After defrosting from my glacial overnight bus trip from São Paulo, I went into auto pilot to get myself from bus terminal in Iguaçu (note: PT spelling) to cross into Argentina to Puerto Iguazu (ES spelling).
The 20km took me about 2 hours to cover with a local bus to the bus hub, hopping on an international bus to cross the border, being pushed off the bus at the Brazilian check point to be stamped out, waiting for another bus to then come along, stop off to cross into Argentina then drop off in PI town.
Brazilian customs for me was quite straightforward and I was in and out, and waiting for the next bus in about 5mins. Jonathan, an Israeli-Australian who I met on the bus, took quite a bit longer as he had overstayed his visa by about 2wks. I think his relaxed approach got him through with only a 60R fine (c.£15)!
It was good to have company at the border, and we chatted away sharing travel stories and tips waiting for next bus in a bus shelter opposite the long line of immigration drive-through booths for cars. After about 20mins, the next bus came trundling through. And straight past. It was rammed – no room for two backpackers!
Back to our chatter, and after another 15mins the next bus arrived, slows, but wasn’t intent on stopping until we ran along with it, banging on the side. Screeching brakes and the driver stopped, shouted something in Portuguese and drove on. A slight catch was there were two different bus companies doing the border crossing route, and our tickets for the competitor. I later found out we could have pressed to buy another ticket which would have been 10R (£2.50!) and worth it.
Chatting. Waiting. Talking. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
(I was seriously lucky with my border pal – Jonathan had been travelling for 13mths after his 3yr military service, and was celebrating his birthday later that week – the day before me.)
More waiting. Waiting. Waiting. At which point, I had used up all my patience and was practically starting to itch.
“Perhaps we could walk across the border”, I suggested. If the police didn’t like it, they could stop up and hopefully drive us across!! Checked the maps. It was a good 1-2km walk with backpacks, and across river. It would have been stunning. And also a little stupid.
“Hitchhiking?” – my next idea. So there we stood thumb waving at the stream of cars heading through. Most were friendly and pointed to a full car, some waved to wish us luck, taxis ignored us as did some people with four luxuriously empty seats that we stared at with lustful eyes. Then a guy stopped – black car, music pounding, sub-woofers thundering – he could take us to the Argentinian border where he was picking up a friend. We ran to grab our packs, shoved them in then boot and back seat, apologising with waves to the build up of traffic behind us. And we were off, jumped out in a car park just before the ARG border and walked into the Argentinian customs office to officially arrive in Puerto Iguazu.
We then had to wait for another bus to take us into Puerto Iguazu town, finally arriving about 1:00pm. Phew!
Lesson: adventure and friendships can be found in the unlikeliest of places, but sometimes a taxi is worth the money!
It was then a short taxi to the lodge Jono and I were staying in, and I had one of the top 10 showers of my life, having been in my clothes for about 30hr!
It got even better once Jono arrived – he brought travel adaptors, which meant I could use my hair straightens. Really silly I know, and totally a flash-packing and first world problem moment, but it made me feel so good to be able to do my hair. As my friend Cara wisely declared, a girl’s hair is her mane. 🦁Roar!
On our first afternoon together, I was like a cassette on fast forward: overwhelmed with joy to have a friend with me, spilling my stories from the last 3 weeks with Jono listening, nodding, laughing and letting me rambled it all out.
The weather gods unleashed almighty rain that evening, hammering the roof and waking us both. The morning was foggy with dense clouds that felt like they stuck to you as you walked through. Given my lengthy crossing, we taxied to Foz do Iguaçu the next morning to take in the Brazilian views of the falls.
The Brazilian side is ‘further away’, giving a good perspective of the falls. There are boardwalks and viewing platforms built over the gushing waters, which are quite an engineering feat when you stop to think about the volume and power of the water pouring through. Iguazu holds the claim for being the biggest waterfalls (note plural) made up of 275 waterfalls spanning 2.7km (as an aside, Victoria Falls are the longest at 108m v 80m for Iguazu)
When I say ‘further away’, you can venture out onto the walkways and face the spray and heavy mists from the Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo in Spanish or Garganta do Diabo in Portuguese), which is quite fun until you realise how soaked you get! Can you tell that both Jono and I were both covering from colds when we visited?!
There were some cute coatis (raccoon-esque animals) running around, which are very boisterous chasing down the slightest sniff of food, pulling at coats and bags, even grabbing packets from your hands. Not so cute is when they turn vicious as they can bite and scratch you; this along with warnings of rabies made me run away squealing if they got too close!
And yes, the waterfalls were brown. Like red mud brown. I discovered that due to the storms as well as deforestation, the soils are unprotected and washed away. More problematic than a good travel snap are the ecological problems this causes like fish being unable to find each other to court and spawn, and birds and mammals not being able to see their prey.
We headed out to explore the Argentinian side the following day, and nailed it: 32k steps across the four different walking trails in fog then sun, mostly at 100% humidity. It was a blessing that the temp was a ‘pleasant’ 20C 😂 I discovered new places to sweat from, like the back of your hands and fingers – ewwww- and managed to get used to my clingfilm tee-shirt!
This side was all about getting up close and personal – you could walk out into, along, through, and across the falls, each trail getting you a little closer to the top, until you were walking ‘on’ the water.
We left Iguazu feeling happy that the weather stormed mostly when we weren’t visiting the falls, glad to be out of the mud, and content with our many snaps, which just can’t do the Foz justice.
Transport options to BA: an 18hr bus trip (I mean I had practiced for it, right?!) OR a 2hr flight. Jono’s declaration that he’s “too old” for that sh!t, saw us jump a short flight to say buenos días BA!