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Kat & Andrew's Worldwide Adventures

Iguacu Falls Brazil & Argentina (+ Flori)

BRAZIL | Monday, 13 February 2012 | Views [1049]

We stayed in Puerto Iguacu for 3 nights, which is longer than necessary but we had a little time to kill and we had found a cheap hostel. It wasn’t bad for the price, except the sheets being a bit stained… yuck. We were in a 4 person dorm and the life saver was the air conditioning. Every day was around 39 degrees Celsius. As soon as we had been out of our room for a minute, we were sweating…. Makes it all the more gross when your sweating your sun block off.

Puerto Iguacu is a tiny town and the main supermarket within walking distance was a bit of a joke but we managed to find enough to get by on. Our first day we were lazy. We had access to another hostels pool and hung out there for a bit but didn’t end up swimming as the pool was tiny and there were a lot of people in it. We had the idea that it would be better to go see the falls on Monday instead of the weekend due to the volume of people but I don’t think it made a difference. Andrew hoped to apply for his Brazilian visitor’s visa on the Sunday and we were going to head to the falls first thing in the morning before the crowds but unfortunately the embassy was closed in the weekend.

Monday morning Andrew rushed to the embassy to be the first person there. Discovered he needed to print off some forms and all of the internet cafes were shut at that time of the morning. Ran around the little town until an information centre kindly let him use their computer and printer. New Zealanders used to have to get a visa as well but it seems to have changed the last few years, yay for me! Once he’d applied and we’d gotten a local bus to Iguaçu Falls (Cataratas) it was already 10.30am and the tour groups were out in force. There were literally thousands of people in this very popular national park.

Our 100 peso entry fee included a little train ride out to the main feature Garganta del Diablo (Devils Throat). It’s a horse shoe shaped area of the falls which is 82m high, 150m wide and 700m long. About half of the rivers water flows to this one point and the effect is phenomenal. The water moves powerfully in a rush so intense it looks like its boiling, it produces a loud roaring noise and heavy sprays of water gust over you whenever the wind changes direction. To get out to this view point you follow a series of catwalks along with the masses of tourists and you have to fight to get a spot to take a photo – no one is considerate there.

Afterwards we walked around 2 different trails through the jungle that gave us different view points for all the other waterfalls that are connected to the river. We spent a good 6 hours exploring the whole park and it was absolutely stunning. The grandness and sheer intensity of the waters power spread out for 2.7kms puts Niagara Falls to shame. All the waterfalls vary between 60m and 82m in height. There are roughly 150-300 waterfalls in action depending on the water levels at the time. About 900m of the 2.7km length does not have water flowing over it. The heat was so extreme that we were sweating buckets and people were walking around in their swimsuits. The place was so incredible and mind blowing but it was difficult to enjoy in the energy draining heat and in amongst the thousands of other people also enjoying it.

We waited in line for over an hour to go on a very short boat trip over to Isla San Martin to get closer to some of the falls. Whilst in line we met an Argentine family that spoke no English. I managed to communicate with them somewhat in Spanish and their 13 year old daughter desperately wanted to talk to me in English so I tried to teach her a few words. Then she asked me to be her facebook friend. Awww bless! I really enjoyed using my Spanish but I so wish that I knew more! Near this island there was the option of paying extra to go on a speed boat through the roaring rapids and under the falls. We jealously watched them get saturated and heard their screams of excitement. It was absolute torture being around so much water and not being able to escape from the heat into its tempting depths.

Around the cafeteria there were Coatis wondering around. They look like a smaller version of an anteater, with the long funny nose and furry body with a raccoon type tail. There are signs everywhere saying not to feed the animals, but of course what do the silly tourists do?! They feed the damn animals. I know it’s tempting to get that up close and personal photo with such an unusual creature, but by feeding them, they have become reliant on humans, and not only that, they are so comfortable around people that they climb up on your lunch table and snatch food right out of your hands!!! Very cool to see them though, I’ve never seen anything like them.

After a very long day we headed back to the hostel for a much deserved cold shower and hid in our air conditioned room. The next morning we picked up Andrews Brazilian visitor’s visa and got a bus to the Argentina border for our exit stamps. We didn’t know if the bus was going to wait for us so we dragged our big bags around, but it waited. However, we boarded the bus again and drove a few minutes to the Brazilian border, only the bus didn’t stop. We were unsure whether we supposed to get off and luckily a Brazilian guy yelled at the driver to stop and told us we needed to go back to get an entry stamp. So we walked all the way back in the heat with our large bags along with a few other tourists. Afterwards we waited for the next bus to come through to get to the centre of Foz Do Iguacu. Border crossing is always fun!

So now we are in Brazil, the ninth and final country of this 5.5 month trip! We have 5.5 weeks here before heading home. It’s weird to think that our trip is coming to an end. Travelling has become our way of life and it never seemed like it would end. I am desperately excited about seeing my family and friends but I am hesitant about stopping travelling. I will miss the freedom, the excitement, how each day we are doing and seeing something so different and so special, meeting fellow travelers, experiencing other cultures and ways of life and being on a permanent holiday…. But I won’t miss living out of a bag, spending so much money, dorm rooms, being in transit, over night buses, having to constantly organize logistics and accommodation, carrying a massive bag (especially in the heat) and always having in the back of your mind that you may be robbed. I’m surprised that I’m not sick of travelling by now, I could happily keep going. But I am looking forward to staying in one place for a while and hopefully getting a job that I really want to focus on and create a career in.

Our hostel in Foz do Iguacu is very basic… the cheapest hostels available gave us the option of being in a 13 bed dorm (too much!) or being in separate gender divided dorms. We decided on the latter as it was only for one night. Andrew shared his room with one other guy and I shared my room with 2 Israeli girls that we crossed the border with and a French girl. (It was very interesting talking to the girls about Israel, a country I know nothing about. It is compulsory for men and women to complete 2 years in the army. Apparently it’s a very western country too! Might have to add it to the list of places to visit!) One of the reasons we had chosen this hostel was because it had a kitchen… but it didn’t really. They didn’t even have a fridge and in this heat, that’s a necessity for your drinks! Unlike Argentina, everything there was closed and locked up by 6pm! We went out in search of food and were confused that the streets were so quiet. That night was a very un-enjoyable night. No air con and a loud fan that just moved the hot air around, it felt like we were in a sauna. Barely slept at all, I ended up getting up at 3am for a cold shower as it was so unbearable.

The following day Andrew and I visited the Brazilian side of the Falls. We’d heard that the Argentina was the best but that the Brazilian side was still worth seeing. We got a local bus out there, paid 33 pesos each for entry, and took another bus to the catwalk. There was only one trail on this side and it only took us an hour to see every view point, but it was utterly spectacular. It was awesome seeing the falls from a totally different angle and it was very impressive. We couldn’t get as close to the Garganta De Diablo but we were a lot closer to some other powerful falls and got doused in their spray. Coatis were here also and we also saw a monkey hanging out in a tree!

It is very bizarre seeing all the signage in Portuguese and hearing a different language spoken all around us. I am at a total loss without my ability to speak Spanish now. Especially when we need to ask questions. I don’t want to attempt to talk to them in Spanish as it appears ignorant and some might take offense, but they are most likely going to understand that better than English as their languages are somewhat similar. There are a lot of words that are spelt the same but not necessarily pronounced the same. Argh!

That night we got an overnight bus to Florianopolis. Our first night bus in almost a month! I don’t usually look forward to buses but I was looking forward to it for the air conditioning. It was quite a mission getting out to the long distance bus terminal. We had to get a bus to the local bus terminal and then second one. We didn’t have a map so had no idea if we were going in the right direction on the right bus but we managed to figure it out. The hardest thing of all is the local buses in Brazil have turnstiles that you have to get through next to the driver. With a large backpack this is near impossible. I didn’t have the strength to lift the god damn thing over the bars. Loads of people were waiting behind me and tapping their feet in impatience. Tad bit stressful…

Our night bus took 15 hours to Florianopolis. Managed to get a little sleep but it’s hard to get comfortable sitting semi upright with limited space. Again we had the turnstile problem getting 2 local buses which took another hour to our hostel on Santa Catarina Island. We didn’t know where we were supposed to get off the bus, but once again we managed to figure it out!

All the party hostels right on the beach were more than we wanted to pay so we found a nice quiet hostel near the lagoon. It’s basically a lady’s house, and she converted 2 rooms into dorms with access to a kitchen and bathroom. We were the only ones staying so we had the whole place to ourselves which was nice for a change. We managed to summon up the energy to walk 20min to Praia Mole and lay on the beach for a few hours in the sun. I even fell asleep! The rounded rocks at the beach and the jungle type trees in the area reminded me of Tayrona National Park that we visited in Colombia. Very pretty, but with loads of people. I’m not a strong swimmer so the waves were a bit intense for me so I had to swim by the rocks where it was calmer. I just don’t find it enjoyable being knocked around every few seconds! The water was very cold but so refreshing in contrast to the heat. It was very warm there but nowhere near as unbearable as near the Falls.

Unfortunately our second day there rained the entire day. Being a beach island, there wasn’t anything else to do but it was nice to just relax and apply for some jobs in NZ, being proactive! We were originally going to go to Sao Paulo for the few days before heading to Rio De Janeiro, but had heard incredible things about Florianopolis from fellow travelers (this is where you find all the Australians) and from locals. We decided that the beach definitely sounded better than just another city, even though it was a bit out of the way from Rio. Despite the weather it was very nice and tranquil there, the rain actually made it feel very tropical. I haven’t noticed anyone drinking mate tea from the traditional wooden cups with metal straws in Brazil like Uruguay and Argentina. It was bizarre; every 2nd person you saw was drinking from these cups and carrying a flask of hot water to keep topping it up. One thing I have noticed here in Brazil however is that when you walk past people they don’t say “Hola” like most places we’ve been.

Our last day in Florianopolis gave us beautiful blue skies. We walked half an hour and spent the day at Barra Da Lagoa beach along with hundreds of others donning their g-string bikinis and speedos. A beautiful green river runs all the way from the beach to the lagoon near where our hostel was. Michelle managed to find us to say hi briefly. John was also in the area but without a phone, it’s very difficult to find each other. Afterwards we went back to the hostel to grab our bags and spent an hour on 2 local buses to get back to the main terminal. The fun of being in transit begins again… waiting for 2.5 hours, overnight sleepless uncomfortable night for 10 hours to Sao Paulo, waiting an hour, next bus 6 hours, then finally – Rio de Janeiro!! Really hurt when we found out Michelle got a 1.5 hr flight back to Rio for the same price we spent for 16 hours on a bus…. Ouch!

We really enjoyed Flori, it’s a place you could easily stay for weeks. There are hundreds of beachs to explore and we barely scratched the surface! Would be awesome to get a car and find every magical spot. Next time maybe… ! Rio is one of the places we’ve both been the most excited for, and finally, we’re here!!

 

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