In accordance with something that has become more of a rule than an exception I woke up with a start at 04:50 in the morning. The taxi was waiting outside. Within 7 minutes I was on my way to the railway station and within an additional 13 I was on my way to the airport – on schedule. Itinerary Oslo, Amsterdam, Natal.

Where: Natal, Rio Grande do Norte. Foz do Igua�u, Paran�. Gramado, Serra Gaucha, Rio Grande do Sul. What: Vacation, exotic destionation. Accommodation: Hotel Tirol, Natal. Hotel Sol, Natal. Hotel Tropical das Cataratas, Foz do Igua�u. Hotel Bavaria, Gramado.

Natal, Rio Grande do Norte

Norwegians in general, (and me in particular), haven’t got a healthy tan in the early days of january. Our skin has a distinctively off-white color, maybe with a hint of dead-body-blue. With the help of sun block 50 I managed to maintain my pale hue throughout my whole stay in Natal despite this being the “Sun City” of Brazil.
Natal being a very agreeable place, only wanting a few mountains here and there, it is not difficult to spend many pleasant days here. The final destination for this holiday was hovever not Natal but Southern Brazil; Paran� and Rio Grande do Sul. Natal is also the place where I would meet up with my girlfriend Aline.
Airlines are not to be trusted and we therefore decided to try to buy tickets from Brazil a few days before departure. Our friend Nubia recommended us to a friend of hers who has a travel agency, respectively Andrea and SummerTour.
When entering a Brazilian shop, outlet or basically wherever something is bought or sold, it becomes apparent that the cost of labor can’t be the same as in Northern Europe. SummerTour was no exception being located in a standard one-person office equipped with 3 desks, 1 computer, 4 chairs, a phone, a fax machine, one director and two emplyoees of visibly lower rank.
Upon our entry the room became crowded and, as the skillled readed might have detected allready, there was a notable shortage of vacant chairs – there being two of us ‘customers’ in addition to the staff. One of the lesser employees was in a very feudal manner commanded first to stand up and eventually to leave the room to respectively free up the chair he was sitting on and the airt he consumed merely by being in the room. Had it appeared as if the poor guy was doing something it would have been very awkward indeed, as it was he seemed more than happy to buzz off for a while anticipating out withdrawal and his return to his well organized and nearly empty desk.
Efficiency may or may not have another definiton in Brazil than other places – it isn’t for me to say because I didn’t understand too much of what was going on in this office and wisely left Aline to do the talking. Speaking Portuguese isn’t as of yet among my talents. The negotiations took quite a few days and many visits, but in the end we wound up with some tickets issued to the hitherto unknown Mr Drergheim and the more familiar Miss Andrade.
Our itinerary was set to depart from Natal for Foz do Igua�u and from there onwards to Porto Allegre and Serra Gaucha, finishing off with a few days in Natal before my departure back to Sogndal.

Foz & Cataratas do Igua�u, Paran�

Having read in my travel bible (“Lonely Planet, Brazil”) that Foz do Igua�u was a small and scruffy place that grew forth with the building of the Itaipu power plant from a measly 30 000 inhabitants in the 1970’s to an astonishing 300 000 or so in 2004 I really didn’t know what to expect…
Hotel Tropical das Cataratas was as nice as it was expensive, being the only hotel located within the confines of the national park. It was big, it was pink, it was ideally located and it was – alas – inhabited by nothing but blue haired, white tennis shoed (US-)americans, loud and laughing Swedes – and – us!
The scenery was beautiful though… The hotel being located just at the edge og the Igua�u canyon offering a stunning overview of the falls and allowing for the wild roar of the cascading water to accompany us during the whole stay. An ideal setting for a romantic holiday.

Puerto Iguaz�, Argentina

However much I like to claim that I have now “done” Argentina, there is little to support this claim in manner of cultural experiences. We did however cross over the border, get some stamps in our passports and had a thorough look at the falls from the Argentinian side. So technically I’ve BEEN there.

Cidade del Est, Paraguay

Once again referring to my travel guide I use the word scruffy about Cidade del Est. Though apparently in posession of a blooming tax free industry, the city had the air of a place where you wouldn’ leave your grand mother unattended in a wheelchair without the fear of finding the chair jacked up and the wheels and granny gone upon return.

Serra Gaucha, Rio Grande do Sul

According to Norwegian logic if two states are both called Rio Grande, and the one is do Norte and the other is do Sul, they should be located next to each other, the one being to the north of the other etc. But no. In Brazil this is almost as far from the truth as possible, Rio Grande do Sul being the southernmost state in Brazil and Rio Grande do Norte being the state located furthest northeast in the country.

Gramado

Reading up on Brazilian history I found that there had been a massive immigration og europeans in the southern part of Brazil. And Gramado would be the living proof of this. Let alone the whole of Serra Gaucha, the region having a strong european influence alltogether.
Gramado is more german than Germany, more swiss than Switserland and less Brazilian than antything I have seen before. The place is positively booming with food with meat as the main ingredient and a choice of barbecue or fondue as means of preparation. And chocolate. Lots of chocolate. I HATE chocolate. Since wowing never to eat chocolate again I have had only one fallback; in Galway when I accidently ate a mint-chocolate that was supplied with the after dinner coffee. And that was six years ago!

Canela

Canela, allthough claiming to be a city, didn’t much resemble one – at least if compared to Gramado with its german alp village charm. That is not to say that Canela didn’t have its qualities! It is a beautiful place packed with stunning views of nature; forests, mountains. It is also the home of an incredible amount of chocolate manufacturers. Which wouldn’t scare away anyone either…
[ (Stein) Runar Bergheim, 2 . 2.Thu, ]