Foz do Iguaçu

Published: March 22nd 2014
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Another overnight bus (saves on hostels) and we were in Foz do Iguaçu. This had taken 16.5 hours instead of the schedueled 15 for seemingly no reason other than the poor drivers. As we swung into the bus terminal he scraped the front badly but seemed to be claiming it wasn't fault. Safe to say Pluma wasn't our favourite bus company so far - the least luxurious we have experienced for the longest amount of time, but it did a job. I had remembered my jumper and was very grateful for it.

Trying to figure out the directions to the Manga Rosa hostel from the international bus terminal proved to be laborious ('head to the North East corner of the bus terminal', I'm neither Ray Mears nor American) so we got a R$20 taxi. There had been a big accident so we sat in traffic for ages and the meter ticked up but the taxi driver was nice and stuck to the agreed R$20.

The hostel was nice and the guy who ran it, Joe, was very friendly and helpful. However, when we said we planned on going to visit to the waterfalls he tried to sell us tickets to the bird park located just next door quite a few times, even going so far as to claim it was better than the falls (we cant compare but highly doubt this)! I am also always wary of trying to be sold something before we have even checked in. No matter, we got some breakfast and excitedly headed to the Brazilian side of the Iguaçu falls.

A local bus from the Urban Bus Terminal (TTU) for R$2.85 each one way was all it cost and about an hour after leaving the hostel arrived. The entrance is grand, clean and easy to figure out where to go and how much it would cost. We paid our R$49 each and got on the park's own bus service to start the trail. It's all concrete paths/boardwalk and easy to get around, even the obese (who are allowed the preferential seats on public transport along with pregnant women and old people, the sign for a fat person is amusant) can manage it.

The first sighting you get of the falls is staggering. At this point they are still fairly far away and its easy to naively believe this view is all of them, but in reality it's really only around one third. There are loads of seperate, individual falls and other bigger ones that roll into each other. Really amazing, but the best is still yet to come.

As you walk along the trail there are incredible views and points to take photos. At one such point there was an unofficial queue forming and a system of taking photos for the people in front of you, then the people behind took yours and so on. Some South Americans obviously don't understand queues and just hopped in taking all sorts of crap photos, whilst simultaneaously clearly ruining others' photos too. They didn't speak any English so the choice words Alex and I aimed loudly at them as they passed us fell on deaf ears and left them unaffected, but it made us feel better and we giggled like naughty children for the last few minutes queueing.

We had mosied along for an hour and a half (there's really no rush and you could spend all day watching the falls) before we reached the final section of the trail, the pièce de résistance of the Brazilian side. This included a boardwalk which extended out in front of a 50 foot waterfall and sat on the top of another waterfall which fell away below. From this standpoint you can also get excellent views of the Devil's Throat part of the falls. This section had raised elements too: a higher viewing platform within 10 feet of the falling water and an elevator took you even higher for the best panoramic views of the top of the falls .

The lower boardwalk is right in the spray of the fall so we got suitably drenched in a few minutes. Alex was doing her best impression of a turtle to protect the bag and the camera was in a freezer bag to guard the lens so I got mostly blurry photos and videos. The noise of the water and the speed with which it hurls itself off is incredible.

The massive fall, generating the spray that soaks you on the boardwalk, is the one you can get close to. To see how powerfully the water hits the rocks and the sheer volume of water is the most impressive part.

The elevator to the top of this fall allows you to see the main parts of the falls, over to the boardwalks on the Argentinian side and the large birds circling. From the elevator you could see underneath the platforms where Alex spotted some massive spiders which I was certainly glad were nowhere we were going to be walking. The views here were spectacular so we tried to get photos, however it was really busy and we ended up with loads of randomers in them so we decided to grab a spot of lunch and attempt to get some more when it was quieter.

Throughout the park there are small mammals called Coatis. They're like racoons with longer noses and tall standing up tails, probably the size of a mid-sized dog. You are told not to feed them and beware of getting too close etc as they can carry rabies. This doesn't stop morons from feeding them just to get a photo. Or from the park putting closed lids on bins. We didn't have sandwiches from breakfast so bought some salami and cheese subs for R$10 each (they bump the prices a bit like a theme park would) and sat down next to the river in the food court to enjoy the view. Alex had remarked how strange it was that there were very few Coatis here as it was the jackpot for them, but unfortunately some of the aforementioned morons desperate for pictures of the animals were sat right by us. One couple even let it up on the table to eat their scraps before an employee came with a broom to shoo it away (shoo is one of my favourite examples of onomatopoeia as a sidenote). We thought the man with the broom had won the day and started eating again, however the Coatis are very sneaky and one hopped up right in between us to grab the last quarter of Alex's sub. My inhaling of food played to my advantage this time as there was nothing left for our furry friend. Alex was hugely annoyed (seemingly at me for "not protecting her" - in my defence I thought she was simply batting away a wasp) but we didn't want to try and save the sandwich in case it had scratched or bitten us. I wrote a scathing review for the suggestion box and we headed back to the top to get some photos whilst people were at lunch. The sun even came out and makes the falls look even better. It's almost impossible to describe how good the falls are but they certainly exceeded our high expectations and the Argentinian side is meant to be even better.

On our arrival back in the hostel there were 2 Aussie girls in our room who were very friendly and Joe said they were cooking a Brazilian stew for everyone tonight if we wanted in. After the BBQ at the other hostel we thought we definitely wanted in. The stew was delicious. It was meat and potato, really thick and with an extra kick from some homemade chilli oil. The only problem with Latin cooking is the time they eat. It was past 9.30pm when we tucked in, which they claim was intentionally early for our benefit. The Aussies were really struggling but it was nice to have Brazilian beers (apparently Heineken and Budweiser are now owned by a Brazilian company) and chat to them. Finally we found some people that we actually wanted to be sociable with!

The next day we headed to the Itaipu dam, the second biggest hydroelectric dam in the world - China have built a ridiculous one to top it. However, at Itaipu they staunchly cling to the fact that because of the dry season in China over the year they still produce more energy. The dam is impressive. Obviously massive, as tall as a 65 storey building and hundreds of metres wide. We did the panoramic tour, R$26 each. It lasted about an hour and you had 2 stops for pictures. After the 2nd stop - our guide told us this would be the last - we decided to sit downstairs as there had been no real advantage to sitting upstairs. Big mistake. The last portion of the tour was when you drive over the dam and technically cross into Paraguay by like 10m. You don't need your passport unless you want to pay by Mastercard though. Here is also where you get the best panoramas across the dam, but only if you sit on the top. Our views from below were unfortunately obscured so we came away a bit annoyed at ourselves. Hopped on the local bus back and it started raining again. The rain in Foz do Iguaçu had at points had been biblical. I had a 20 minute round trip to a cash point and was wetter than if I had jumped in a swimming pool

We were looking forward to a Brazilian BBQ that night that Joe had promised, we were particulary keen for a cut of meat he told us about meant to be the most succulent. However, at about 6.30pm when they would have needed to start the barbie up, nothing was happening and we were informed we'd all have takeaway Italian. Pretty disappointing but everyone staying in the hostel (8 of us) sat eating together and watched The Hangover. It was nice to be socialable and these were nice, friendly, normal people, not the hippyish people seeking the ethereal heartland of South America we often run into.

We had booked our next 2 nights into Puerto Iguazu (Argentina), which seemed to be against the grain, as most people go to the Argentinian side of the falls from their base in Foz do Iguaçu then head straight down to Buenos Aires. We didn't want to waste any of our day at the Argentinian side at the border as we were unsure how long it would take getting our passports stamped and getting on and off the buses. In actual fact it didn't take too long and we crossed the border with ease, but for us we definitely did the right thing as we did not rush ourselves or miss out on anything.


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