Iguassu Falls Trip 2014! Day One: a Broken Bus and the Devil's Throat.
On Tuesday 26th of May, I embarked on my first trip completely alone to Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. My plan was to visit both the Iguassu parks on the Brazilian and Argentinian sides and then make a quick stop over to Ciudad del Este in Paraguay to have a sneak peak at the shopping markets. Three countries, three days. It was incredible, and I had such a lot of fun!!
First I had to get there though, which meant crossing one side of Brazil in Florianópolis to the other on an overnight bus. Although I could've booked online or on the day, I booked the bus the week before in the Coach Terminal - or Rodioviaria as it's known here - just to be safe. The World Cup is about to start in two weeks so it made me nervous to think I might not be able to do what I wanted because of the people and preparations beginning for it. Plus, now that the media's eyes are turning to the country, it gives all the unhappy locals a chance to carry out even more protests which disrupt lots of things. This week in fact there were many strikes in transport services! So I'm not sorry haha!
Being typical me, I also arrived about four hours early into town for fear of rush hour traffic too. But at least it gave me time to change some Brazilian Reais for Argentinian Pesos. I was extremely nervous, but also really excited for the adventure ahead! So when I turned my iPod on as the bus pulled out of the station, I couldn't help but smile.
To sum up, it was more or less a smooth ride except for the fact that the coach broke down at exactly midnight and, classic Brazil, we had to wait for an hour in a random bus terminal in the middle of no where for someone to bring another coach along. The engine had apparently overheated and so we switched to a slightly less swanky bus for the remainder of the journey. However it seemed that the incident had got to the driver as kept stopping even more often than before so the engine could cool, causing us to be four hours later to Foz do Iguacu. I'm not going to lie, I was panicking a bit. I didn't want to have to get a bus over the weekend because it would be even busier then. Plus, there was a woman who was definitely trying to get me to join her on her family's holiday trip in celebration of her son's university graduation. I really should stop telling people I'm English because that was when she got very interested in me - even though she didn't understand half the stuff I said and looked at me like I was an alien - and I'm sure she was trying to set me up with her son. I'm English, I'm not royal! Anyway, the reason why I brought them up was because she was asking me lots of questions about my itinerary and when I'd be doing particular things, even saying that I should extend my trip because she wanted to see the Argentinian side too. But there was no way I was going all that way just to get roped into someone's family holiday! So as soon as I got off the bus, I wished them a happy trip, legged it to the ticket office to buy my return ticket home for the Friday. They caught up with me at the ticket office to change their tickets to Saturday, which only fuelled me on to keep to my original schedule. The poor mum even asked me how I was getting into town and she said we should get one together but again, I did not want that to happen, so I got my ticket and legged it to the taxi bay without looking back. On one hand I felt bad, half for not saying yes to going to stuff with them and half for not just being honest from the beginning and just explaining that I really didn't want any company. But I was tired and was just happy for them to think that I hadn't understood them. In all fairness the son did look really uncomfortable and it was his trip after all! And anyway, it's my trip! I decided to do this alone, and I wanted to do this my way as an independent adult haha! I had a schedule of my own to keep to, and I'm so glad I did!
But getting back on track, I told the driver where I needed to go and asked him to go as quick as he could to the hostel. I had already missed the time I'd said I'd be arriving so I didn't want to waste anymore time. The driver was probably the first Brazilian taxi driver I've ever met that didn't talk at all! Which was fine on one hand, but slightly unnerving on the other.
I was welcomed at the Iguassu Guest House Hostel by Carlos, an extremely friendly and chatty guy, who introduced me to the hostel, gave me my keys and then proceeded to tell me about some of the sights and things to do in Foz. From website reviews I had heard about a tour offered by the hostel in conjunction with an outside company that took you to the Argentinian side of Iguassu Falls. For R$140 (£37) - which you pay upfront to the driver/guide - they took you to and from the Falls, paid for entrance to the park and a guide around the park. This seemed like the easier option (I'll explain why in part two), and Carlos booked me on to it straight away for the next day.
It was about 1:30pm by then so I asked him whether it was worth trying to get out to see the Brazilian side of the Falls that day. He left me in the dorms to quickly through on some more deodorant, grab my rain coat and leave my valuables in a locker, before I legged it to the bus terminal to get the next bus to the park.
One of the reasons I chose Iguassu Guest House was because it was very near to the local bus terminal, very handy for the Falls. The bus came every twenty minutes to take you to the park, so I got there just after 2pm.
My flatmate had told me it was better to buy your ticket online beforehand, so all I had to do at the ticket office was give them my ticket and a form of ID (I had left my passport at the hostel, but fortunately had my driving licence). You then hop on an open top bus and it takes you through the park. I couldn't quite believe my luck: I had made it!!
By then I hadn't had breakfast or lunch so I was keen to get to the restaurant at the other end. Carlos did try to tell me to get lunch somewhere in town, but a friend had told me to get lunch at this particular restaurant, so that was my priority. However, the bus only takes you a certain distance so I had to get off just before. I'm happy I did though as I would probably have missed some spectacular sights otherwise.
The Iguassu Falls are breathtaking! "Absolutely incredible!!" Is all I can really say in my vlogs and it's so true! They are stunning and I was pretty much lost for words! I had seen plenty of Google pictures and travel catalogue pictures but nothing can sum up the feeling you get when you see them in person. They're magical and you have to wonder at nature's marvelous-ness!
You start the trail looking out at the Argentinian side (which in fact makes up 80% of the park overall), and then slowly you make your way over to where the two sides meet: the "Devil's Throat".
There are little balconies every so often where you can catch a glimpse over the side at the huge waterfalls and islands poking out of the rivers, so many photos of course ensued. Even before you reach the falls themselves you begin to feel the spray from the cascading water which doubles your awe. It was time to get the GoPro out as I didn't want to ruin another compact camera with water damage (the last time was from the Sao Paulo trip, although it was the Florianópolis sand dunes that finished my faithful Lumix compact).
One thing that really bugged me was one Asian woman and her iPad. I was trying to get an artsy shot of the Falls through the trees, nothing too special or that anyone would think of looking at and all of a sudden I feel a slight pressure on my shoulder and I turn my head to see this woman resting her iPad on my shoulder to try and take the same shot. Seriously lady?! You couldn't have waited two seconds for me to move so you could take the same shot?! No one else is queuing up for this spot...!! Chill out!!
Ugh, anyway haha! I reached the fork where you could either go down to the Devil's Throat or you could go to the restaurant/souvenir shop/return bus stop, but by then my stomach was leading me so restaurant it was, and fortunately my stomach was leading me. I had twenty minutes before the restaurant closed to sample what could only be described as one of the best Brazilian buffets I have ever tasted sat on one of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. When you're walking along the trail, you're slightly under/on level with the Falls, but as soon as you come out to the restaurant, you're on top of it and the balcony looks out over the top of the Devil's Throat. At sunset, it was one of the most beautiful sights!
After I'm not sure which course as it could have been breakfast, lunch or dinner, I made my way back along the road and down to the Devil's Throat where there is a man-made steel grid bridge that you can walk along right under the Brazilian side of the Falls.
Warning! You will get soaked so make sure you're wearing a raincoat, light clothing that drys quickly or you bring a spare pair of clothes in a waterproof bag. I wasn't too fussed as I knew I'd be pretty much going straight back to the hostel afterwards, but I kept my phone and compact camera in my jacket pocket. (Continued below).
I had my trekking raincoat on, but water still found it's way underneath it so I ended up sitting in completely wet trackies on the way back. It also took two days for the inside of my bag to dry out, but it was totally worth it!! You're blown away once you get to the end and you look out over the Falls and down the river. Particularly at sunset because the low sun casts all the way back up the river and through the gorge. It. Is. BEAUTIFUL!! Pictures and words do not do it justice! Even thinking back on it now, I feel speechless and euphoric. I stopped for five minutes on each balcony to admire the view. What I like about the Falls is that people have built into it and around it rather than trying to alter it, so you can completely appreciate it for what it is. 'What it is' being absolutely incredible!!! I wish I could express and communicate more to you but there are no words, there just aren't!
I would have stayed longer but the water coupled with the wind made it impossible to feel comfortable standing too long on the bridge, particularly as the sun was setting and the temperature with it (it is winter here afterall). So I made my way back along the bridge and back to where buses where waiting to take people back to the entrance.
I caught one of the last buses back to the city, bought some dinner and supplies for the next day from the nearest supermarket Super Muffato and made my way back to the hostel. All I had in my mind was a shower at that point! I was shattered, cold and hungry, but weirdly content from the first day.
I had done tourist-y things by myself both abroad and back home so I wasn't phased by that at all, but what made me first realise how glad I was that I had done this trip by myself was when I then joined in with a conversation with some fellow travellers in the hostel kitchen. What's interesting is that there wasn't really any awkwardness in the conversation and we actually talked about stuff that I've never really talked about with some of my closest friends back home. Or if we have it's been brief. We talked about travelling, South America and some other random things, and because three of us were solo travellers and the others together in twos, we were all more or less on equal footing. It's crazy and awesome to think that we were all complete random strangers who just happened to come together because of our hostel selection. Even crazier when four of them left the next day. But it was interesting to see where the others had been, to hear about their different travel experiences in different countries and where they were headed to next and why. I knew I was going to be comfortable in that hostel, but I didn't think I'd be that comfortable. Talking to people felt great and it made you feel more at home all of a sudden. It was worth the lack of sleep that night for some inspiration for my next travel adventure heehee!
Stay tuned for Day 2!