We leave the city and the falls of Iguaçu and take the highway east. Our plan is to drive around Iguaçu National Park and then head east through Santa Catarina to the beautiful beaches of the Atlantic. After that we want to drive to Argentina and south of Paraguay towards the mountains.
We find internet through the Claro company and get the opportunity to refuel for the first time. In Portuguese everything is a little more complicated. But at the same time, people are extra helpful and go out of their way to help us.
The highway is unspectacular and we follow a landscape of fields for hours. Then we reach the town of Cascavel, where we stay with couchsurfers Luiz and Jalmir. The two have an extremely clean apartment and offer us our own room. Luiz speaks English, it’s a bit more complicated with Jalmir, but he’s still very interested in talking to us. And he makes the best rodizio, the traditional barbecue we find anywhere in the country.
The town of Cascavel’s name means “rattlesnake,” but no one can tell me why a town is called that.
Pretty much the opposite of the prototype Brazilian, Luiz would surely be a disappointment to incumbent far-right homophobic President Jair Bolsonaro. Luiz is gay, loves rock music and doesn’t dance samba. He is the loveliest guy imaginable and, as fate would have it, he later moves to a small town near us in Germany.
The Brazilians have more coffee and cake in the afternoon than I know from any home for the elderly. Luiz and Jalmir never let an afternoon go by without sweets and coffee brewed directly into the thermos flask, to which we are of course also invited. We say thank you with a magnet from Freiburg and a Persian lunch.
We also get to know the local supermarkets. While the country looks very clean, we are shocked at the number of plastic bags that our groceries are packed into. Almost every item comes in its own bag. At first we think it’s the act of a distracted teenager waving bags wildly behind the cash register. But they all do! In Paraguay we still had to pay for bags.
There are also plenty of avocados and aguacate here. Alone, with salt and lime, or as guacamole, we find many uses for the green fruit, tiny and expensive at home.
A Brazilian told me that as a German, you should definitely not mention the disastrous 7-1 win at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, when Germany eliminated the hosts from the competition. Neither do I – the Brazilians do. Every Brazilian we meet starts immediately with the 7:1 when we introduce ourselves as Germans. Maybe it’s masochism.
We learn that Argentina is experiencing an economic crisis again and as a result, in addition to the already obligatory inflation, diesel is becoming scarce in the country. This is a problem for our diesel, although with our large tank we might even be able to come without refueling. We wonder if we should change our route. Finally, other travelers say it is possible to tour the country.
We notice that Brazilians are crazy about tattoos. Hardly any man or woman shows their skin without a tattoo. The women also dress particularly attractively. And the cars here are normal compared to the cars we know from Paraguay, so small junk boxes and exaggerated safari cars.
Being a vegetarian is difficult in South America. It was the same in Paraguay and it’s no different in Brazil. There is not even a salad on a menu.
I would like to stay at the Cascavel for just a few days, but first we have Leon checked out by paediatricians because we find him eating suspiciously little, and then the exhaust on the car falls off so far that we risk losing it. We also quickly find a workshop, but finding a pediatrician is difficult because everyone wants us to have a Brazilian identity. It seems that tourists never have to seek medical care here. In the end we will find you, but first we have to go through three hospitals.
We leave Cascavel and head north towards the Pantanal. But for that we still have to go through a lot of farmland.