Puerto Iguazu

Iguazu Falls Part 1: Puerto Iguazu, The City Where Everything is Always Wet

Iguazu Falls is just as amazing as everyone says it is. There is really no way to describe it; it is awe inspiring. However, my experience was a little different than the postcard pictures you see.

Most people get to walk out on bridges over the falls, surrounded by perfectly blue water and picturesque cascades. I saw latte-colored rushing water from just the walkways that were still left open. Iguazu Falls was overflowing.

This didn’t ruin my experience, it just made it a little different. If anything, due to the sheer amount of water the power of the falls was even more impressive. Yes it would have been nice to get to go out onto the water like I was imagining, but I am still happy I made the trip.

One of the disassembled bridges

One of the disassembled bridges

I started out on the Argentina side on Thursday (6/26) before doing the Brazilian side on Saturday (6/28). The two sides are known for having different experiences: the Brazilian side is the overview, while the Argentinian side takes you down into the falls. Generally, the Argentina side is thought to be better and worth more time so I had planned for two days there exploring Parque Nacional Iguazu. I ended up only really needing one due to the floods. A lot of the park was closed, most notably the infamous Devil’s Throat, aka what everyone says is the best part. The walkway was actually washed away and will take months to repair. 2/3 of the Upper Circuit is also closed. (Two days after I went they closed the boat ride too, as well as one of the platforms I had been on that was right underneath one of the falls. Rumors were spreading that the entire Argentina side might close in the next day or two.)

The park has two main routes: the Upper Circuit, like the name suggests, is at the top of the falls; and the Lower Circuit takes you into the jungle, weaving around smaller falls to a walkway at mid-level with one of the big drops, and eventually winding down to the bottom river level with a view back up at the falls towering above you. I was initially planning on just walking the Upper and Lower Circuits, but after hearing just how much of the park was closed I decided to do the 12 minute Nautical Adventure boat ride too.

I started on the Upper Circuit with my hostelmate Kelly and a new friend from the bus station Steve. That’s the thing about visiting sites like this alone – you’re never really alone. There’s always someone else who is also there solo and if I’ve learned anything already it’s that solo travelers love to be solo together. As soon as we got our first glimpse of the falls we were all immediately in awe. There’s no way to even describe the amazing first impression of the beauty and power of nature that you get standing next to them. After taking every possible picture we tore ourselves away from the view to continue exploring.

At this point Steve and I split off from Kelly, who had to meet friends, and ventured into the jungle route of the Lower Circuit. It is helpful for solo travelers to pair up if for no other reason than having someone to take pictures of you. We alternated running out to the platform under a big cascade and taking pictures of each other. Then I got to experiment with my GoPro for the first time; I carried it out with me and got a video from underneath the fall.

 

We wandered our way down to where the boat took off and waited till it was our turn. This boat ride is short but was everyone’s highlight, and after doing it I can see why. First they do a quick little ride around just so you can see the falls from below. Then they pause and tell you to put everything into a drybag that they provide. And then they soak you. I swear the boat drivers get a kick out of soaking all the tourists. They take you up as close to the falls as they can to the point that you can’t even see anything anymore because there is so much water flying in your face, all you know is that you’re in pretty much the most powerful shower you’ve ever taken. (I wore my GoPro on my head the whole time so I could actually see what happened when I got home. Video to come.) And then you’re wet for the rest of the day, or the rest of your trip if you have weather like I did.

When people warned me that visiting the Argetina side of the falls was “the wettest I’ve ever been,” I admit I was a bit skeptical. How could this wetness be any different than any other time you get caught in a torrential downpour? It just is. Even if it wasn’t raining the entire time I was in Puerto Iguazu, the trip to the falls would still have been the wettest I’ve ever been. I was soaked to the bone. But if it wasn’t raining, maybe my stuff would have had a chance to dry. I lived with damp clothes and shoes for too long, and was just excited to get to Rio so everything could be dry again.

But of course, Iguazu Falls was worth it.

Friday in Puerto Iguazu wasn’t much to talk about. It rained all day, and not just a sprinkle but real you-will-stay-wet rain. It gave me a chance to do some email and blog catching up, and talk to some very interesting people in the hostel. One guy hasn’t been home to Scotland since 2004, and a German girl Tony was in her last week of 10 months. Our trips were opposite – she started in Southeast Asia, then Australasia to South America. It was great to hear her travel tips and experiences, especially as a solo blonde girl (we get lots of warnings).

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Triple Frontier (and Tony)

Tony and I ventured out of the hostel twice: once to see Guira Oga, an animal rehabilitation center, and later the Triple Frontier, where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina all come together. Guira Oga was a great way to see local animals that I’ve never seen before because it was created to save them and help them get better before releasing them back to the wild. You have to go with a tour guide, so we heard why all the animals were there and how they were helping them. Triple Frontier was honestly meh and nothing really to write home about – it was just a pillar on each country in its flag’s colors. Everything was still wet, so we called it a night early and I got ready to go to Brazil in the morning.

One more thing to note – the hostel Mango Chill was awesome. Incredibly friendly, helpful with what to do in the falls and in town, and they had this amazing BBQ dinner every night for a moderate price. The dinner was a great way to meet people who were staying in the hostel; I ate there two nights (your second night is cheaper!). Nothing like fantastic food and a bottle of wine shared with other travelers.

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All Modes of Transportation End in Argentina

I’m in Argentina!

I had a few days to kill between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and instead of visiting one of the beach towns between the two cities I decided to give nature a few days and go to one of my top locations right away – Iguazu Falls. And man was it a full day of transportation to get here.

This morning I left my hostel in SP at 10 am and got on the Metro. Took the green line, switched to the yellow line, then to the red line. Got out and got on a bus to the airport. 1:45 travel time so far. R$7.50

Then I flew from Sao Paulo to Foz do Iguassu, Brasil. 1:30 flight.

I landed in Foz and jumped on the bus #120 into the center of town, got off and immediately got on the first bus I saw marked ARGENTINA. I got lucky – this bus left immediately after I got on. I would’ve had to wait a while for the next one. 45 min, R$2.85.

Then the ARGENTINA bus took us to the border of Brazil and dropped us off. And drove away. The driver gave us a little receipt saying we had already paid, and we were on our own to go get our passports stamped for exit from Brazil. 20 min, R$4.

The tiny little immigration office was probably the most informal border crossing I’ve ever been through, but no less official. Good thing the immigration officer in the Sao Paulo airport told me to hold onto that customs form; they asked for it when they stamped my passport here to exit. As soon as I got my exit stamp, it was back to the bus stop to wait for the next bus to come pick us up on its way to Argentina.

It came and the 5 of us who had gotten off the previous bus and were now in this crazy border crossing adventure together jumped on. 5 minutes later and we were at the Argentina border. Back off the bus, into immigration, which ran like a quick service ticket counter, and 30 seconds later I have a stamp to get into Argentina. Through the shoddiest security screening I’ve ever seen, and I’m back on the bus. At least this bus waited for all of us. No extra cost.

After a winding tour through Puerto Iguazu, we made it to the main bus station in the center of town. 15 minutes.

Just a short half a block walk and I’m at my hostel Mango Chill. And boy is it chill. There’s a BBQ dinner every night (for extra), and the chef is a bit of a DJ so it sounds like a club out where he’s cooking. There’s a small pool in the backyard and tomorrow at 4 there’s a yoga class, included in the price of the room. I even got a free welcome beer (Budweiser, he knew I’m from the US).

What a crazy day of travel. I’ve never done a border crossing like this before. It took a lot of blind trust and a little comfort in other people with backpacks doing the same thing. The email confirming my hostel had directions so I wrote those down and just set off, assuming I’d know what TTU was when I saw it and that the bus labeled ARGENTINA would actually be that obvious. In the end, it worked out.

The funny thing about doing a crossing like this is that there were 4 other people doing the same thing, but we weren’t all traveling together. It ended up being me, a Brit, two Belgians, and an Argentinian. We didn’t talk while doing it, but we would all look around once in a while to make sure that everyone was still doing the same thing. If one of us had strayed, the rest would have questioned what we were doing. Even without speaking, we knew we were all in this together.

So tonight I enjoy Argentinian BBQ at the hostel, and tomorrow it’s off to explore the falls. 100% chance of thunderstorms. Oh joy.