There was not a car, nor a honking horn, nor a hint of pollution anywhere in the air. The sense of excitement that we felt arriving in THE Iguazu Falls after spending a few months in the city was palpable. Finally, some time to breathe freely without pollution and walk without everything in my surroundings being made of concrete. There were even trees…I was already in heaven.
The airport is situated very near to the Iguazu falls national park about a five-minutes away by car. A few minutes after boarding our mini bus to the hostel we saw our first animal -”The Tucano.” It bode well for the rest of our trip. Sadly, there are only two hotels inside of the Iguazu national parks and we could afford neither of them. This meant staying in Puerto Iguazu, the small town that is about 30 minutes on the bus away from the national park. The town is built on tourism and while not the most attractive looking town is comparatively safe compared to the big cities. We had chosen to stay in a hostel called Stone Garden and while the pictures on Hostel world didn’t exactly look very inviting all of the reviews had been positive and so we arrived with a mixture of dread and anticipation. Luckily the hostel was fantastic. We had a private room which I am ashamed to say was better my house in Buenos Aires and hostel had a very cute small pool and breakfast area outside which were perfect for lounging around…they even had a hammock if you are inclined to do nothing and just enjoy the hot weather.
After checking in, the friendly woman at the reception recommended that we take a trip to “The Three Frontiers.” This is a place where the three borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet. It was quite a hike from our hostel and we walked for about thirty minutes. However it was not, as one helpful native explained to us, 1000km away. At the frontier there are some small stands selling tourist items, a mini lighthouse and of course the flags of the three nations. Brazil was so tantalizingly close we wanted to make a swim for it! We didn’t have too much of the day left to so we headed back to have dinner and get an early night as we knew the next day would be hectic.
We woke up early the next day happy to see that it wasn’t raining as the forecast had predicted. We had a quick breakfast of delicious home made cake and then ran down to the bus station to catch the earliest bus. The bus system here is very easy to use and within minutes we were on our way to the park. We got to the park just as it was opening and decided to immediately head to the macuco trail. The owners of our hostel had assured us that we could see animals on this trail in the morning and I was desperate to see a monkey. So, we headed in the opposite direction of the crowds who were going to the waterfall and headed down a badly signposted and somewhat muddy trail. Now, I can’t say that I didn’t feel a bit of trepidation when we were met by a sign warning us about the deadly animals that could be found on the trail and
even less so when we caught sight of our first giant ants which were about the size of my pinky finger but we decided to march on. Every rustle was a monkey, every shaking of a leaf was a capybara…but the reality is that after walking for about forty minutes we had seen giant ants, giant spiders, one giant lizard and about one million mosquitos. We decided to give up and head back to see the main event of the day.
Sans monkey sighting I was determined to see animals and luckily on the way back we spotted some Agoutis which are small, common rodents which live in the area. While they were no compensation for the monkeys, they were very cute and we spent a while observing them going about their business. Next we squashed ourselves onto the mini train that lead up to the highest point in the park and “The Devil’s Throat” which is the point where the water from the falls is funnelled into a giant bottleneck. On the way there we were accosted by the multitude of butterflies which seem to populate the area and I discovered that, while sadly I am a magnet for mosquitos, my charms also work on butterflies who seemed to enjoy landing on me and licking me given any opportunity. The devils throat was by far the most impressive park of the park and I was completely bowled over by the power and magnitude of the falls. The walkway is directly over the opening to the “throat’ and it does make you worry slightly about whoever engineered the platform that is dangling over the edge of the falls. This is not an experience for those who are afraid of heights!
Thrilled from this first glimpse at the scale of falls we went off to have lunch which we ended up nearly sharing with the mob of Coatis which prowl the park looking for food from the tourists. One even tried to munch its way through our backpack where we had hidden some dulce de leche Oreos. I can confirm that close up their sharp teeth and rabid look are something to be reckoned with!
After lunch Danilo had the highlight of his day which was to take a boat trip underneath the falls themselves. Suffering from extreme motion sickness and a bad experience on a whale watching boat I wasn’t too keen to get up close and personal with the choppy water next to the falls and so voted to stay on dry land and act as the official photographer. Danilo suited up in his life jacket and waved as he headed off into the spray of the waterfall. I watched as the boat headed dangerously close to the pounding water and then headed straight underneath. He came back twenty minutes later, completely soaked but thrilled. He told me that as they approached the falls two of the girls on the boat had started crying. I was glad that I wasn’t one of them!
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking through the many trails that are on offer in the park and although feeling very tired and sweaty we stayed in the park until closing. After spending months in Buenos Aires with little more activity than lifting a glass of beer to my mouth, eight hours of walking in the park in 35 degrees heat did more than tire me out. I was exhausted and on returning to the hotel I also discovered that I had been bitten. A lot. Now, let me make it clear that I was covered from head to toe in deet and then on top of the Deet I was covered head to toe in clothes. Number of bites:12. Danilo on the other hand was wearing shorts and T-shirt and with a tiny bit of Deet on his
ankles “just in case.” Number of bites: 0. I woke up the next morning completely convinced that I was the crack cocaine of the mosquito world and I also discovered my newly discovered allergy to mosquitos. I have travelled all over and have never had more of a problem than a slight itch but when I woke up the next day my twelve bites had grown to the size of golf balls. My ankles had disappeared and in their place I had a new set of cankels. I couldn’t bend my legs, I couldn’t sit down, I was in complete misery. To exacerbate the situation the relatively cool 35 degrees of the day before had crept up nearer to the 40′s and so, with me hobbling like an old woman, we made our way to Brazil.
After crossing the border to Brazil there was a palpable sense of the difference between the two countries. Suddenly, on the Brazilian size of the border everything just becomes a little bit, well, louder. People in the queue are laughing and singing, women are primping their hair and tottering around on impossibly high heels (practicality has no place in the Brazilian wardrobe) and of course we were surrounded by a sea of Havaianas. While fundamentally I love the happy nature of Brazilians their “exuberance” was definitely a shock after spending months around the more conservative Argentinians. As I hobbled onto the brightly coloured buses painted with animals and filled with cheering Brazilians I anticipated that this was going to be a long day. However, in fact we spent only three hours at the Brazilian side of the falls. This side just has one main trail, which is congested with most of the tourists who visit this side of the falls, while it was spectacular and nice to see the falls from a different angle neither of us thought it was as special as the other side and everything cost money (here you can do a helicopter ride) and so after exploring a bit and considering the ever rising temperature we decided to head back to Argentina for some rest and relaxation.
One short bus ride and a strawberry margarita later we were sitting by the pool enjoying some relief from the sweltering heat and mosquitos while waiting for our flight. We had been warned not to go to the airport too early and this turned out to be good advice as there is literally nothing to do in the airport and about three check in desks so you can arrive just one hour before the flights with no problem. So passed our last afternoon in Iguazu. I was feeling completely devastated to be heading back to the big city although looking forward to starting studying Spanish again – back to school once more…