Paraguay

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Beautifully preserved remnants of Jesuits settlements in the middle of nowhere. And it’s been exactly as written in the guidebook. Despite the fact that the site is a Unesco World Heritage Site there are little or no tourists visiting the place. We had it only to ourselves for most of the time.

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There are two main sites: Trinidad and Jesus. To get there involves taking a local bus from Encarnacion, a bit of walking and a moto-taxi to travel between the settlements.

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No treasures to be found this time despite Mateusz trying really hard to explore all the secret places. Somebody must have been here before him.

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As it is Paraguay, sunny weather is almost guaranteed. In fact, it was scorching hot with almost no place to hide.

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That is how city of Encarnacion looks like during the sandstorm. It started all of a sudden and lasted no more than 15 minutes.

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We watched it mesmerized from the safety of our hotel. Few tin roofs were damaged and few tree branches sent flying but luckily nobody was hurt.

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It ended as abruptly as it came. The immediate aftermath was a beautiful rainbow. Unfortunately, it was followed by the entire city power cut that continued long time after the sunset.

Itaipu Dam

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The Itaipu Dam situated on the border of Brazil and Paraguay is the world’s second largest dam. It is also one of the most expensive objects ever built.

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Itaipu Dam is located very near Iguazu Falls, north of the Brazilian town Foz do Iguaçu. You can get there easily by taking a local bus.

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Surprisingly, the combo tickets are cheaper if bought at visitors’ centre rather than online. Luckily, refunds are offered for the angry tourists like us who decide to complain about the online rip-off :-)

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We would suggest buying the panoramic tour during which you’ll be taken to both sides of the border. The tour is preceded by 30 minutes documentary about the history, facts and construction of Itaipu Dam.

We also recommend the night tour which ends with a spectacular illumination of the dam.

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Proyecto Horizonte

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As our South American adventure is almost over and soon we’ll be back in London, it’s time to meet the little ones we helped to look after during our volunteering at Proyecto Horizonte. Ania worked in kindergarten with 4 years old children for over three months.

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And Artur worked with 8 years old kids from tercera secundaria which is equivalent of Year 3 of primary school. Both of us helped during afternoon classes. We’ve had the most wonderful time and we would love to be able to do it much longer!

Kindergarten seen from the main street and its playground.

Five minutes walk up the hill on the same street there is colegio building which houses primary and secondary school.

Iguazu Falls

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This is the sight that welcomes you as you enter the park from the Brazilian side.

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SAM_0140Our little furry friend is called coati (they belong to raccoon family). There are hundreds of them here, they have no fear of humans almost bullying tourists for something to eat and they will snatch your bag in a split second if you don’t look after it. They may look sweet but they also have disgusting food habits, going through the bins in search of the leftovers.

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If you’re adventurous you can explore the falls from the speed boat. No doubt, you’ll get wet!

SAM_0138 With over 80 metres high, mighty Garganta del Diablo in the background.

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SAM_0146At the closest point of the lower part of the Devil’s Throat. Due to the sun movement and photo wise it’s better to visit Brazilian side of the falls in the morning and the Argentinian side in the afternoon. This way you’ll always have the sun behind you. You can also climb the viewing platform for the bird’s eye view.

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That is sooo high! But unfortunately, the weather wasn’t kind to us the following day when we visited the Argentinian side of the falls.

It was raining all day long and it really didn’t matter where the sun was :-)

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Hungry croc waiting patiently for the meal, read: the tourist, to fall into the water. SAM_0493

On the Argentinian side you can get really close to the Devil’s Throat. It takes a long walk on the decking platforms but for sure it is worth it. When we finally got there, the rain, the water spray and the mist made taking the photos impossible so the above is the last shot we took.

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SAM_0576We were not brave enough to walk to the end of this decking. Even from the distance we could feel the water spray wetting our faces. Little monkeys were walking freely around this side of the park. Soaking wet they looked so poorly. They were more timid than raccoons and you couldn’t get close to them.

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Almost movie like settings! And who said we’re not romantic :-)

Carnaval in Rio

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SAM_4384We were rather disappointed when we got to the Sambodromo. Virtually empty concrete sectors, a handful of staff, something was missing… Maybe we should have bought those more expensive tickets for the Special Group parading the following day? Or maybe we just arrived a bit too early? The bleachers slowly filled with spectators and when the samba runway eventually came to life we were glad we were first to come as we were able to choose the best seats in our grandstand. And then the party begun!

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Each samba school presents a number of beautifully decorated floats which come in all shapes and sizes.

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Some of the dancers are only covered with a strip of body paint.

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SAM_4431The official website advertises the event as an experience of a life-time and it’s hard not to agree with them. We’ve had a fantastic night! Even if you are on the budget like us and cannot afford to see the Special Group, buy the tickets for Access Group. Finally, important advice about accommodation: the prices really do triple or quadruple during that period! We didn’t take it seriously and ended up sleeping across the bay, in Niteroi, during the Carnaval. So better book it ahead! Months ahead!

Rio de Janeiro

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SAM_4293We waited a long time for a clear sky in Rio. For many days Corcovado peak, where 30 metres high statue of Cristo Redentor has reigned over the city for over 80 years, was covered in clouds which did not guarantee the best views of the cidade maravilhosa. Even when we got there the view was not the clearest one.

SAM_4297Getting to the top is an adventure itself and requires a lot of patience as people flock in numbers to see one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. You’re guaranteed to spend many hours queuing to buy the train ticket to the statue. Not to mention that it is not the cheapest option so if you want to save money and time we recommend taking one of the minibuses parked near the entrance to the cog train.

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Believe it or not but this is the famous Copacabana. Only three days before the Carnaval, it seems deserted and abandoned.

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The following day we couldn’t complain about the weather but in terms of the crowds it wasn’t getting any better at the sister beach Ipanema.

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Rio as you know it! Postcard perfect picture of Ipanema full of sun worshipers.

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So in the end maybe it was better to have the beach only to yourself…

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SAM_4207And that’s where the children end when they play with knives. Mateusz could not resist picking up this durian fruit. He has never seen it before and here he was being able pluck it from the tree himself. He also wanted to cut it, peel it and slice it for the family to enjoy. Having read that the flesh of the fruit has a rather strong and unique odour he decided to prepare it on the balcony. Unfortunately, the husk of durian fruit was very hard, the knife slipped on the thorns and Mateusz badly cut himself. The wound did not heal for many days and we ended up in the hospital where Mateusz received a course of antibiotics.

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Rio’s iconic Sugarloaf Mountain seen from a different angle: Parque da Cidade, Niterói. Although unknown to many tourists, it offers tremendous views of Niterói and Rio on the other side of the bay.

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Mateusz at the upper part of Escadaria Selarón, the famous staircase covered with tiles from over 100 countries. It’s really fun to look for the one from your country.

Buenos Aires

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SAM_3861Courtesy of our host we spent a leisurely week in Buenos Aires. The weather was a delightful contrast to at times sunny but unpredictably changeable and prone to wind and rain Ushuaia :-) One of the places we enjoyed most was Caminito, a charming, mainly pedestrian area comprising just a few streets full of crumbling colourful houses located near the famous Boca Juniors team stadium. One of the greatest football players of all time, also know for the ‘Hand of God’, used to play here when he was younger.

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Unfortunately for Mateusz, on this occasion Diego Maradona was unavailable to give an autograph :-(

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SAM_3831Cementerio de la Recoleta, seen from the bird’s eye view. To be exact from the third floor shopping mall’s view. Evita Peron’s grave may not be the most impressive one but certainly one of the easiest to find. You just need to follow other tourists. On the next photo you can see nine lanes wide Avenida 9 de Julio, which according to porteños (people living in Buenos Aires) is the widest street in the world. Not everyone agrees with that title but no doubt it takes many pedestrian crossings to get to the other side of the avenue.

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Double rainbow is not a guaranteed sight in Buenos Aires. For us it was included in the price of the walking tour.

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You’ll never find it if you don’t know where to look for it. A house built on the roof of another house.

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SAM_3917The Congressional Palace, one of the most beautiful buildings in Buenos Aires, closed for many years during the dictatorship. To the right, almost 70 metres high Obelisco de Buenos Aires, iconic monument built at incredible speed in a month’s time in 1936. People gather here to celebrate victories of national football team, take parts in concerts, organise parades or political demonstrations.

At the end of the world in Ushuaia

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It took us four months of travelling through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina to reach Ushuaia, a place that boasts the titles of ‘the end of the world’ and ‘the southernmost city in the world’. Arriving there was kind of a milestone in our journey. From that point we headed north and felt like slowly going back home.

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It was January when we visited Ushuaia which means summer in this part of the world and beautiful weather during the day.

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Although sunshine does not last forever here and the weather can truly change in an instant.

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Another photo taken in this iconic touristic spot that all travellers coming to Ushuaia have to visit. It’s only a few hours difference between the shots but this time we had to endure wind, rain and clouds.

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Patagonian Animal Planet

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Patagonia is not only about breathtaking views. If you’re lucky you’ll meet wild animals living in their natural habitat. Some of them show little fear of humans and allow you to get really close to them.

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Other creatures are more elusive and rather camera shy.

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But the most rewarding experience we’ve had was not an encounter with some rare species but with the herd of sheep that stopped our bus for almost half an hour. This was the only time during our trip when we were not angry because of the delayed journey.

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The sheer amount of the sheep, the skilful way with which only few dogs managed such a big herd and the carefree attitude of the gaucho (man on the horse) were a delight to watch.

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We’ve met these cuties during the visit to Seno Otoway Penguin Colony near Punta Arenas.

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Despite the bad weather and although we’ve only seen a few hundreds of penguins, out of the colony population of over five thousand, we would still recommend it to others.

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These flightless critters didn’t want to pose for the photo and we had to follow them in the car for quite a long time to take this shot.

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And this is on the budget version. No excursions, no entrance fee to pay. Just bring your camera to the beach.