part of the forest going through trees and vegetation. On our return it was time topack up and get ready for our bus ride to Manus, then a flight to Sao Paulo, and then our long flight toLondon. It was going to be a long day of long flights, and lot of waiting at the airports. But we did itand all reached London next day afternoon. We had all said our good byes the previous night.Looking back, this had turned out to be the best holiday in a long