Cross-border buses are always more expensive. After doing a little online research I found that it would be a fraction of the price to get an Argentine bus to the border, walk across, and then get a Brazilian bus to the falls. Everything went smoothly until I reached the Brazilian customs, when it dawned on me that my Spanish would be useless here – everyone spoke Portuguese! How much Portuguese do I speak? Precisely zero. Thankfully, very little communication was needed and my Spanglish sufficed.
Passport stamped and bus boarded, we set off on a mini adventure through the Brazilian town of Foz Do Iguaçu. The contrast to Argentina was immediate. Although many things remained quintessentially South American, the voices around me suddenly sounded completely different and billboards adorned with foreign letters and pronunciations adorned the streets. Although the bus had accepted some Argentine Pesos, it was necessary to withdraw Brazilian Reals to pay the park entrance fee – luckily there was an ATM at the park entrance itself.
Luckily I met a nice couple from New Zealand on the bus, Blair and Jemma, and we stuck together for the afternoon. Having people to chat to and share the experience with is always a bonus when travelling solo, it also means you don't have to pester strangers for photos every five minutes. It turned out that Blair was a helicopter pilot in Geelong, probably a handy contact to keep!
The Brazilian side of the falls follows the river creating the border between Argentina and Brazil and looking back into Argentina gives a jaw-dropping panoramic view of the hundreds of waterfalls on the far side of the river. The trail snakes up to the park's centrepiece, the Garganta Del Diablo. Instead of looking down into it as I did on the Argentine side, the platform is situated lower, giving you the feeling that you're truly in the canyon itself. An elevator takes tourists roughly 100 feet above the falls for even more awe-inspiring views. In the centre of the viewing platform there is constant drizzle and strong winds coming from the force of the water crashing into the canyon below, not to mention the incessant roaring. No matter how many times I thought I had seen enough, I kept being drawn back to the centre of this incredible spectacle time and time again. Words or pictures don't do it justice, but hopefully the pictures below give some impression of just how incredible this place really is.
Other than the falls themselves, the town of Puerto Iguazú in Argentina doesn't have much more to offer in terms of attractions. I had planned to visit the falls and perhaps stay one extra day before heading west. As always, things didn't quite go according to plan. My hostel, Hostel Iguazú Falls, turned out to be one of the best places I have stayed so far. With a beautiful courtyard, outdoor kitchen and swimming pool the place certainly appealed, but it was the people that I met over the next few days that made the experience so great, I'll try my best to give everyone a mention. Upon returning from the Brazilian side I met an Irish couple, Andy and Sinead, who kindly laughed at most of my bad jokes. There was an American guy, Jonny, also travelling solo, and a laid back Spanish guy, Xavi, who practiced his English while I practiced my Spanish. Two German girls, Merle and Paulina, were in my dorm and entertained everyone with their swimming pool tricks. Another couple of American girls joined us a day later, taking a study break from Buenos Aires. Finally, Ilona, a beautiful and incredibly intelligent girl from Switzerland, kept everyone smiling with her constant laughter. She was also to blame for my extra five days in Puerto Iguazú – I was obliged to teach her to cook Spaghetti bolognese. Apparently I can teach, because she did a great job!
The tropical weather, warm pool, cold beer and amazing people made for a very enjoyable and relaxing break in Puerto Iguazú. Totally guilt and care free, we lazed by the pool each day watching the world go by. I also cultivated my new South American habit of taking a daily siesta, usually following some empenadas and a $2 litre of ice-cold Quilmes.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Gradually, people departed for their next destination with most of us heading west, while Ilona excitedly set off for Brazil. I finally booked a bus ticket to Cordoba, and left a very satisfied looking Xavi next to the pool in the company of yet another cold beer. Yet again, I cursed myself afterwards for not taking more photos, apologies for the lack of photos of these amazing people. Maybe you'll find them in the comments below.
Until next time, nos vemos!
Iguazú Falls (Brazil)