Time to leave Buenos Aires and head northeast where Brazil meets Argentina and the magnificent Iguazu Falls. We plumped for a bus rather than a plane given the difference in price. The downside being that the bus takes over 14 hours to reach Puerto Iguazu. The bus companies in Argentina offering various levels of comfort, from 'semi-cama' (reclining seat) to 'full-cama ejecutivo' (lay flat bed with dinner and drinks service). Yep, you guessed it we went for the most expensive option. The cost for a one way ticket being A$1,135 pesos or NZ$130.
The buses are so much better than anything we had experienced in Europe or New Zealand. It was better than flying business class on Air New Zealand. We managed to wrangle five small bottles of wine from the stewardess, well we needed something to help us sleep.
The town of Puerto Iguazu is not much to write home about. There's a riverside walk that takes you to a point where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay all meet over a small stretch of river. Later that night at dinner, our Spanish lessons came to the fore. We asked whether we could take the leftovers away. Smiling broadly the waiter disappeared and returned with a bucket of ice. Not quite what we wanted but we got there in the end.
A two-night stay gave us a full day exploring on the Argentine side before crossing the border to experience the Brazilian side. From here we could catch another overnight bus to Campo Grande.
The Iguazu Falls and the surrounding park are roughly a 40 minutes bus ride from the Puerto Iguazu. We arrived just as the park opened, but also the local grey rinse brigade was disembarking from an armada of buses. Given how slow they walk whilst jabbering away at the top of their voices, it was time to hit turbo and put some distance between us.
The falls are awe-inspiring from the first moment you see them. We had seen hundreds of photos online but they fail to do justice to the sheer size and force of the falls. The noise was particularly surprising.
Like the Perito Moreno Glacier, there are several walkways that provide stunning views. In total over 16km of walkways that run below, above, and along the many falls. We choose the lower walk first and after just 10 minutes you catch your first glimpse of the scale of the falls. They are over three kilometres wide and comprise of 275 individual falls. La Garganta del Diablo (The Devil's Throat) being the highest at over 80m. Over 1,756 cubic metres of water per second powers over the cliffs. Hard to believe that this whole area was once owned by one farmer before the Brazilian Government stepped in.
Being out of season there was fewer folk around, aside from the gray brigade. The map told us that the walkways would take 2-3 hours. We did it in under 1.5 hours. I guess in peak season jostling to get the right photo would take up most of the time.
We paid to take a ride under one of the falls. We were already pre-armed with a change of clothes in our day pack. Having watched a couple of trips I knew which seats would offer the best view. Turns out they also offered the biggest drenching. Aside from a life jacket, the only thing provided is a dry bag for cameras etc. The trip takes you up river to get a good view of the Devil's Throat. Then, the boat goes under the first of two falls. The first one we think is just to get you used to the sheer power of the water. Dipping the nose of the boat under the fall, the seats we had chosen took the full force. The breath is driven out of your lungs in an instant, and you feel overwhelmed.
After that entrée, it's onto the main course. With a powerful flow three or four times wider than the first. We saw one boat disappear completely under a curtain of water for several seconds before reemerging. Then, it was our turn. It was exhilarating and scary. We seemed to be under the wall of water for an eternity. Finally, the boat broke free and we managed to catch our breath. We both had smiles as wide as the falls themselves.
Following the drenching we found a suitable place to hang out, get dry and have some lunch. It's here that we had several close encounters with coaties. These are a cross between a possum, Tasmanian devil, and a vacuum cleaner. Vicious little animals with razor sharp teeth and claws that Cruella de Vile would be proud of. Don't let the puppy dog eyes fool you, they will take a bite out of your hand in an instant. Any bag or food left lying around is quickly overpowered by several of these creatures.
Late afternoon we caught the Disneyland train to the furthest point in the park and from here we walked to the Devil's Throat. As you leave the station you are engulfed by a wall of technicolored butterflies. The region is home to over 400 different varieties, many clinging to our clothing feasting on our sweat.
This final boardwalk is one of the best, weaving its way across the river that feeds the falls. The peace and quiet a perfect antidote for what lies ahead. Reaching the lookout you can’t help but gaze into the abyss, plumes of spray sweeping upwards. It's not hard to understand why this is named the 'Devil's Throat'. You wonder how long you would last if you slipped and fell over the edge. Not too long at a guess.
The following day we pack up and take a short bus ride into Brazil. This has to be the easiest border crossing so far. On the Brazilian side, the bus driver grabs everybody's passport and disappears. Ten minutes later he's back with our freshly stamped passports in hand.
The Brazilian Iguazu park looks a little better organised than its counterpart on the other side of the river. There are huge lockers where we can stow our backpacks and any unwanted gear. We catch an open top bus to the far end of the park where a big surprise awaits.
It was lunch time, and we were famished. We walked passed the Burger King style takeaway and headed for the main restaurant. Not understanding too much (Brazil is a Portuguese speaking country, not Spanish) we were told to go inside and have a look. It took all-of-ten seconds before Julie and I looked at each and went 'hell yes'. We had found the El Dorado of buffets and all for NZ$20. Yes, a little over the top but we had been living off pizza, chips and cup-a-soups for the past few days, so cut us some slack.
We rolled out of the restaurant fuller than a full thing. Thankfully the walkways on this side are not quite as long, but they get you closer to the action than the previous day. The first is a three storey lookout that offers sensational views of the Devil's Throat. The bottom walkway takes you to the very abyss that we looked into the day before. A veil of fine mist parts to provide one of most staggering views.
You can cover the Brazilian side in less than an hour if pushed for time. We waddled our way along the footpath stopping every few minutes to take just one more photo.
So that was our Iguazu Falls experience, mind blowing, to say the least. The falls are truly one of the great natural wonders of our world. We both felt very privileged to have been able to get up close and personal with this wonder.
Everybody always asks which is the best side, Argentina or Brazil? Really hard to give a definite answer. The Argentinean side has many more kilometres of walkways, and the boat ride was amazing. The Brazilian side has more of a panoramic view of the entire area, and getting close to the bottom of the Devil’s Throat was incredible. We would say take the time to do both sides and enjoy what each has to offer. You are guaranteed to come away awestruck.
Next stop, a Piranha infested river and our Pantanal adventure.