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May 20, 2009

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                    B.H. to Iguazu Falls

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Hola from Argentina! Last week, we left off from the incredible town and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ouro Preto. This week, we visit one of the world's largest waterfalls, Iguazu Falls. It’s so amazing that it makes Niagara Falls look like a fountain and on top of that, it practically borders three countries and we’re going to visit them all. Woo hoo!

From Ouro Preto, Natalie and I drove 90 minutes back to Belo Horizonte to catch our flight to Iguazu Falls. Planning it was a bit difficult because there wasn’t much information to be found on the Internet, at least nothing I could find in English. So I didn’t know which airport to fly in or out of. Technically there’s an airport for each country: Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Even though we were going to the Argentina side, our best choice was Brazil’s Foz Do Iguacu airport (IGU), as we were coming from a Brazilian city. We found some reasonable tickets on one of Brazil’s low cost airlines, Gol. We left our Belo Horizonte hotel at 7:10pm for a 9pm flight and we probably should have left a bit earlier for peace of mind because they say it takes an hour to get there especially in the rain … and it was pouring. The good news is that it took just 40 minutes. The bad news is that our driver didn’t speak a lick of English. It cost 79R ($39) for the trip.

Confins International Airport is pretty darned big but the only international destinations on the departure board were Miami and New York. The line to check in for Gol was about 12 people deep but it was moving slowly with just two agents. About 10 minutes into the wait, I turned around and the line had tripled in length. Two more agents showed up but none of them spoke English. After five minutes of my hopeless hand gesturing, they brought out a bilingual agent from the back office. Luckily, they didn’t weigh my carry on and tell me it was too heavy to bring on as they did to the guy next to me … and his was half the size of mine! I hate when airlines do this because everything I need is in there (laptop, other electronic gadgets/chargers, cameras, medicine, magazines). I made friends with the agent quickly. Usually I give them a box of chocolates but instead I handed him a beautiful book of Minas Gerais, which was given to me but unfortunately was too big to schlep around the country.

Gol’s boarding passes are like a grocery store receipt – similar to jetBlue. To get to the gate area, we walked up a long, wide spiral ramp with Astroturf. Security was lax as can be: shoes stayed on, laptops didn’t come out and bringing water through was not a problem. Gotta love that! The gates are confusing and a lot of wrong information came our way. The departure monitor appeared to be working for everyone’s flight but ours. Luckily, we tripled-checked where our gate was and the third agent we asked looked at me like, “Where the heck have you been?” and rushed us down the stairs to the shuttle bus departing for the plane. FOOD: If you want to get hot food in the airport café, be sure to pay the cashier first and then bring the receipt to the counter beside. Two ham and cheeses, a bottle of water and a can of Guarana Antarctica soda cost 29 R ($14 USD).

Gol flies mostly new 737-700 and 737-800 planes and they have advertisements on the backs of the tray tables. Our flight to Curitiba was on a 737-700 and it was only a third full. We pushed back at 9:16pm and took off at 9:32pm. The flight attendants were young, good looking, spoke English and wore uniforms designed by leading Brazilian stylists Glória Coelho and Ricardo Almeida. The seatbelt sign didn’t go off quickly but when it did, the flight attendants brought out the carts and served drinks and “hot cheese” crackers. They came around twice on the one-hour, 20-minute flight.

When we landed, we deplaned using outdoor stairs and took a shuttle bus to the airport, which was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. We had to exit the gate area even though we were making a connection. But going through security again was not a problem; there was no line and the same lax rules. It took a minute, if that. Our next flight was scheduled for 12:10am but it kept getting delayed by 30-minute increments. I learned it’s important to keep looking up at the screen because in the blink of an eye they switched gates on us and it read: Foz Do Iguacu boarding – last call. We would have had to spend the night in the airport if we weren’t vigilant. We eventually took off at 1:14am and the 52-minute flight was 90% full and uneventful.

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Pictures From

The Trip


B.H. Airport


Food At The Airport


Departure Monitor


Seats on Gol


Snacks on Gol


Curitiba Airport


Flight to Foz de Iguazu


Advertisements on Gol



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