Saturday, July 23, 2011

Iguacu Falls - Argentina

Our second day in Foz do Iguaçu town, Brazil meant that it was time to visit the Argentine side of the falls (now named Iguassu falls as we would be in Argentina).  An early start was in order having done lots of homework into how to reach the falls on public transport (we were determined not to pay the full price of the private tour offered by most hostels).  Passport in hand we boarded the bus that would take us to the Brazilian border which it did before driving on, leaving all the gringos behind as the locals carried on their merry way (they didn’t seem to need their passports stamped when travelling between countries).  Having received our exit stamp from Brazil, we waited for the next bus to pick us up and take us across no man’s land to the Argentinian customs offices where we received our entry stamps.  Fortunately the bus was polite enough to wait this time which probably had something to do with the Argentinians demanding that everybody get a stamp, not just foreigners.  This second bus took us to a bus station in Argentina where we needed to board a third bus which would take us to the actual falls, the whole thing taking around two hours.  The entrance to the national park was an even bigger operation than the Brazilian side and all very modern.  This time there was no need to hop on a bus to get to the falls once in the park although there was an actual in-park rail system to get to the sights that were further away. 

Map for both sides of the falls

On advice from a member of staff we ignored the train and headed out on the closest route, the Circuito Superior (upper circuit) to see what it had to offer.  The park was very busy, but fortunately the walkways were professionally done and there was usually enough room for everybody to comfortably pass and there were good opportunities to view the sights and take photographs.  Initial impressions were that the perspective was very similar to what the Brazilian side had to offer, with wide panoramic views from afar that enabled you to take in the whole landscape.  There was an extremely tropical looking part of this route where the falls were complimented by a lush green island (Isla San Martin) that sat amongst the spray. 

Kate at the first viewpoint

View of Isla San Martin and a tourist boat heading towards the falls
Every now and then the sound of the water would be contested by screams of tourists riding on a boat into the falls and generally treating the place as more of a theme park than a national park, it did look like fun even if it missed the point somewhat.  Also, the dreaded raccoons were back! We had encountered them on our walk to the sights along the upper circuit and they kept reappearing now and then in their groups.  Occasionally a lizard would dart around below the walkways and bob its little head at you.  This route provided good opportunities to take panoramic views and experience the falls from above, often right on top of them.

At the water's edge, standing above the falls

Same falls further along the trail

 Pesky Raccoon

The following route we were to take was the Circuito Inferior (lower circuit).  This unsurprisingly took us around the lower paths enabling you to gauge the height and superiority of the falls.  It was very busy and the fact that it was around the school holiday period (I’m not sure how long they last as it was also the holidays when we were in Santiago...) didn’t help but most people were patient and reasonable in waiting their turn for photo opportunities and letting each other have their space.  The power of the falls really hit home with them now being at eye level and you happily tolerate a bit of neck ache to ogle open mouthed at the water falling from the heavens.  The highlight of this route is the ability to stand at the foot of the falls that you so proudly stood at the top of on the upper circuit and the rainbows which form in the spray.   

Busy busy busy

Opening view on the lower circuit

Amazing views of the falls

Yet another stunning rainbow...

Kate at the foot of the falls at the end of the lower circuit

After this circuit we hopped on the train in order to make our way to the main even of ‘Garganta del Diablo’ or Devil’s throat.  We spotted a couple of turtles sheltering underneath the manmade walkway on our fairly long stroll to the edge of the falls, the point where you overlook this amazing spectacle.  The sheer size of the falls is what captures your attention first.  These were easily the most spectacular falls we had seen on our trip and are almost always pitted above Niagara Falls in stature by those who have visited both.  You are able to look over the entire scene from here as if you were going over in a barrel; you can even see the gawkers on the Brazilian side where we had been yesterday, getting their taster whilst we were in the thick of it.  It really was one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen and would recommend it to anyone, the pictures can do the rest of the talking although they can’t ever do any justice to the overwhelming feeling you get from experiencing first hand this adjective-defying feat of nature.

Riding the train

At the Garganta del Diablo

More stunning views from the 'Devil's Throat'

As above!

Asunción, the capital of Paraguay was to be our next stop and we didn’t really know what to expect from the city or the country.  The waterfalls had been an amazing experience, it is clear to see why they are renowned as a ‘must do’ for any travellers in the region.  Another person staying at the hostel recommended a Couchsurfer to us who he had stayed with in a place around twenty five kilometers from the city centre so we sent off a last minute request.  In order to get to Asunción we needed to cross the border over a large bridge to the cowboy town of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, from where we would need a taxi to the Paraguayan bus terminal.  I was quite apprehensive about this as there were plenty of warnings coming in about muggings along this notorious bridge plus reports of many other forms of skulduggery in the town itself (a bootlegger’s town that the locals call simply a ‘shop’ as you can buy all manner of pirated goods) both from people we met and from doing our homework online.  Our plan was to get a bus for the short ride to the border and make a judgment on the situation from there. 

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