Chapter 30: Iguaçu/Iguazú Falls.
Saturday, September 18
I returned to the hostel just before breakfast. After gathering my bags I played some guitar by the bar, ate breakfast and bade farewell to the receptionists as I set off for the bus terminal. It was a cloudy morning and the streets were wet from the steady rain. The next bus for Foz do Iguaçu was leaving at 11.15am but I kept nodding off beside a table in the cafe bar. Still, I managed to perk myself up and be alert enough to board the bus. I enjoyed a tremendously life affirming time in Rio de Janeiro and I felt a great buzz despite now feeling quite tired. I managed to find my neck cushion at the bottom of my backpack so I was able to drift in and out of sleep on the 22-hour journey. There were lots of stops along the way including two in Sao Paulo, a massive looking city.
Sunday, September 19
With a lack of sleep I staggered around the Foz do Iguaçu terminal where I found the connection to the Urban Bus Terminal. I caught the next bus into the centre, concentrating hard for the correct stop as we sped through the blocks. I’d reserved a bed at Albergue Paudimar Centro and I arrived there at midday. The receptionist called Benjamin sorted out my check-in and also suggested I had plenty of time to check the Brazilian side of the falls in Parque Nacional do Iguaçu. So, I caught a Number 120 bus on Avenida Jorge Schimmelpfeng. At the park’s entrance I paid 37 R$ for the ticket and caught a tour guide bus with its multilingual voice-over descriptions about the lush surroundings. A nice afternoon in such a stunning location certainly beat staying in bed. It felt a lot fresher than the temperatures I’d become used to but the sun was still shining and the Iguaçu Falls were simply incredible. There were tremendous views from the descending balconies and the top of a huge elevator/lift. I stayed around the park for about three hours, took lots of photographs and returned back to Foz on a packed out bus. Back in the hostel I met Marcel, a chemical engineer from Rio. He was staying in the same dormitory. All the Brazilians I met were so wonderfully friendly. After buying some snacks in a nearby supermarket I spoke with Benjamin again. He sorted out my trip to Puerto Iguazú across the border in Argentina plus a Crucero Del Norte bus ticket to Buenos Aires for 275 Pesos. I still felt quite awake so I relaxed and drank a couple of beers on the hostel patio before going to bed. Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens was my latest read and I settled into the first few chapters before falling asleep.
Monday, September 20
Four German teachers joined me for breakfast. We enjoyed an interesting and jovial chat. They, and a lad from Milan, were also going on the day trip over the border to Iguazu Falls. Formalities were quickly dealt with at the crossing and we soon came to the entrance where our guide indicated where we should meet at the end of our visit. After he also showed us the preferred routes to walk around Iguazú National Park and Jungle we were left to our own devices. The park was much larger than its Brazilian opposite. The crowds were already building up when I reached the Central Station rail track. I crossed over to the left onto the Green Trail and made my way along the Upper Circuit path to view several parts from the Rossetti to the Miguel Falls. They cascaded into the Lower Iguazú River. I found the Jungle map easier to follow than the official park map. The lower circuit afforded wider views looking up at the falls. I hopped on to one of the regular boats across to San Martin Island, climbed some steep steps and took a clockwise route around and reached the impressive matador platform looking right onto the Escondido Falls. The noise was incredible. There were boat trips going beneath the Devil’s Throat Falls but they cost an extra 100 Pesos, and all for a complete soaking! The experience would have been something else though as I watched the passengers embarking and putting on helmets, waterproofs and life jackets. I was happy to take more pictures and sample the equal splendour of other parts. I took a half an hour break for lunch after walking through the grounds of the Cataracts Old Hotel, adjacent to the newer Sheraton Hotel. There were lots of wild animals roaming about and the coatis (racoons) were especially keen to share some food. From Cataracts Station I followed the train line for the one mile up to Devil’s Throat Station. I stopped to chat with a young Argentine couple along the way. They were returning back down from the Devil’s Throat Circuit and told me I had a lot to look forward to. I was back in the country where I started in February and was now able to converse confidently in Spanish! The milky skies obscured the sun but they reminded me to put on plenty of lotion because of the drastic ozone depletion over the southern hemisphere. I continued up to the station. There were bright and colourful butterflies fluttering all around. From the station there was a one kilometre walk along a narrow bridge over the expanse of the upper river. The approaching roar was just something else. Argentina made sure it matched the Brazilian viewpoints by building a long bridge pier. They could never be outdone by anyone and a large national flag proudly fluttered in the moist air. The viewing platform stood precariously overlooking the spectacular Devil’s Throat with amazing sights of the Union, Mitre and Belgian Falls. There were lots of tourists, especially the Japanese, jostling for the limited spaces by the flimsy wooden railings. A nice couple asked me to take their picture and then the lady gladly reciprocated. I hopped on to the train and hopped off at Cataracts to walk the rest of the Green Trail back towards the entrance. I wasn’t sure if the guide had said 4.30 or 5pm so I arrived in good time. There were dozens of similar looking buses and minibuses coming and going. The Germans reappeared and we compared our photographs on the bus as we waited for the Milanese guy. After half an hour he still hadn’t showed up and the driver wanted to leave. It was about 5.30pm when he insisted that I needed to be in Puerto Iguazú in good time for my 7pm bus. There was also heavy traffic to contend with. The Germans all agreed and said we must leave at once! I liked them. They were really friendly and good-humoured. Meeting such bright characters really enhanced my travels. We reached the bus terminal in plenty of time. The Germans wished me a safe journey and frantically waved to me as I darted across the road. There were plenty of European travellers milling about. The 20-hour bus journey down to Buenos Aires started soon after seven. I settled into my space near the back and watched the distressingly true story of American journalist Daniel Pearl’s abduction and killing in Pakistan in the film A Mighty Heart. Later in the evening the bus assistant dished out a considerable package of food. There was so much chewy pork though. I had to leave most of it in case it gave me indigestion! In Posadas we were all woken up and told to change bus. We soon resumed the journey on the next one where the assistant kindly gave me a blanket and pillow. It guaranteed a relaxing return to Buenos Aires.