First off, although on many people’s lists of must do things in South America, it wasn’t initially on ours-mostly because of the Iguazu Falls location-between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay- was so out-of-the-way it seemed like such a trek to get there. At some point in Buenos Aires though, Gav decided he wanted to go….
We arrived into Puerto Iguazu (Argentina) on the morning of the 14th February and promptly located the bus to Foz de Iguaçu (Brazil) to hop across the border. We decided to stay on the Brazilian side for two reasons: 1) it was significantly cheaper than the Argentinian side- we could get an en-suite hotel room with buffet breakfast on the Brazilian side for less than a room with shared bathroom and no breakfast on the Argentinian side. 2) We would be going to see the Brazilian side anyway so it made it easier and also because of our EU passports we could cross the border for free US, AUS and CAN have to pay for a visa. Reciprocal agreements are great when they work in your favour!
The bus was cheap too- ARG to Brazil ($20 ARS/ $1.42 US/£1/~ R$ 5 each). The downside is we ended up using up 2-3 pages in our passports.
Puerto Iguazu is quite touristy, Foz de Iguaçu on the other hand was a normal town (and apparently relatively safe by Brazilian standards-it was still a bit rough though), we checked in and the lady at reception recommended a place for breakfast or lunch as it was by then, a place called Jauense.
We decided not to do much that day, just catch up on stuff and do some planning as the internet has been so dire in the last place.
The following morning we set off for the Brazilian side of the Falls. This is reputed to be the less impressive side and most people visit it second (if at all). The bus stop was rather handily near our hotel too (number 120) and we ended up waiting 20 mins in the blistering early morning heat for it to show up. After five minutes of sweating in the heat we joined the locals in what little shade still remained. The locals are really friendly and as soon as the bus appears they shout at you to get on it (unless you are going back to Argentina then they shout at you for that one). A quick bus ride and we arrived at the park (it was now 8.45 am), paid the entrance fee (R$57.30/$14.30/£10) in and got on another bus to be whisked along to the falls. There are additional activities you can do here, boat rides, trekking etc. but they are all quite pricey.
So to the falls!
Around the corner…..
Nothing however could prepare us for what we saw next ……and the roar of the water was immense!
For the less impressive side of the falls it wasn’t half dramatic!
New Natural Wonder of the World indeed! In total you need 2-3 hours to see the Brazilian side unless you fancy the other stuff so with the heat of the day upon us (it was 11 am), we headed back to the hotel for an hour before walking to the bus station to catch a bus to the other main attraction the Itaipu Dam.
We ended up doing the Panoramic tour. If you ever come here do not do this tour do the Special tour otherwise you will be as bored as we were. However we did see a capybara and briefly pop into Paraguay. (It is also possible to go to the point where Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil meet here but we didn’t really have the time to go).
The next day early we made our way to the Argentinian side, this normally involves two buses or a bus and a shared taxi at the very least.
Annoyingly going from Brazil to Argentina the bus will not wait for you to clear immigration at Brazil so you end up having to wait, sometimes not for long, other times for ages as your ticket is only valid with the same company. Anyway on this particular morning it was an almost seamless transition from bus to bus and then we were dropped at the stop for the falls. This stop had more taxi drivers than passengers and though we wanted to wait for the bus we were persuaded to get a taxi (it was the same price each as the bus) with three Polish girls. They had just arrived and had nothing but US dollars and we paid the taxi for them in exchange for dollars. They had just set out on their trip but already had some good stories- mostly down to almost missing flights, they were a fun trio to spend the 15 minute drive with.
The Argentinian side is a lot bigger it required a map and slightly more expensive- $260 ARS ($18/£12 pp). We planned to go to the Isla San Martin in the centre of the falls as it is good for wildlife, to save our legs slightly we got the train- they have a little train here- it took so long to get going though it would have been faster to walk.
To get to the island you take the “Lower Trail”, so that’s what we did…
Once we finished the “Lower Trail”, we proceeded onto the much busier “Upper Trail”.
We had one main trail left, the “Paseo Garganta del Diablo”- to get to it is again by train or a 2km walk next to the tracks- we opted for the latter as the queue was massive and there were tons of butterflies along this path…Also by avoiding the train we managed to get to the Devil’s throat viewpoint before the train and had it pretty much to ourselves which was cool (and wet! So much mist from the falls!).
We got back before the crowds too and managed to get on the next train back down to the park entrance, where a bus was luckily waiting to take us back across the border to Brazil. We noticed here that some people were not stamping into Brazil….getting around the visa perhaps? Tut tut. But their fannying about meant that we managed to get our stamps and back out onto the bus.
It was now the 17th February and time to get moving again, this time to Córdoba. Our bus was at 12.15 pm from the bus station at Puerto Iguazu. We left our hotel at 9 am allowing us plenty of time in case of delays. We grabbed some supplies from the bakery.
Our bus was 20 mins late but we still had plenty of time once we were dropped off at immigration. Stamps acquired and we waited at the bus stop while five buses from the other company whizzed past. Time was steadily marching on and it was shortly after 11 am that a bus finally arrived and we continued on to Argentine immigration where there was a huge queue!! Arrgghh! When we finally got through and arrived in Puerto Iguazu it was 11.40 am. Barely enough time to do anything really except grab some drinks (we had gone through a whole 1L carton of coconut water and most of our regular water waiting on the bus), go to the toilet and check where our bus was going from.
Then we sat down to wait.
Gav looked at his phone, 11 am? What? I went to double-check. Yep it was 11 am, Brazil is 1 hour ahead and we never noticed. A few days earlier I had been texting our friend Marco and he had mentioned that the UK was only 2 hours behind….I put it down to some Daylight Saving thing at the time as I was sure it should have been 3 hours (like Argentina). It was only then the penny finally dropped. *facepalm* You’d think after almost a year we would have checked that kind of thing. Luckily in this case it didn’t have any impact on our travel plans other than giving us coffee time. We were lucky though.
When our bus finally arrived we realised we need not have bothered with the snacks, our bus to Cordoba was luxury indeed. It was a full cama Plusbus Mercobus, with blankets and a pillow, hot meals and snacks and wine with dinner. A lot of bread though but we certainly didn’t go hungry. Sleep was not great though, I forgot my earplugs and there were people talking. Boo.
After a rather pleasant (apart from no sleep) 18 hour journey we finally pulled into the bus station of the vibrant, bustling central city of Córdoba!