Iguassu Falls Trip 2014! Day Two: Creepy Crawlies, Paradise and Walking On Water.
Day twoooooooooooooooooo!! Today was such a great day! I went to the Argentinian side of the Iguassu Falls (Las Cataratas de Iguazu), and it was even more beautiful than the day before which kind of makes sense because 80% of the park is in Argentina.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves hehe! I haven't told you about the more mundane bits such as: I woke up - really early for someone who hasn't slept much - around 7am in time for a delicious breakfast provided by the hostel with some of the best Brazilian breakfast dishes ie. cake, fruit, fresh bread, tea and coffee. The only thing they were missing for me was some freshly squeezed orange or passion fruit juice, but that's just me. Annoyingly I woke up with a dull headache in the back of my head, so I wasn't feeling in the chattiest of moods, but it only really affected me towards the end of the day when it coupled with sleepiness. Anyhoo! I would have loved to have had a spare night there just so I could sleep in for a bit there, I slept so so well!! And they had the fluffiest extra blankets if you needed them! I nicked two for the second night and it was bliss!
I did get a bit nervous at one point because the tour came by later than usual to pick me up from my hostel, but fortunately it was just because they were running late picking up other people from other hostels. In total there were about thirteen of us on the tour, three English girls, a Welsh couple, an Australian guy, two French woman, three Mexican boys and a Dutch couple so the general language was English and on occasion Spanish. I was the only one who spoke Portuguese and I was determined to converse with the guide in Portuguese because hey! I have a permanent-ish residence in Brazil so I'm not technically a tourist haha! I think I must have come off like I know everything though because people kept asking me what was going on/what was happening etc, and I didn't actually know, but I could make some - mostly right thank you very much - guesses.
I left my watch in a locker at the hostel and I couldn't be bothered to check my phone but apparently it took us four hours to actually get to the Falls in the end solely because of the random places we had to pick people up from either side of the border and keeping everyone together (ie one girl left her phone at the hostel so her boyfriend had to run back and grab it). The guide also asked us to give him our passports when we first got in so he could take it to the border control offices. It doesn't feel great letting someone go off with your passport I won't lie, plus, we could have been anyone! The Argentinians put a lot of faith in tour guides/apparently don't care much in the way of national security... I promise this isn't complaining just complete wonderment because I have got away with little things while travelling in Brazil simply because if you choose the right words (in Portuguese obviously) it's possible! It happened in Cancún as well, but then being near fluent in Spanish and having a firey Hispanic-style attitude is always helpful.
But we finally made it to the Falls and it was pretty chilly! Sunny and beautiful but for people accustomized to the South American climate: you could really feel the wintery wind.
As the tour included the park entrance the guide went off to buy our tickets and then gathered us round the park map to explain the itinerary. There was time put aside for an optional boat tour as well.
We began our tour by walking along the top and underneath the Falls. It was even more breathtaking than the day before!! Words cannot describe what you see once you come out standing next to the Falls themselves. It's like a Pochahantas moment when she dives off that really tall ledge into the river beside her friend in the Disney film. It's a sheer drop! But it's so magical!! I wish there were words to describe the immensity of it and the awe you feel! This first waterfall you come to is the first real sight you get of the Falls on the Brazilian side and you would never suspect it possible that you could access so much it! You could stand on either side of this particular waterfall so you get more than one beautiful angle and you then make your way back along another path to go under it as well.
Most of the access to the waterfalls is made up of man-made steel bridges that run across the tops and parts of underneath. For example when you get close up to the underside of one of the waterfalls, it goes from rock ground to steel bridge the closer you get, just like in the Devil's Throat on the Brazilian side.
The only down side to going on this tour was that you didn't get very much time to see everything. I ended up falling behind the group a couple of times simply because we were given about five minutes at each stop point. But at least we got to see everything I suppose.
One thing that is heavily recommended by the hostel, and I will say this to everyone else too: make sure you wear comfy shoes!! Flip flops are dangerous in this case because it's a lot of walking and there's a few places you could potentially slip up. Everyone slipped at some point but we were all wearing good shoes so fortunately there were no falls... on the Falls pfffft!
Although it had kind of started to break down a bit in Cancún because of the heat, I'm pretty sure after this trip I've pushed another camera to it's limits because although I used my GoPro under the waterfall, there were a couple of shots I knew my compact camera would take better. However this did mean that it got a bit wet so I don't think it'll have long til this one goes too. My bad. I just want the perfect shot! :(
After we stood under one of the waterfalls the group made it's way down to where the boat was waiting to take people completely under the Falls and drench them. I along with the Dutch couple had already said that I didn't want to do the tour, purely because it was £20 for a 15 minute boat ride and I just wasn't feeling it. I was cold from standing under the waterfall, my headache wasn't helping, and I actually asked the tour guide what he thought to which he half sniggered and said he wouldn't do it at this time of year. As he said we were both used to the Brazilian climate so 20C for people who have just come from Europe it's mild, but for us - yes even an English girl - it's cold! Contrary to popular belief: South American Autumn/Winter is cold! It's not the ground temperature you have to think about, it's the really chilly wind that comes with it. Once we got back up the top of the falls and out to the restaurant where there was not quite so much wind: it was warm. But all the time we were down in the gorge on the river where the sun went quicker, I was wishing I was snuggled up in another layer.
The others came off the boat gushing about the ride, telling us we'd missed out and it was worth doing, but there was only a teeny tiny part of me that actually wished I'd done it and I was more filled up with happiness for them. There was of course a significant part of me that also just wanted food by that point because it was about 4pm by then and it had been about seven hours since I'd last eaten anything. I'm pretty sure I went into full on pensive, determined mode where I pretty much block out everything but determination to get to food haha! If you ever encounter me in this state, the best thing to do is just go with it because if I'm interrupted I get delirious or in more drastic cases: snappy. It's the same when I'm sleepy, all I can think about is rest so I tend to go into a quiet pensive state and anything that interrupts me just completely confuses me and I can't make sense of anything else.
We arrived at the restaurant stops where there was a choice of a fast-food joint or an Argentinian buffet. Unfortunately for everyone who'd been on the boat, they couldn't have the buffet and eat outside, so they went burgers and chips so that they could eat and dry off outside while I went for the most delicious buffet! I've no problem eating by myself so I just went for it. I had not come all that way just to eat a burger so I went on proudly to the buffet and piled up my plate not once but twice with some of the most delicious food I have ever tasted. Of course it was just your standard roast chicken, rice, Argentinian black beans etc but having walked so much coupled with the idea that it was "genuine Argentinian food" it tasted like heaven. As we only had half an hour to stop for food I had to more or less inhale the two helpings and I couldn't any of the weird puddings (including, I kid you not, electric blue pears!). Where everyone else splashed on the boat ride I splashed slightly on the buffet and jokingly boasted that this time they had missed out.
The guide then found us and we caught the train to the top of the park. You can walk it but it takes about 10-15 minutes in the park train, and then you have to walk for another 15-20 minutes after that. I doubt at this point anyone would have been up for this due to exhaustion but we were also pushed for time.
I forgot to mention about the creepy crawlies! There was some beautiful insecets at both parks, some of the most incredible butterflies etc. But one thing that creeped me out was a spider the size of my palm that casually scuttled out on to the path and one of the French women decided she was going to pick it up...!! Then a cockroach decided it was going to crawl up her shorts right before we got on to the train as well... So that was a palava in itself. Buuuuut it seemed worth mentioning too.
At the top you take the bridge along the top of the Falls again for another kilometre all the way across until you reach the top of the Devil's Throat. Once again you are lost for words at the sight and in awe at nature - not to get too gushy or anything... You can look out straight ahead of you and see the restaurant on the Brazilian side (where I had lunch on the first day), look right and you see the huge expanse of river rushing towards the edge of the Falls on which you are standing. And then you look left to see nothing but a cloud of spray/mist that rises up from the cascading water to create rainbows stretching high up towards the incredibly blue sky. You can do nothing but stand for a couple of minutes in wonderment, your thoughts lost and your mind wondering. I was really reminded of why I love South America, the beautiful scenery and the magic of it. It has made the past few months worth it just to have stood there on the edge of one of the planet's wonders and just be for a few minutes.
Classic South American health and safety though! I seriously doubt I would have enjoyed taking my child around this park for fear of them slipping/climbing/falling off of something. It made me chuckle that my mum thought I had been climbing over slippery rocks and in marshes haha! I had to explain that the bridges were the only slippery surfaces we walked over.
By that point I was on about my fifth or sixth bottle of water because it was very thirsty work, and we were all ready to get back on the tiny train and go home. I enjoyed being with the other people on the coach though because we were all able to swap travel stories and tips. I was actually able to give insight into things to do in Florianópolis for the Welsh couple who were planning on visiting there next, and similarly I got some inspiration from the Australian guy to go to Argentina and - unintentionally on his part - to go to Australia as well. I had an interesting conversation with one of the French women as well about learning languages, telling her that I was thinking of reviving my A-Level French once I finished uni, and she recommended looking for jobs in Switzerland if I did decide to go for it.
I was excited about getting the second stamp on my passport once we left too as I then had them from China, Brazil (duh!), Mexico and Argentina! Filling up nicely!
We dropped people off a various points on both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides. I was one of the first fortunately but I had asked if I could be dropped near the local supermarket rather than my hostel so that I didn't have to walk back for it. I feel pleased that I have taken time to learn Portuguese because it feels so much nicer being able to converse with the locals in their native language, you can tell they appreciate the effort and that way you can ask for small favours like that. I bought some dinner and also pain killers for my head before heading back for a shower and my pyjamas.
My original intention was to go to bed earlier because I was really tired by then but instead I ended up talking with two of the German girls from the night before who were also staying an extra night. It was their last night and they were celebrating by drinking Caipirinhas. I joined them and eventually had a Caipirinha of my own too. But they were weird tasting and didn't taste like real fruit so I stuck with the one, plus paying R$8 for one when you know you can buy almost two for the same price else where doesn't enthuse you.
It was really great fun talking to them though because they were currently on their Gap Year before heading off to uni back in Germany in September. They were really lovely people and we had such a laugh! They also told me stories of their travels in Australia and that made me want to go even more! It's officially my next place I want to visit.
Not much sleep was had that night either as we were the only three in the dorm that night so we stayed up talking to each other until about 2/3am, but it was completely worth it!!
As there was only three of us I nicked another blanket from the top of the wardrobe that night and I slept so well!!
Stay tuned for Day 3!