We arrived at Puerto Iguazu omnibus terminal over a hour later than scheduled at 9:30am after a bus journey that offered more than we expected – having boarded at 2:30pm the day before from Buenos Aires, at 9pm we were presented with a slice of cake, a bread roll and an aeroplane style dish of pork chop and roast potatoes. Oh and there was also a coffee tank that dispensed pre-sweetened black coffee. Whilst not exactly luxury, plus with an excitable toddler sat behind us, the journey was actually totally fine and I managed to get quite a bit of sleep after having very little during my last night in BA.
Anyway, once at the Puerto Iguazu terminal we walked 10 or so minutes to our accommodation, Hostel Soleil, arriving just before 10am. As we couldn’t check in until 11 and as we only had one night booked, we decided to head straight to the Argentinian side of the Iguassu Falls. After freshening up, changing and picking up some snacks from the local supermercado, we bought a return bus ticket to the falls for 130 pesos (£7) from the bus terminal and boarded the bus to the falls at Gate 11, eventually arriving at the Falls entrance at around midday.
Now, the girl at our hostel had gone to the falls the day before us and claimed how hot it was when she was there, assuring us that shirts, a vest and sandals would be absolutely fine. So of course when we arrived it began absolutely chucking it down. And by that I mean we were completely pelted with rain. Luckily I had an emergency plastic poncho and Katie had her mac, but it’s hard to tell how much they actually protected us at the end of the day. But, having come this way and paid our travel fare, we continued as planned and then paid 330 pesos each (£17) to enter the national park, then walking about 10 minutes through the rain to reach the mini train station inside the park. The train, which runs every half hour and has a pretty hefty queue whatever the time of day, travels through woodland to two different stops, and after spending the majority of the last 24 hours on public transport we decided to get off at the first stop and explore the various walkways to the falls.
Here is where you can walk the main platform routes, and we began by taking the Higher Circuit along the falls. It’s hard to really explain how you feel when you first catch sight of them – I knew they would be impressive and I knew they would be huge, but you can’t quite prepare yourself for the magnitude or the force of them, and how they just seem to continue on and on.
We spent a good hour walking the higher circuit, getting up close to the edge of numerous waterfalls and actually being able to physically feel their power. There are a few sections were you catch a panoramic view of a section, but a lot of the platforms offer the opportunity to be just above or directly in front of a waterfall.
Back at the beginning we then headed towards the lower circuit, and it was on our way here that we first spotted Coatis (Racoon-like animals that are a symbol of he falls due to their constant presence on the tracks) burrowing for ants just alongside the pathway. Considering we were in their natural habitat they were completely unperturbed, but I imagine they must be used to it by now and some born into that environment. They were far cuter than I expected them to be – especially the baby coati, which reminded me of kittens in their energetic playful movements.
Anyway, the lower circuit, as you would imagine, takes you alongside the falls lower down and therefore you capture the cascade of the falls coming down from above you rather than watching from above, and the route felt busier and slower to be able to move around. The most crowded section was where the platform goes right near where one of the falls meets the water, with the impact creating a huge mist that soaked you from a good 5 meters away. Whilst we were already drenched on the parts of our bodies not contained by our macs, the wind created by the force of the falls pushed your clothing in all sorts if directions that we emerged from the platform completely soaked from head to toe, my shorts now sodden and clinging to my bum.
It is somewhere on the lower circuit that you can get the boat over to San Martin Island (and my book also mentioned something about a walkway to it, although I am unsure how correct that is) where there is another walk you can do around the islands, but due to the weather conditions the island was closed. You can also take a boat trip on the water to near the falls, but at 450 pesos (£25) for 12 minutes, when we were soaked and you couldn’t see as much through the rain anyway, it just didn’t feel worth it.
At around 3:30pm we took the train to the next and last stop, Garganta Del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), where you walk across a long, weaving platform over the top of Iguassu river, which is deceptively calm and serene, until you reach the point where it suddenly drops and the water crashes below you. It had been raining on and off, fairly heavily, all afternoon, but just as we were approaching Devil’s Throat it reached a whole new level and I could barely see with the amount of rain in my face. So, arriving at Devil’s Throat where the force of the crash is so strong that it sends a wave of mist back up above water level, we didn’t stand a chance of any body part remaining dry. So great was the mist that was riding and so much did it blend in with the water falling, it took my eyes a while to adjust and I felt disoriented. The sheer power of these falls is pretty breathtaking.
Feet sliding inside our sandals as we made our way back to the train station to board the 5pm train back to the park entrance, we felt completely knackered. Whilst the falls were still beautiful in the rain and fog, we probably didn’t spend as much time here as we might have done otherwise, choosing not to do the 3km walk near the entrance and instead catching our bus back to Puerto Iguazu, where we suddenly felt the chill from being soaked and then got dripped on by the leaking air con for the duration of the journey. We popped by the supermercado on our way back to our hostel, then spent the evening trying to book our accommodation in Foz do Iguacu – the Brazilian side of the falls – with the temperamental hostel wifi before going to bed in bunks that had no ladders for the top bunks and you could feel the metal bars through the mattress under you. With broken “security” lockers and water that tasted revolting even when boiled, this wasn’t one of the best hostels we have stayed at.
We checked out the following morning at 10am after our hostel breakfast of bread (big surprise) and watermelon, before heading to the bus terminal to catch a bus across the border into Brazil and to Foz do Iguacu. But not before I went on a hunt for a currency exchange place, first trying the bank (macro) before being directed to Cambinos Links just 10 minutes from the bus terminal, where I successfully managed to change our remaining Argentinian Pesos into Brazilian Real using only the language of Spanish (ok, and maybe a touch of body). Pleased with myself, I practically skipped back to the bus terminal where Katie and I got on a bus from Gate 8 to Foz do Iguacu, paying only 20 pesos each (£1.20) for the journey, deciding that our luck was in and it would be a smooth journey into Brazil…