We have just spent two nights in Iguazu (the Argentinian side) and were pleased with the recommendation of Grandad and Joan to stay in the only hotel actually inside the national park as the town itself was definitely nothing more than a pile of hotels and taxi stands at least twenty minutes away. Sadly my thoughts of leaving behind the South American Jetstar were shattered when our flight from Buenos Aires with LAN was delayed not only after we had arrived at the airport but after we had literally jogged to the gate which I estimate was about 4 kilometres past checkin!
Nevertheless during the delay there was an opportunity to communicate with a young man whose mother and brother were on the other side of the glass waiting for him to leave. He was so thrilled to have met someone from Australia and we chatted for quite a while. He was leaving his family for the first time and heading south to work. I think I told him we had two boys at home – his mother and brother were using sign language (in Spanish) to communicate through the glass also so it was an interesting half hour. He even gave grabbed me as we were leaving and did the spanish cuddle much to my surprise! My Spanish has been improving bit by bit, but during the little jaunt to the gate (not to the cat) we had become rather confused and I frequently stopped to ask where Gate 15 was and for the life of me I do not know what came over me – I know at home that el gato is el diablo so why on earth did people keep looking at me with perplexed faces – Was it because I kept asking “donde es el gato quincy?” or “Where is the cat fifteen?” Puerta I should have remembered is both door and gate! El gato is the cat – or at our place more commonly known as el diablo – the devil!
Anyway we made it to the hotel in reasonable time to take a late afternoon walk and find our bearings and catch our first views of the falls. The park was not meant to shut until 6pm but it seemed the rangers found it necessary after 5 to go around putting closed (cerrado) chains across to stop people going in to lookouts and not coming out in time. Thankfully a group of very thoughtful sightseeers were running along at the same time as us and opening the chains so we were able (within the legally permitted times) to catch our first views of the falls – rainbows and all – it is impossible to put into words just how magical they are but I will try – thundering, majestic, powerful, gigantic, unbelievable ! We were also able to meet a family of little monkeys along with the long nosed rodents that frequent all areas of the park.
Upon returning to our hotel we headed to the bar in the hope of finding our German friends from Torres del paine. Unfortunately hunger got the better of us before we could locate them so we headed down to the restaurant and what do you know! There is Heike and Ulrich sitting at the first table inside the door! It was great to catch up with them and share a few more stories of travel and home – Heike told us of their trek at Fitzroy in Argentinian Patagonia where she was literally needing to commando crawl due to the wind – reminded me of our trip to Grey Glacier where we stopped short of learning to fly our first day in Torres del Paine!
Anyway next day we headed out to really get to see the falls and caught a truck through the jungle to catch the boat upstream and go under the falls – this was needless to say a little bit of fun! The noise, the power, the water – we were wet wet wet and we could not recommend it enough! We then followed the track up the Argentine side and caught different views of the falls all the way up – just unbelievable. In the afternoon we caught a bus into town to check it out and change some money and it was here that we confirmed the decision to stay in the park was the best! We had falls views from our balcony and we could wander early or late – as we had done the afternoon before.
The next morning we were able to get a late checkout – thank heavens as husband was recovering from his flu and mine was now in full swing! Chest pains from coughing and all! Never to let a little illness get in the way of sightseeing we headed off early (because we were in the park) to catch the first train to the start of the walk out to Garganta del diablo – the throat of the devil! Again – nothing short of spectacular – this time we were literally standing on top of the falls watching this humongous volume of water thunder down and spray back up at us – again we were wet wet wet and it was only 9am in the morning.
Back to our hotel for our late checkout we had time to dry our clothes on the sun drenched balcony, I had time to laze by the pool and husband had time to watch tv and catch up on facebook – poor thing was feeling a bit exhausted but the worse was yet to come.
So Heike and Ulrich had recommended a driver who picked us up at 12.30 and seemed a little uncertain of our ability to action the planned itinerary because we had left it so late (because we needed a rest!). Anyway we headed through town and over the border into Brazil and down to the bridge to Paraguay. This particular area is where three branches of rivers meet and three countries meet but it is not as simple as standing on one point and being in three countries (although we did stand with one leg in Brazil and one in Argentina for a photo). No, the bridge to Paraguay is a little more complicated and the city in Paraguay is just a tad more interesting. Our driver was a little concerned that we may not come back I think so he decided to park in a secure lot and walk over the bridge to Cuidad del Esta with us. Due to the fact that this city is a duty free haven, mecca for wild things and the country is very poor the worry was we would be held up, pick pocketed or abducted as we just looked a little too non local (read white hair is somewhat standoutish!) The bridge also was undergoing road work which meant crossing in a car was a three our journey each way. Walking was a mere 10 minutes although it was by this time stinking hot and we were still not well but the thrill of exposing ourselves to danger, witnessing complete chaos, and buying a new sd card in Paraguay meant we had to do it.
The walk was initially uneventful but then we were lucky to see the gates on the Paraguay side open and the motor bike taxis storm across the bridge after having waited forever horns tooting hundreds at once – no lane control, just speed and engines blazing – they stop all traffic one way for some time while they let the other side through – the lineup of cars went on forever on both sides also. For foot passengers there was no need to line up we just had to do the right thing with Brazilian immigration but no need to visit the Paraguay immigration (well actually it was best not to lest we be charged a months salary for walking across the bridge apparantly). We also witnessed a customs dispute with a crowd gathering and shouting at the customs police to let the people through!
After returning from this very interesting 45 minute visit to Paraguay we headed straight to the Bird Park in Brazil which initially looked like it was going to be a dissappointment as the first birds were behind cages and we could barely see them – but then we went in to the open areas where we were able to see beautiful Macaws and Toucans up close along with the odd vulture, boa constrictor and a butterfly or two. This park is a refuge for injured animals apparantly and was worth the visit.
Then came our last stop for the day, the Brazilian side of the falls. Unfortunately here we had to spend more time on the bus inside the park than we actually spent looking at the falls but this visit was again worthwhile. This time you walk out on man made metal tracks and stand almost in the falls – this was spectacular again and would be a must for anyone who had not done the boat ride the day before – for us it was still a thrill as the thundering volumes of water are just beyond imagination. Omar told us we now have to rent the movie “The Mission” as Robert DeNiro stayed where we did when it was being made and we will see plenty of views of the falls that were taken from places we had visited over the last few days.
Anyway itinerary complete at Iguazu we were at the airport in time for our flight to Peru. We had extended our itinerary to include Peru as many told us that it was their favourite country, Cuzco was beautiful and Macchu Picu was site to be seen. Plus we were so close! Anyway yet again our flight was delayed but this time we were in a domestic airport that had one large room with a cafe for the international flights. It was a little disturbing. We were exhausted – we were unable to email the person I had arranged to pick us up in Lima to inform them of the delay – internet was unavailable – and no shopping! Then came the news that our flight was being diverted for “mechanical reasons” to Assuncion in Paraguay! Two trips to Paraguay in one day – werent we lucky.