I am starting to realise it is not for nothing this travel diary is called Elena's adventures in South America, I am really full of anecdotes by now of things that probably only happen to me but thank God, up until now, all the crazy situations only end up in good stories to tell.
Today, I was intending on getting, the other side of the story and go to the Argentinian side of the falls. However, the lack of local currency in cash did cause more issues today. I could not get a bus or a taxi without them. I had to then walk the 2Km there is to the airport, hoping the cash machines would be more useful than yesterday at the park. However, sane story happened, none of the three cash machine would accept my card. Luckily, I had brought some euros and just ended up changing them for reais at an exchange business. That was me with some of the logistics sorted. Now I had to get to Argentina.
I asked for the journey details at the information office of the airport where I was told to take a first bus to a shopping mall and from there take a second one or alternatively walk the borders, it was a 15minutes walk I understood (but I think the info got lost in translation, I like to believe I understand Portuguese by now but I think it is not fully the case yet as this story will tell). So I took the first bus and then, not seeing the other one approaching, decided to embark on the '15minutes' walk, guided by my map. The short walk turned into more than one hour walking along the road. Then, I had to reach the town's bus stop and from there, get another bus to the falls. After a while, I eventually got there and again, was told they only accepted cash. Since I didn't have pesos on me yet, I had to walk a bit further and find a cash machine. Here, they did accept it although the novelty was that for every 2 000 pesos you take out, you get charged 94 on top of what your own bank does. First, I thought that was the specific bank that did that so I just went to another one until I overheard other foreigners talking about that famous fee. I had no choice so just took what I thought I would need approximately and went back to the station, bought the return bus ticket and they also, like any good Argentinians managed to convince book a boat trip on the falls that was a must.
As usual, the bus coming in 10 minutes, arrived after 25 minutes and so when I finally made it to the park it was 2.30pm... I had been told to expect spending a full day on the Argentinian side and half a day on the Brazilian one, but I guess it is part of travelling and circumstances alter plans unexpectedly...
When I got there, I followed the instructions I had been given and went to the attractions office get the actual ticket. There, I was told by the lady that because of the time, I would have to chose between taking the train to the devil's throat or the boat inside the falls. I could not believe my ears, I did not want to make the choice! I was starting to feel that everything had gone wrong today but the staff, seeing my desperation were very nice and supportive, they told me to think about it while heading to the next train stop where another staff member would meet me. The best plan I could think of was to do the boat earlier and rush back to the train. When I net the other guy by the train, he told me we could potentially do that, advance the boat session and then I would have to be very quick to get back for the last train at 4.10pm.
Challenge accepted! He gave me directions on how to get to the boats the fastest but I only had like 30mins, he said it would be hard but feasible if I did not stop and went on a good pace. I walked as fast as I could through the crowed in opposite direction to actually make it in 16 minutes! Ouf, I could breathe a little bit!
The boat was so much fun but they should maybe have put a disclaimer beforehand recommending people to bring flipflops and their swimsuits. Everyone got fully soaked. ! We went right under some smaller falls and had a shower on the boat! I was not expecting that at all but it was really good fun. Luckily they had provided us with waterproof bags to put or bags otherwise everything would have got ruined. The only problem was then spending the rest of the day on my soaked clothes (that was alright, they quickly dried with the wonderful weather) but especially wet socks in my trekking shoes (these never dried and the day was still going to be long and eventful)'
As soon as we were out of the boat, I took the same way again and made it back to the station to catch that last train to the Devil's throat. It was a 20minutes ride there and then there was a train on the water and surrounded by some kind of mangroves or other trees growing on top of the falls. But when I finally got there... I was left speechless by the beauty and power of the place, it was just spectacular! I think I had heard people who had been here during my journey telling me I should go and that when you see Iguazú, whether or not you believe, you end up admitting the existence of God or a supreme being. It cannot better describe the scene. The amount of water is so spectacular, that the melody of the water falling just sounds like an ode to life! It is probably the strongest feeling I have had of all the places I have been so far and the wonders I have seen, non has impressed me as much as this one. This was maybe due to the low expectations I had from the disappointment of what has been done in Niagara but I think the contrast between these two places is the best illustration of what is happening to our beautiful planet: nature itself is so wonderful but little by little what is destroying it are human enterprises...
Soon, it was time to take the last train back at 5.30pm and I was the last one to walk from the Devil's throat this beautiful evening quite quiet (we were not that many left in the park at that point) and I tried to enjoy the moment, feeling so grateful and privileged for what I had just witnessed! <3
Back to the entrance, I tried doing part of the upper trail but it turns out they had all been closed by now, a guard later told me it is for security reasons since that is when the big cats (pumas and other wildcats go out for food). It was okay though, I had seen the most spectacular part and enjoyed the main attraction at the falls, quite an unexpectedly successful day considering how it had began.
Outside, I was hoping the bus would be on time to be able to catch the last bus to Brazil and not have to walk. Quite some people had gathered so I was hoping it would be there soon but as usual I had to step back and hope for the best, adapting to the South American punctuality. In the meantime, since I had my passport with me, I imagined like in all big landmarks it they must stamp passports and so I filled my beautiful passport with one more stamp, memory of one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
Eventually, the bus came and I was ensured by the driver it would make it on tine for the bus to Brazil. At an earlier stop, a guide from the falls told me I could get off and wait for it there. So I did and another Malaysian guy on the bus who was also going to Brazil followed me. Soon the bus to Brazil arrived and it stopped at the Argentinian border control where most people got off and the bus waited for us but then at the Brazilian border control, no one got off except for a girl and we almost missed it but as soon as I realised, the driver gave us a ticket to get on the next bus and we got off (it didn't wait this time). The control was done really quickly and then the three if us ended up waiting indefinitely for the next bus to come as the guards had ensured there was another one coming. I had started to suggest walking since we were actually really close to the other stop where we needed to change buses but unfortunately they only took it as a joke and preferred to wait. The South Korean girl who was the other one waiting asked us if any of us could walk with her to her hostel as she needed to get her backpack from there before heading to the international bus station as she was hoping to get a bus to Asunción which was leaving at 1am. From her description her hostel was quite close to where I needed to get my second bus so I offered to help her out. She said it was in a residential area quite dark and dodgy to walk alone after the horror stories she had been told about tourist safety in Brazil.
Bu 8pm, the bus finally arrived but that is when the nightmare started: instead of taking the expected route, it turned left and ended up bringing us downtown where I had never been and could not locate anything. I double checked a few times to the driver to make sure he would be back closer to where we needed to go later to which he said yes every time until I asked him a third time and he told us that actually, no, we should get off and take another bus. We got off and then with our map in hand asked some people for directions at a fuel station to know where we were. Very sure of them, they gave us some directions, quite straight forward. We double checked at another shop after a while and again, they gave us the same indications until, looking carefully on the map, we realised we had been walking in the opposite direction we intended to go! We decided to go in the mall we had reached anyway and get dinner as well as wifi to see the exact rout and how long we would have to walk back. The three of us had some food, by the time we were finished it was already 10pm. It was decision time again as we had to decide what to do. Google maps was saying we had a 54min walk to go or a 14min drive. But the South Korean girl was refusing to get a taxi, fearing they would charge too much. Buses were not reliable either since at the stops it was not indicated which one was passing by nor a timetable. We ended up seeing one heading to the terminal and took it. There, we looked up the timetables for the 120, the only line we knew and the girls seemed to know from there the way to her hostel. So we did. We finally walked her to her hostel and there she was also told which bus to take to the station. The other guy from Malaysia would go with her since he was staying near the terminal. The issue was their stop was on that street whereas I needed to get back the way we walked to get the 120. They didn't want me to walk alone and insisted I wait with them and take the 120 from the terminal but time was passing and the bus was not showing up. I was fearing that by the time I make it to the terminal, the last bus would already be gone. So at 11.20pm, I decided to walk to the main road by myself as I didn't find it dodgy or anything and I didn't want to miss the bus. At the stop, I had to wait more than 30mins for the bus to show up (I had started to fear the last one had gone but at 00.30, one came). What a relieve. Late but safe and sound, I was back at the hotel after a stressful day where, believing my watch, I had had walked more that 25Km in total!