Most visitors to Brazil confine themselves to the City of Rio de Janeiro.
And, if they only have time to visit one spot in this vast country, they’re quite right.
It is the place to go.
I've been lucky enough to spend time in Sydney, in Capetown, in San Francisco, in Naples and in many other seaside cities and villages around the world. Many are spectacular in their way, but for drop-dead beauty Rio beats them all.
The second most-visited region in Brazil is probably the Amazon. That one seems to have the preference of nature lovers - and of those who prefer a bit more adventure on their vacations.
A trip, by boat, from Manaus up the river to Brazil’s largest freshwater archipelago – the Anavilhanas is a truly unforgettable experience.
If you’re a bird watcher, though, you might want to eschew the Amazon for the Pantanal, the great wetlands thousands of kilometers further to the south.
There, you can find more creatures, of more varieties, spread over more space than almost anywhere else in the world.
I have written about each of these places in previous posts to this blog.
And, if you missed those little essays, and are interested in reading them, you can find each and every one in the archive by entering a few keywords in the search box at the bottom of this page.
Today, however, I’d like to tell you about another option, the one most-often-referred-to as the Tri-Border-Area, or simply the TBA.
It’s the spot where Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil all come together.
There are at least two flights a day, departing in either direction from either Buenos Aires or Rio/São Paulo. And, depending upon the airline you choose, it’s possible to land in either Argentinean or Brazilian territory. Both countries offer first-class accommodation within easy reach of the major attraction: the hundreds of cataracts recently ranked as one of the world’s Ten Natural Wonders:
For my money, your best bet would be to stay in this place:
It’s called the Hotel Foz do Iguaçu, and it’s splendidly located, on the Brazilian side, within a huge national park, and high on a hill that offers an impressive prospect of the river.
To visit the region properly, I’d advise you to take three days.
The first, you should spend admiring the falls from the Brazilian side.
And perhaps even invest in one of the scary helicopter flights that will carry you into the great chasm called the Devil’s Throat – a spot where you’ll find yourself surrounded on three sides by thousands of tons of falling water.
On the second day, with ease, you can cross over into Argentina, follow the wooden pathways and get a completely different view of the action.
Finally, on the third day, you should leave nature behind and go to Paraguay.
How many people do you know who’ve ever been there?
Just stroll (or, rather, elbow your way) across the teeming “Friendship Bridge” and you'll find yourself smack in the heart of the contraband capital of the Americas.
The value of smuggling to Paraguay’s economy cannot be overestimated. It is said to exceed by five times, the country’s official GNP. More than half of everything imported legally winds up being exported illegally. Seventy percent of the 600,000 automobiles circulating in the country have been smuggled-in without the proper documentation. And the vast majority of them have been stolen in Brazil.
Anything you want to buy (and I do mean anything) can be had for the right price. This includes firearms and munitions of all sorts, drugs, and “companions” of both sexes and all ages.
The TBA is also home to one of the largest Muslim communities on the continent, which is why you’ll hear Arabic being spoken on the streets as well as Portuguese and Spanish.
And why the City of Foz de Iguaçu can pride itself on possessing the Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Mosque, Brazil’s most impressive.
Most of the region’s Muslims, like Muslims anywhere, are law-abiding and productive citizens. But some are not. Islamic terrorists groups with a presence in the region reportedly include al Qaeda, Hamas and Hizballah. A visit from bin Laden remains no more than a rumor, but there is no doubt that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did visit the TBA, a fact that came to light after his capture in Pakistan in March of 2003.
With all of that stuff going on, I couldn't resist writing about it.
You’ll find much more to learn about the TBA, and the people who live there, in Perfect Hatred, the sixth in my Chief Inspector Mario Silva Series -- and my first book in the last fifteen months.
Initially, it will be available in hard cover, audio and ebook versions.
It launches, in North America, on the nineteenth of February.
So, if you're a library reader, now is the time to reserve it.
Leighton - Monday