I have thrown Saturday into this week as I just had so much to cover from last week so here we continue...
We took advantage of having most of Saturday in Foz before we flew out to Curitiba. Embarking early, we crossed the border into Argentina and took a few hours to walk the several trails around the waterfalls. We were fortunate to see caymans (alligator relatives), toucans and even a sun-basking turtle. Of course, the weather was perfect and the day sponsored many more terrific photos.
Before we crossed over to Argentina, we had to pick up a small hammer. "Why?" You ask. Well, Argentina requires drivers of tour buses to have a hammer ready so that the Argentine military that guards the border can tap the tires to check for solid-sounding spots. These non-hollow sounding areas could be a sign of where drugs or other smuggled goods have been hidden.
As Gerson and I experienced last year, the view of the falls from the Argentine side was spectacular and again, many photos were taken. It was just so difficult to ignore the extraordinary photographic opportunities the sunshine, the falls and the smiles present.
From getting wet at the end of walkways overlooking the waterfalls, to having numerous butterflies land on our hands, to having our voices drowned out by the deafening sound of the falling water, the day was a great experience.
After enjoying the waterfalls, we headed over to a bird sanctuary before leaving for the airport. We ate a quick, but delicious lunch and Gerson and I sent the rest into the sanctuary (as we visited it last year). The bird sanctuary has birds and reptiles from all over South America and a few imports as well. As Sheri said, they could have easily spent a few hours roaming around the various exhibits but alas, our time was fleeting.
We made it to the airport with time to spare and fortunately, no additional luggage in our hands. We were quickly called up to the counter only to have the Varig employee give us a look as though he'd seen a ghost. Gerson pounced on the look as I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. The reason for the look was because our direct flight to Curitiba had been cancelled and the next similar flight was Sunday. And worse, Gerson and my reservations were completely wiped from the records. Fortunately, we had our itinerary printout as well as our "booking receipt" and these documents as well as Gerson's strong, monotoned voice convinced the employee and his supervisor to get us on a flight.
We were all subsequently booked on a flight back to Rio with a connection to Curitiba that had us arriving in Curitiba a couple of hours later. We gladly took these flights and said our goodbyes to Gio. As before, Gio was not only our guide for our time in Foz, but more so he was part of our troop and the time there was better because of him and his uncle Moreno.
Of course, the change in flights was not that easy as we taxied out onto the runway only to hear Sheri say "that's strange, I have never done a 360 on a plane before." Wherein, I look out the window and realize we have turned completely around and you guessed it, there was a "mechanical problem" Varig had to address. Almost an hour later, the problem was fixed and our flight to Rio was uneventful.
With the delay in our departure, we were over 30 minutes late for our connection and we were already worrying the thoughts of how do we get our luggage, where would the airline house us for the night, etc. Lo and behold, Varig actually held our connection and once we identified ourselves to the Varig representative, we were hustled through to the other gate and tossed onto the waiting aircraft. As we found out, we were the only transfers to this plane and they held it just for us. Now, ain't we special! Of course, none of us could bear looking at any of the other "patient" passengers in the eyes.
We arrived a bit late and we were still well-received by Gerson's family and Uga (as we needed two vehicles to haul all of us and our luggage to Uga's home).
On Sunday, we gave the Staleys a bit of a whirlwind tour of Curitiba as well as strolling through a popular fair. Sheri got outfitted with a pair of adorable sandals and the people watching was fun.
That afternoon, we had a welcome bar-b-que and basically ate and drank and laughed into the night. Much Engliguese was spoken and several caipirinhas were shared (if you could get Sheri's away from her).
After a good night's sleep, we were off to the beach to spend a couple of days at Marjorie and Carlos' condominium. We took a longer route as we wanted to wind down through a road that was built by the Jesuits some four hundred years ago. We left clouds and rain behind and landed on the other side of the Serra do Mar in gorgeous sunshine. We wasted no time jumping into the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
The next day was no less wonderful with blue skies, a light breeze, cold beer and fun with an attitude-rich crab. Sheri showed off her new Brazilian bikini to grinning Dan and the ultimate Brazilian souvenir was created: tan lines.
After a couple of great days at the condo, we ventured south to the beach of Camboriu and to Gabriel's apartment. We enjoyed a brief ferry ride across a bay and again, enjoyed the rest of the day in sunshine. Sheri and Dan befriended a young Argentine couple and discovered a game that is similar to shuffleboard, yet it is played on the sand.
After a day of swimming, sunning and shuffling, we dodged the incoming rain and made ready for an impromptu bar-b-que. We invited the young Argentine couple, Julio Hernan and Maria Amelia and their presence turned a fun occasion into a true festivity.
Of course, the food was delicious and DJ-G was burning at the computer/CD player. From new wave to old rock, from sizzling samba to merry merengue, dancing could not be restrained. The end of the night came much too fast and we said our good-byes with the hopes of finding each other via email in the future.
Unfortunately, we had to leave paradise the following day and go back to reality of the Staleys returning to their beloved home. As our previous experience with Varig taught us the lesson of confirming one's flight, we checked with a local tour office about the intended departure only to find out, once again, a flight had been cancelled. A phone call made by Gerson directly to Varig not only verified the cancellation, it also exposed that Varig had inadvertently removed all evidence of the Staleys on the original flight.
The extinction of the Staleys meant that the earlier flight to which the other cancelled passengers were being assigned did not include them. And, of course, the earlier flight was "over-booked" and the Staleys (four of them, including the two boys) would be placed on a "stand-by" or "wait" list. Gerson, preferring to talk to airline personnel face to intimidatingly tall face, chose to go directly to the airport from Camboriu.
After a brief investigation by the Varig customer service, we were apologetically directed to the flight counter wherein the personnel had been informed of our problem and Varig's error. In a relatively short time, the supposed over-booked flight coughed up four seats all in the same row and the boarding passes were received and guarded with Sheri's life.
We made a dash across town so we could enjoy a delightful lunch with Gerson's sister Marjorie, Carlos and their kids and take a moment to catch our breath from the stress of the morning. Good-byes were sadly said and then it was back to Uga's for that dreaded event: packing.
With a brief stop to say good-bye to Carlos and to pick up some of Evelize's brigadeiros for their trip home, the Staleys left many hugs behind.
We had such a great time with my dear friend Sheri and her family that the next day, we felt at a loss for what we were going to do. It is one thing to travel as Gerson and I do; however, it is an entirely different experience to vacation with a terrific family. Our last two weeks were wonderfully enhanced by the Staleys and I am already enjoying recalling the many happy memories.