You say Iguçu, I say Iguazú

Trip Start May 30, 2005
Trip End Sep 30, 2006

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Tuesday, December 13, 2005

It was a rather pleasant bus journey from Campinas to Foz do Iguašu, despite taking 17.5 hours rather than the promised 15. I┤m used to the crap buses that you get in South East Asia, these buses are a dream. Enough leg room for basketball players and nice straight flat roads, I couldn┤t ask for anything else.

The Iguašu falls on the Brazilian side look fantastic. This side is well known for providing the best views as you walk along the side of the river. Apparently they are four times the size of Niagra, and are ten times better, even Americans admit this!

It only takes a couple of hours to visit the Brazilian side so in the afternoon I decided to move over to the Argentinian side. I got on the bus marked ┤Argentina┤, and for those that can┤t read it had a little Argentine flag painted on the front as well, all intended to make it easier I guess! We drove through the town of Foz do Iguašu and out towards the border. The bus didn┤t stop at the Brazilan passport control so I guessed that everything was dealt with at the other side of the bridge. The bridge was cool, with yellow and green stripes along the side for half of it, then changing to three long rows of white and light blue.

We arrived at the otherside and into passport control, the first thing I saw was a sign stating, ┤Las Malvinas Son Argentine┤, The Falkland Islands are Argintinian. I think it┤s still a bit of a sore point here, and quite rightly so. I asked the nice guard if this was only Argentina┤s passport control because I don┤t have an exit stamp for Brazil. It was but he assured me it wasn┤t a problem, you can get an exit stamp at the Brazilan consulate in Puerto Iguaz˙, the town on the Argentinian side. The bus continued and I arrived in town. I asked where the consulate was and was told that it was closed by some geezer in the bus station. Ok. Erm. Ahhh, Now what? I only had one option available. I got back on the first bus back to Brazil, exiting Argentina, getting another stamp in my passport and over the cool bridge again.

I realised that I┤d be arriving at the ┤In┤ part of Brazil when really I wanted ┤Out┤. How am I going to explain this? In reality I had to actually hunt out someone in authority in order to get my stamp. In fact I only saw one person at this border post, weird. So, back on the next bus and into Argentina again. Another stamp and away again. As a detour it only added an hour to my journey but what a pain!

So after 6 and a half months on the road I┤m finally in Spanish speaking land, and will remain in them for the next 5 and a half months. It┤s now time to really find out if I should be thanking my Spanish teachers in Cheltenham or sending them a bill to get my money back!

They are the same waterfalls, but the Iguaz˙ falls on the Argentinian side are amazing. This is where you┤re able to get in amoungst the falls, getting close enough to practically touch them. You get a real idea of how powerful they are. I spent quite a few hours walking around and was knackered by the end, It was a scorching hot day as well and I just wanted to lie down. A couple of months ago there was a big flood and some of the walkways were washed away by the river. This included the walkway to the ┤Devil┤s Throat┤ which I didn┤t get to see, but by all accounts is amazing.

On the next day I decided to take a trip into Paraguay, it would be such a shame to be so close and not get the stamp in my passport! The only way in is via Brazil again! but at least there is a direct bus. I got my passport stamped again for leaving Argentina, and then straight through the Brazilian controls without so much as an eye blink. Through a part of Brazil and over another bridge into Paraguay.

This isn┤t typically Paraguay, it┤s a shopping haven for Brazilians to come and buy cheap consumer goods due to some favourable tax rates, I guess it┤s like the Hong Kong or Andorra of South America. The first thing I did was walk back towards the border after being dropped off the bus and get my stamp. The guard had to ask if I wanted an entry or exit stamp, they didn┤t appear to care too much.

The second thing I did was to get some local currency, not much, but enough to see me through the day, 123,000 Paraguan Guaranies should do.

The third thing I did was to get some food, not easy to search out in amoungst all the CD Players, bottles of perfume, socks, and just about everything else. When I came to pay they charged me in Brazilian Reais, "Can I pay in Guaranies please?". a rough calculation was done and I was able to offload some, probably at some horrendous loss. I was completely unable to keep up with how much things cost due to the conversion of all the currencies.

I walked around spening some more cash on more food and on another pair of sandles. On each occation I tried to get rid of my 100,000 Guarani note, and each time I failed. It felt like an albatross around my neck, what a waste of time and money it┤d been converting my cash at the start. It wasn┤t long before I remembered that I really do hate shopping. There wasn┤t anything else here and was really a bit dull. I decided to walk back across over the bridge with the 100,000 Guarani note still in my pocket.

The border is chaos! A massive traffic jam extended along the entire length of the bridge and well into the city. Most cars were taxis with a couple of people in them and then the back just full of bags. There were also a number of minivans full of goods. Heaps of motorbikes were also weaving in and out of the traffic, I┤ve never seen anything quite like this before. Apparently this is major smuggling border and I can really see why. Arriving at the otherside I saw a few cars being pulled over and searched but really only a very small percentage.

I don┤t know if I entered Brazil illegally or not but I didn┤t bother getting my passport stamped. I headed back to Foz do Iguašu for some food and a last walk around the town. I also phoned my niece on her birthday, Happy 6th Birthday Andrea! I then got back onto the bus back to Argentina, I started wondering if they┤d now be a hoard of border guards to scrutinise all of the passports leaving brazil, catching me as spy or something. In reality the bus just zoomed through again. I entered Argentina for a third time in two days and they put a little special note in my passport stating ┤3 Passes┤, ooops, at least I┤ll not be coming through this border again in a hurry.

I experienced a new phenomenon in the hostel that night. One person of each of the following nationalities were present: Argentinian, British, Canadian (Quebec), Chilian, Finnish, French, Italian. Usually in this situation everyone speaks English, This time though the entire evening was spent speaking Spanish. While this is good for my attempts to learn the language it meant that I did spend a while sitting there trying to follow what on earth was going on. Later that night we also met a German brother and sister who spoke Spanish to each other! Apparently this is quite common in South America which I think is quite a good thing, but completely different from travelling around Asia.

I did find out something important during the evening though. I┤ve been confusing the verbs ┤To Sit┤ and ┤To Feel┤, they┤re very similar in Spanish. I┤m surprised that I didn┤t get any slaps when on various busses whenever I asked people if I could sit down. You live and learn.

I also found out that the ┤Devil┤s Throat┤ Walkway opened again the day after I visited the falls. Rather than miss out on this I decided to visit the falls again with a few from the hostel giving me more opportunity to speak bad spanish all day. We headed straight for the Devil┤s Throat, the Argentinian had also visited on the same day as me and was keen to see them for herself. Well, it was spectacular. At one section of the falls there is a horseshoe shape with water tumbling into the center from three sides. This creates a mist that comes shooting out of the ┤throat┤ and then falls as rain on everyone. I┤d say it was the best part of the entire waterfall complex and was so glad that I didn┤t miss it. I then spent the rest of the day visiting the rest of the falls again, but to be honest this wasn┤t a problem, they really are that fantastic.

I wasn┤t too sure where to head to next. I want to visit Buenas Aires, but just not yet. I also have to decide where to spend Christmas. After a lot of Humming and Ahhhing I decided to try and get to Bariloche in Patagonia for Christmas. This meant getting a bus to Cˇrdoba, Argentina┤s second city and then going for it from there. It also meant a 20 hour overnight bus journey. This is a massive country.
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