Iguazu - The biggest waterfalls in the world

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Dec 29, 2008

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Monday, November 17, 2008

We awake early for yet another marathon bus journey (27 hours) from Salta in the far northwest to Iguazu in the far north-east of Argentina. We have to change buses after 4 hours in Tucuman so we were a little surprised to arrive there an hour early.  We and some of the other passengers were even more surprised to look at the clocks in the bus station only to find that sometime during mid-morning time had moved on by an extra hour!  Nice of the authorities to let us know!  According to the guide books Argentina, big though it is has only the one zone.  Anyway, not to worry we got our connection OK - just!

The journey was comfortable enough and we arrived more or less on time at 9.00am the next day.  An extra treat on this bus was a game of bingo en route with the prize of a bottle of wine. No, we didn't win.

Arriving early, we had a whole day to have a look around Puerto Iguazu, the town closest to the falls.  We didn't need it.  Puerto Iguazu seems to exist solely to service the needs of tourists visiting the falls and as such it is full of overpriced, not very good restaurants and shops full of tourist tat (but even these are mostly closed for siesta time).  After wandering around for a while looking for a reasonably priced restaurant we settle upon the bus station cafeteria. Surprisingly, in this unpromising location we have one of the best parrillas we have had so far in Argentina.  Surely the best bus station food in the world!

We were staying at The Marco Polo Inn, a relatively new backpackers hostel close to the main bus station so really convenient for getting to the falls.  Sitting on the landing outside the room one evening using the laptop to try and book book some accommodation for the next stage of our trip into Uruguay, I hear a broad Scottish accent say "hello", it is a guy we last met in the kitchen of a hostel in Arica, in northern Chile.  A small world yet again.

The next day we set off on the bus to the entrance to the park.  We arrive at the entrance at 8.40am, unfortunately, the park doesn't open until 9.00 but this turns out to be good as we are right at the front of the ticket queue. As the opening time approaches we appreciate our early start even more as the tour buses and crowds arrive

Once through the gates there is a scramble as everyone wants to get on the first train to the falls. We decide to go all the way to the end of the track and work our way backwards, taking in two predefined walks that take you closest to the falls.  The ride in the open sided train is pleasant enough as we have sunshine and clear blue skies and we ride through hundreds of butterfly's to reach Devils Throat.  It is a 1km walk along a boardwalk though trees and over water to catch our first sight of the falls.  

The first thing we notice is the noise from the falls which gets louder as we approach along the walkway.  The spray also starts and increases, the closer we get and we get our first of many soakings of the day as we stand on the viewing platform.  The sight is incredible, indescribable and it it easy to understand Eleanor Roosevelt's comments upon her first sight of Iguazu, "poor Niagara".

 As we are now a bit ahead of the crowds we take advantage of this and head back to the train and to our next destination the Upper Circuit walk which takes us very close to the falls.  This is followed by the Lower Circuit which, if anything takes us closer still (and even wetter).  These falls are truly amazing. Having overloaded on natural wonders we decide to get the train back to the entrance and the bus back to town.  We pass by the concrete monstrosity that is the Sheraton hotel (how on earth could the authorities allow such an ugly building be located so close to the nation's premier natural sight?).

The next day we decide to visit the Brazil side of the falls and so get the bus to Foz.  We need to change buses on the way which involves being dropped off just after the Brazilian border and crossing the road to get another bus back to the park entrance. On the way we jump off the bus and get stamped out of Argentina.  Back on the bus the driver announces that it is not necessary to go through Brazilian immigration if we are staying only a day (so we don't bother).

The entrance to the Brazilian side of the falls is much more impressive than the Argentine side.  A big entrance building complete with shops and, instead of trains, it is a series of buses that take us to the falls.  It is our first time in Brazil and I have to say our first impressions are very good! The organisation on this side of the falls seems much better and the views are equally impressive - being further away from the falls the viewing platforms provide a much more panoramic view of the falls and are great for taking photographs.  According to most guide books we have read, the Argentine side is supposed to be the most impressive.  I disagree and would suggest that anyone visiting  the falls goes to both sides.

Both Argentine and Brazlian sides of the falls are set within a large area of rainforest, which are inhabited by much wildlife.  We see many interesting large birds of prey, a massive variety of butterflies and quite few comical racoons scouting around for crumbs left by some of the million or so tourists that visit every year.

After seeing the sights we stop for some lunch in the buffet restaurant in the park and right next to the falls.  Good food and a change from Argentine cuisine.

We like Brazil so much that, we go back the following day (with a few hours to spare before catching the next bus out of town) to visit the nearest Brazilian town of Foz to have a look around the town and maybe do some shopping.  The goods in the shops (which are open even at siesta time) are much better quality than those found in Puerto Iguazu.  Semi-precious stones are amazingly good value.  Although this is just another day visit, this time we decide to go through the immigration controls just to get Brazilian stamps in our passports.
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