Okay, my last entry covered ten days (Excuse: I barely got any time to write) and this entry covers five days (Excuse: We’ve done so much that I have so much to say already) so I guess this idea of ‘weekly’ updates is going a little out of the window…but I think my excuses are valid? Nevertheless hopefully you’ll be very interested to know what we have been up to since Thursday:
Travelling to Iguazu
Travelling, Travelling, Travelling. On Thursday we crammed our 3 suitcases and 2 huge backpacks into a taxi and made our way to Buenos Aires airport, our flight to Iguazú was fast and quite pleasant, but the next part wasn’t!
Iguazu falls are within a national park that lies on the border of Argentina and Brazil, meaning that there are two sides of the park and two towns, one in each country. Puerto Iguazú is in Argentina, and Foz de Iguacu is in Brazil. Even though our hotel is on the Brazilian side, I booked our flight to land in the airport on the Argentinian side, as it was cheaper to fly within Argentina than take a flight across a border. Naturally, I assumed these two towns would be fairly close together, they share a border after all, how far apart can they be?
Turns out, I was wrong to assume, they’re not really that close at all. I first started stressing when I was showing the various bus companies in the airport the address of our hotel and asking them if they could take us there, to which they all replied “No, that’s in Brazil.” We eventually decided to just take a private taxi transfer, but then we didn’t have enough dollars or pesos to pay for it, and their card machine wasn’t working. The answer seemed simple, we would stop at a cash point! But remember how there was no power when we got to our hotel in Buenos Aires last week? Well, it seems that power cuts follow us around…
The journey from the airport to our hotel in itself is about an hour long, then there’s some added time for going through border control, but ours was made even longer and more stressful by the fact that there was no electricity in the entire town, so traipsing from bank to bank to find a cash point that actually worked really was exhausting. (Did I mention that this was the hottest and most humid place we had been to yet!?)
Luckily, the power was out in Puerto Iguazu (the Argentinian town) but was working fine in Foz de Iguazu (the Brazilian town where our hotel was) and we also had an absolute babe of a taxi driver who gave up on the search for a cashpoint and happily let us underpay him by about $20 without even a hint of a grudge. (Shout out to Victor, you’re the best!)
After such a stressful beginning, our time in Iguazu definitely turned around. Our hotel room turned out to be great, and I was nearly crying with joy when converting the prices on the menu into pounds, Brazil is so much cheaper than Argentina or Uruguay! Yay!
We celebrated our first night in Brazil in the right way of course; by ordering Caipirinhas to the room!
Bird Park and Brazilian Side of Falls:
(Warning if you plan to read on: the description of days 12 and 13 will most likely be brimming with hyperbolic and emotive language, you will either be repulsed by how cheesy I sound or insanely envious of what a good time we’ve been having, or somehow feeling both at the same time)
We spent Friday morning at the Parque das Aves (Bird Park) which is like a little paradise for me especially because I absolutely love birds. And it wasn’t just like an aviary you’d find in England with a few tropical birds in little smelly cages, no. Exploring this bird park was like following a path through a rainforest, the birds were in huge enclosures that you could walk right through so you could get really close to all of the amazing species. We saw birds that I never even knew existed! Have you ever heard of a Cassowary? Or a Harpy Eagle? Or a Grey Crowned Crane? Our visit was made even better by a stop midway at café Tropicana, it felt like a little, thatched-roofed haven in the middle of the jungle and it sold delicious ice-cold coconut water and the best chocolate-covered carrot cake I’ve ever had, all for ridiculously low prices.
After such a great morning, we made our way to the Brazilian side of the Iguazú falls, where we embarked on a tour by a company called Macuco Safari. Our hotel’s tour guide told me that anyone who goes to the falls and doesn’t do this tour ‘never really gets to know the falls.’ I thought it was definitely just a ploy to get us to buy the tickets, and it worked because we went and did it anyway, but he honestly wasn’t wrong! I would recommend the Macuco Safari to anyone who visits Iguazú, it was one of the best things we did!
The safari includes a trip through the jungle on an electric car, with a guide who tells you things about the wildlife and surroundings, then you take a short trail through the woods on foot to learn a bit more about the area’s nature up close. Both of these parts are nice, and interesting if you like learning about the natural world, but the best part by far is the last one.
The final part of the Safari is a boat trip that takes you down the Iguazú river and then gets you ‘up close and personal’ with the falls. On the way to the boat, many of the staff were wishing us to “Have a nice shower!” I thought that they were trying to say something else that got a bit lost in translation, but they weren’t exaggerating; we didn’t just see the falls, we literally sailed right into them. We got absolutely drenched and it was such good fun!
Plus, what made it even better was that we spent so much time at the lockers (so unbelievably glad that I left my electronics in there!) that we missed the boat that the rest of our tour group took, which meant we had to wait for the next one. And guess what? No one else showed up for the next one, it was just me and Will! We got our own private boat tour into the falls, just me and him, the sun was shining too so we soon dried off while whizzing along the river on the way back; the whole thing couldn’t have been more perfect.
After all of this we had just enough time to end the day by squeezing in going to see the falls from the panoramic view platform on the Brazilian side and taking the last bus back. The view was completely overwhelming and I don’t really know how to describe it. The falls are so beautiful and powerful and we couldn’t believe that everyone told us that the Brazilian side isn’t as good as the Argentinian side. How could the Argentinian side be any better?
Argentina Side of Falls
Oh but it was! The Argentinian side of the falls exceeded all expectations; we had such a brilliant day! Whereas on the Brazilian side there is only really one angle to view the main part of the falls from, the Argentinian side has so many different trails to walk and a plethora of waterfalls to see. (The Iguazú falls are actually made up of around 275 different falls.)
We started the day by taking the Garganta trail all across the upper part of the Iguazú river and to Garganta del Diablo (The Devil’s throat) this epicentre of the falls and its most ferocious part. There is so much raging water at the throat that it sends clouds of mist up into the sky, it has an almost apocalyptic aura about it as the masses of birds are going so crazy in the currents of air that they look like they are dropping out of the sky and down into the water. The overwhelming effect heightened even more when Iguazú decided to show us its power by raining down a huge storm on us, with such intense torrential rains that my beloved camera nearly lost its life. (Even inside a rucksack wrapped in waterproof jackets!)
The storm was so awesome and seemed so fitting while visiting that fierce part of the falls that I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Fortunately though, the sun came out for the rest of the day so we dried off pretty quickly. Next, we stopped for some lunch at a Subway (we are so cultured) and we were told to take care when eating outside because of ‘the animals.’ The animals in question are Quatis and they really steal the show at the Iguazú park, they are everywhere! They look so cute and harmless but they get really naughty when it comes to stealing food and they can be quite dangerous. They were very entertaining though, and it made it so much more interesting when waiting in queues for the train or for the cafés when you could watch them running around and laugh at their cheeky antics.
In the afternoon, we voyaged the upper circuit, which allows you to walk along the top of some of the tallest falls and look out over the edge. (I would love to know how the hell they managed to build those platforms up there against those rushing waters!) This part was great for getting a sense of how sheer the drop is, and also for imagining how soul-shatteringly terrifying it must have been for any of the poor sods that first discovered the falls by accident, by the time they realised what a mistake they had made by sailing down that river, I’m sure it would have been far too late.
We finished the day by taking the lower circuit along the bottom of various falls, looking up at them and feeling the mist was so amazing, and this trail had some of the most magnificent views. It was really like looking out at a prehistoric paradise, and some parts looked like scenes from Avatar!
We saw so many exciting things that we completely lost track of time, and we were nearly an hour late to meet our transfer driver Ciri. He had been taking us to and fro from the hotel for the past few days and he is really amazing; the epitome of the cheery Brazilian person. We were worried that he would be annoyed with us for taking so long but as ever he greeted us with a massive smile, told us it was normal, and made us feel completely at ease. (We love you Ciri!)
A day to recover from all of the excitement
After two of the best days of our lives, we were absolutely exhausted (not to mention drained of money) so we spent Sunday relaxing in the hotel, generally just eating, drinking, swimming and playing Frisbee. It was nice to chill out for a while as this trip really has been non-stop from day one. We’ve only been here for about two weeks but it feels like we’ve done about a month’s worth of activities!
Next stop: Bonito!
To get there we need to spend about 16 hours travelling on coaches, which I expect won’t exactly be one of the highlights of our trip, but it allows us to save money to do cool things in Bonito, like snorkelling in clear waters with loads of beautiful fish, so hopefully it should be well worth the journey! (Click here to read Bonito entry!!)