I got off the bus at the border. If I was coming back to Brazil the same day, there was no need to get off the bus. I was the only one who got off the bus. I walked into immigration and got my exit stamp, no problem. I had to wait a while for the next bus but I got a ticket that allowed me to board the next bus without paying again. The Argentine side of the border was almost 10 minutes from the Brazil side, a river demarcating the border. Once on the Argentine side, everyone got out. I went inside and presented my passport. They immigration officials looked at me like ¨What does this guy want?¨I even heard them say ¨What is he doing here?¨and the other official replied ¨I don´t know!¨ They finally gave me my entry stamp but neither side wanted the paper immigration document that I had filled out. The bus was just pulling away as I exited, thankfully the driver saw me and he waited just for me.
Puerto Iguazu, the town closest to the border and the falls was another 10 minutes from the border. I was looking for a campsite along the main road but didn´t see it and next thing I know, we´re at the bus station in the centre of town. Now the campsite was 5km away. I didn´t feel like a 5km hike in and out of town so I walked around the bus stop looking for a map of the city. A guy at a booth was trying to sell some hostel rooms. He spoke some english and sold me on one of them. It was only 2 blocks away and I saved 10 pesos ( about $2.50) if I went through him. He wrote his name of the card. They told me the price was 45 when I arrived and I showed them the ad and they said ¨Oh Carlos, then it´s 35 pesos¨ The catch was I had to stay 3 days to get that price but that was ok. I figured 2 days in the park and then one day to hang around. I was showed to my tiny room with 2 bunkbeds. The bonus being it had its own bathroom and was air conditioned. With the exception of Rio, Foz do Iguazu is the hottest place I have been to. I slept without A/C there but I must admit I was appreciating the air here. It was set at 26C, not super cold but enough to take the humidity out of the air and make it easy to sleep with just a sheet. I was sharing the room with 3 Israelis. Turned out I had stumbled on little Israel. Later on when I watched TV at night there were at least another 7 Israelis in the common room.
I put my things in the locker outside the room and got the last top bunk. Now I needed money. I had Brazilian Real and US dollars but I needed Argentine Pesos. Now it was sunday and the day after Christmas, the exchange house was closed until 6pm. What could I do until then?! I checked an ATM and it wouldn´t give me any cash. There was one last ATM to check and I finally got some cash. Now I could eat lunch and go to the park.
On both sides of the park in Argentina and Brazil, the area around Iguazu Falls are national parks. So Puerto Iguazu is about 18km from the falls. I took the local bus and got off at the entrance. I bought my ticket and got it stamped so I can return tomorrow for half price. There were long and wide concrete sidewalks from the entrance to snack bars, souvenir shops, the train and the trails. The heat of the day radiated off the sidewalks making it really hot, like a blow dry on full blast over your head where ever you walk.
I choose to walk to the beginning of the trail circuits instead of taking the tiny trail. Thankfully most of the trail was shaded and there was some relief from the sun. Once at the trail heads, I began with the upper circuit. It follows a steal catwalk above the highest falls and provides some nice views and upclose views of the falls. Along the way I saw a few orchids, tons of butterflies, cool birds and a few large lizards. The trail seems to be more in the forest than the Brazilian side and there was a lot more wildlife to see.
After that I walked to the Lower circuit. This trail had more different views and climaxed right beside the middle of a huge cascade with tons of mist. A great spot. It was getting close to closing time, so I started heading back to the bus stop. Someone asked me the time and I told them it was 6pm. Oh no, they were late they said. Once we got to the train station, they saw the clock and said it was only 5. Ooops! I didn´t realize that Argentina was an hour behind Brazil. Hell, I only traveled 30 minutes on the bus to get here but went an hour back in time. That´s good that I know now though.
The most common animal in both parks is the coati, a close relative of the racoon. They have become accustomed and unafraid of people and are a bit of a pain at the park. They raid garbages and make a mess and steal food from people. They can also bite and scratch and there are signs all over the park warning not to feed them. It´s against park rules, potentially dangerous and feeding them was the reason they became so tame in the first place. So you can understand my anger when I finished the lower circuit and arrived at a snack bar with 3 coatis that guy began to feed. I was pissed at such blatant disregard for the rules and the safetly of everyone around, including children. Without hesitation I yelled at the guy ¨Come on! What are you doing? You´re not supposed to feed them?¨ He said something back in spanish which I didn´t understand and he probably didn´t understand exactly what I said but he understood my tone. I was pissed! I just stared him down while he tried to show me some wrapper as an excuse of his behaviour. Now the coatis were going right under his table. I said ´This is why they won´t leave you alone now!´ I walked into the snack bar to relax but did catch some approving nods as I went in. I can´t stand idiots like this. This pisses me off just as much as littering. I absolutely can´t stand it. There´s not much I can do while traveling because so many people litter but I won´t stand for it at home. I´ve called complete strangers on littering before. I wish there was a litter police. I would be chief and work for free!
Back in town I washed my clothes, cleaned up and went for dinner. Puerto Iguazu is much smaller and compact than Foz on the Brazilian side. It has about a tenth of the population. I liked Pto. Iguazu much more. More tourists here, more souvenir shops and more restuarants. I didn´t feel like going for dinner and tried out a nice but not too fancy place at the bus station. I know, I don´t usually go to the bus station to eat unless I´m waiting for a bus but this place had a good menu and good prices. I was pleasantly surprised. The food came fast, was tasty and the service friendly, what else could I ask for?
Though I had to stay here 3 days to get the better price on my hostel, I was happy that I had to. I felt more comfortable being back in a spanish speaking country. Though it has been 10 years since I´ve been to South America, I took 2 college courses back then and my spanish was fairly decent. I´m surprisingly remembering a lot and can read and talk to people without having to think of stumble over words. Many people in the tourist industry can speak some english here but I always start with english and if they want to change the conversation to english then that´s fine.
Dec 29 2010