Dear Blog, long time, no see…
Yup, I admit to having a pretty severe case of writer’s block. And definitely not due to a lack of amazing things and awesome experiences to write about…
Maybe it’s because our internet connection has been awful…
Maybe it’s been because my laptop was hi-jacked by Stefan due to his Mac crashing on him…
Maybe because…well honestly, I could come up with a million of excuses and no-one but me is interested in hearing them…
Or maybe I’ve just been plain lazy…
Oh well, enough introspection… I’m just happy I have now found some writer’s juice…
So yes, without further ado, I’m ready to share what’s been happening with us for the last little while…
Bare with me, it’s been 3 months so I might take a while to refresh my memory 😛
My last real post was about our “Cash Crisis in Argentina” so I’ll pick up from there.
After enjoying city life in Buenos Aires, we headed north, towards the famous Iguazu waterfalls.
Sadly, it was a very wet and rainy day, so our video footage and pictures were less than optimal, but the sight of the massive Iguazu waterfalls did not disappoint.
I know it isn’t the biggest croc around, but it was special because he/she was our first “wild sighting” 😀
We also saw our first over-friendly coati. They act a bit like the monkeys in Koh Samed, Thailand. They have no fear of humans and will do their best to steal your food!
Sadly we didn’t get to experience a wild sighting of a puma…but there was the hope!
The Iguazu waterfalls create a natural border between Argentina and Brazil so it didn’t take us long to decide to hop across and enter Brazil. After chilly Buenos Aires and rainy Iguazu, we wanted some sun and beach time, and Brazil was looking like the place to be.
This is how we found ourselves “Illegally” entering Brazil.
We had no intention to do any wrong, and we tried our best to legally cross the border, but we found ourselves at a loss when we got into Brazil.
This is how it went…
The border crossing between Argentina and Brasil near the Iguazu area is in a tiny little village called Porto Soberbo. After getting stamped out at the little Argentine Immigration office you travel about 3-5mins down the road to a little boat powered ferry to cross the Iguazu river.
Getting stamped out of Argentina went without a hitch. We tried to get our temporary motorbike import paper canceled (like they told us we needed to do every time we crossed a border) but no one seemed interested to help us with this.
This should have been Red Flag #1…
But since everything was going quickly and smoothly we went with the flow.
We arrived at the little ferry, rode our bike on, chatted in embarrassing Spanish and lots of sign language with the locals crossing and in 10-15mins we were across the river and in Brazil. There were no other foreigners were on the ferry, only Brazilians, and Argentinians…
This should have been Red Flag #2…
We again traveled down a small road for about 5mins and stopped when we saw what we thought was the Brazilian immigration desk. It looked like a road toll booth, but no other building in the area had any government or immigration signs so we figured this was it.
There was a guy sitting at a computer in the little booth and we stopped by his window and showed our passports. He waved us through.
Hmmm, perhaps this isn’t the immigration booth? We asked the locals around and they pointed right back at the booth we had just visited.
We were very confused. We were in Brazil and we knew we had technically crossed the border, but no one was interested in getting our passports, stamping us in, checking if we needed visas etc.
Back to the “toll looking” immigration booth we went. This time, I got off the motorbike and I pushed our passports and our papers through the window to make the guy look at them.
I mimed stamping my passport, I tried to converse with him about what papers were needed for the motorbike and nada. He refused to do anything.
It was obvious we were foreigners. It was obvious that our motorbike was a foreign vehicle but nope, he didn’t care. He just gathered our passports and stack of papers and pushed them back at me and waved me away…AGAIN.
I had absolutely no idea what to do next. I jumped back on the bike and we thought perhaps there was another “more official” immigration desk down the road. We rode around town again, asked the locals again about where to get passports stamped, got referred back to the same place…
We had enough, we felt like we were going around in circles. We were hot, hungry and tired and we were already stamped out of Argentina so we decided to go forward.
We had inadvertently entered Brazil illegally :/
We later learned that the border we crossed was mainly a border for locals (Brazilians and Argentinians) crossing back and forth. The few tourists that do cross that border just cross for a day or two to see the “Brazilian” side of the Iguazu waterfalls. So while the Argentine side has an official immigration office, the Brazilian side does not.
This is why the guy at the Brazil checkpoint (I really shouldn’t call it an immigration desk) refused to look at or stamp our passports.
Fortunately, both of us have visa-free entry into Brazil so no “real” immigration law was broken. But it was a certainly disconcerting experience.
We stayed about 3 weeks in Brazil and got as far as Florianopolis when we decided not to go any further as we had no idea how crossing back into Argentina through another border would work with no stamps and no motorbike papers etc.
We retraced our steps and found ourselves crossing the same border again. This time the Brazilian checkpoint logged us out of Brazil on their computer. I have no idea how their system works as we were never logged in when we originally entered Brazil, but they didn’t seem to think there was a problem. Again, they gave us no exit stamp, they just handed us back our passports after logging in our info.
We crossed with the ferry and it was at the Argentine immigration desk that we found ourselves questioned. They saw their own exit stamp but could NOT see where we had been for the last 3 weeks. Of course, it was easy to figure that we had been in Brazil as that tiny border was specifically for crossing into Brazil, but it was a bit of a dilemma for them.
They did admit that it happened before and that we probably shouldn’t have crossed this border if we wanted to stay in Brazil for more than a few days, but there was no big consequence.
They eventually stamped us back into Argentina, explained that this border had no official Brazilian immigration (why let us cross in the first place???) and gave us a bit of grief that our temporary import paper for our motorbike was not canceled. We tried to explain that we tried but couldn’t find where to do it the last time we exited Argentina. Fortunately, one of the immigration guys took pity on us and decided to help the confused foreigners out.
He went with Stefan to get our original temporary import paper canceled and helped get a new one sorted out.
We are very happy for Happy Ending to this story…
But the lesson to be learned from our experience is DON’T CROSS INTO BRAZIL FROM PORTO SOBERBO!!!
We were lucky and very grateful not to have had any serious problems. Apparently, the worse case scenario would have been having our motorbike confiscated in Brazil due to not have the proper temporary import papers.
We definitely pushed our luck by staying in Brazil for 3 weeks without any legal status. In hindsight, we probably should have crossed back into Argentina the following day and found another proper border to cross into Brazil.
But this is what makes overland travel exciting. We never know what is going to happen next! 😀
Our short foray into Brazil went smoothly after our questionable border crossing.
Our first stop was to wild camp near Lagoa da Fortaleza, a sweet water lagoon right next to the coast. These are the GPS coordinates of where we set up camp https://goo.gl/maps/8D4biadxvzL2. You can search IOverlander for reviews about the spot. We thought it was cozy and pretty safe, but during the weekends some motocross/ATVs do drive around the nearby sand dunes to party and have a good time. Their music can get pretty loud, but during the week the spot is pretty quiet and secluded.
The blue flag is where we camped. We found a spot a little bit away from the lake surrounded by pines.
Brazilians are so friendly… 🙂
Folks would go out of their way to talk to us and even though we spoke pretty much no Portuguese, we would have full on conversations using Google Translate. TIP: make sure you download Spanish/Portuguese so you can use it while offline!
Here is a list of the places we stayed at and some of the amazing activities we did.
Florianopolis ⇒ we stayed in this beautiful coastal town for almost 2 weeks. We stayed at Camping Rio Vermelho most of the time. Check out our video to see the beautiful campsite and their almost private beach.
Things to do in Florianopolis:
- Take the Trilha Barra Galheta hike up to the mirante (viewpoint) and then enjoy a few hours of sunbathing at an unofficial nude beach called Praia da Galheta
- Go fishing and try to learn the local style of fishing with many hooks (up to 3-5 hooks) staggered on one line. Each of the hooks is loaded with some squid or octopus. We only ever got one fish at a time, but the locals would sometimes pull out 4-5 in one shot. It was quite amazing to see them flinging their fishing line in and 2-3 minutes later see them pulling it out with numerous fish hanging from their string of hooks. Needless to say, we a bit green with jealousy that they could fish so easily, but we were happy we got 3 fish within an hour, which was enough for our dinner!
- Go surfing or body surfing
- Walk around and enjoy the live music played on the beach
- Sample the delicious seafood available
Torres ⇒ Another coastal town with amazing beaches and unique landscape.
We stayed at Camping Das Furnas, a small campsite right beside the beach and near several restaurants and small shops. Check out our video below to see more details about the campsite.
Things to do in Torres:
- Take a hike along the cliffs and enjoy the views
- Have a wine and cheese picnic on the cliffs and enjoy the magnificent sunsets
- Enjoy a private sunbathing spot on one of the warm black rocks
Serra Do Rio ⇒ A “Must-Ride Road” for motorbikers! A fun and challenging road with many switch-backs, sharp curves, blind turns and narrow passes. Be prepared to squeeze in-between trucks and the cliff face. It can also get very foggy, so ride this road with caution and extra bright fog lights.
Enjoying the company of other motorbikers at the Serra do Rio viewpoint
We stayed at a unique “indoor campsite” called Camping Ronda. We chose to stay inside one of their rooms as it’s hard to set up our style of tent on the cement floor. Watch our video to have a closer look.
Things to do at Serra do Rio:
- Enjoy the twisting and challenging road
- Take close up pictures of friendly coatis
- Sip on a hot coffee at the viewpoint
- Visit Ronda Canyon
Gramado ⇒ A clean and orderly little town up in the mountains. After the Portuguese founded the town there came a large influx of German and Italian immigrants so the houses and town layout will remind you of a ski village in Europe, albeit minus the snow 🙂
We stayed at Caso do Juliano, a cozy and private 2 bedroom cottage with our own grass lawn. We felt completely at home, watch our video below to see why…
What to do in Gramado:
- Enjoy the cool weather
- Go window shopping at the many boutique stores
- Have a taste of high-quality Brazilian chocolate
- Visit Lago Negro and marvel at the trees imported from the Black Forest in Germany