After 18 hours cosied up on the bus (including a random midnight feast of breaded chicken and rice) we arrive in Puerto Iguazu. The tiny town exists solely to serve the waterfalls and as we step off the bus the humidity is intense. Ste, who has yet to experience even sub-tropical heat, is in shock of the significant lack of air. We walk the two minute stroll to the Nomad Hostel and check in (£15 each for two nights).
Our overnight bus means it is only 11am when we arrive. The guy at reception explains that the Brazilian side only takes a couple of hours so we check in, grab a shower and head to catch the bus to Brazil.
Back at the bus station and for 80 pesos each (£4) we catch the the 45 minute border hopping bus to the Brazilian size of the falls. We arrive and everything is Americanized and streamlined. We buy our ticket – 65 Brazilian Real for to (£17 each) which has a boarding time of 14:30 (boarding of the double decker bus that drives us from the entrance to the start of the falls). It’s currently 14:10 and so we browse the gift shop, picking up the obligatory fridge magnet for the mother and treating myself to a pair of mock haviana flipflops. Anyone that knows me, well you know the shoe situation and I jumped at the opportunity of a gift shop that stocked flipflops of the same design for sizes that fit a 4-year-old, to sizes that fit a burly six foot tall 40-year-old.
Brief shopping spree over (flip-flops £14), we board our bus. There are several stops, each dependant on which excursion you are taking – for an extra charge there is the option to do jungle treks, wrafting or jet boating into the falls. For some reason I decide to follow a dreadlocked couples exit and Ste and I leave the bus – or at least Ste does before the doors shut in my face. Mr Dreadlock and Ste yell to the driver and pry the automatic doors open before I’m whisked off to the next stop. Turns out my impulsive move was wasteful – we have arrived at a drop off point for the tours and seeing as the cheapest is over 70 pounds sterling, we turn back and catch the oncoming bus to the next stop.
Off-loaded at the correct stop, we note the warning signs for Coati – a racoon cross aardvark creature, apparently very bold, very rabid and not in the slightest bit concerened with the presence of humans, especially when it comes to food. Taken aback by the views of the falls, we pause slightly too long, only to find a Coati nose deep in my bag.
We walk the 15 minute trail, stopping to admire both the falls, and the panic of some Asian tourists who have lost a mobile phone over the side of the cliff. Finally we reach a gangway out across the river, and ignoring the pac-a-mac salesman, we boldly stride out to stand amongst the full flow of the bottom of the falls. Let’s just say Iguazu is a champion of the wet T-shirt contest.
After brief afternoon in Brazil we head back and catch an early night ready for the full day ahead. The following day we head to the Argentine side, this time it’s 130 pesos for the longer bus (£6.50 each) and 330 (£16.50 each) for entry. On arrival its clear this is more of the national park experience we expected. The park has several walking routes and a little toy train that takes you from the main area out to ‘La Garganta del Diablo – The Devils Throat’. We hop out of the train and walk along the kilometre-long the raised walkway out across the rivers to the final platform over the top of the biggest fall. The thunderous roar hits first, followed by the spray. We approach the edge of the platform and the raw force of the water stops your thoughts. The river below is hidden below a cloudy mist of the falling water. That maniac of inner animalistic curiosity comes out in full force and I fight the urge to throw all my possessions, myself and Ste, over the edge just to see what happens…
After fighting with the selfie stick brigade and attempting to capture just some of the awe within a photograph, it’s back along the walkway, back on the train and we head along both of the two other walking routes. Strolling along in the intense humidity, we scale another 4 kilometres up and down the cliffside jungle paths, crossing the top of the falls and soaking ourselves at the bottom. On comparison the Brazilian side felt like a small animal zoo compared to this giant interactive safari. And to extend out of the metaphor the fleeting glimpses of the wildlife added to the magic. From catching butterflies in our hands to watching close-up the dexterity of capuchin monkeys pulling the apart fruity snacks. After a full day we leave soaked in a mixture of waterfall and perspiration, catching the bus back to the town.
We spend an evening drinking beer, chatting with Germans and counting mosquito bites (new record for me – 33). Then it’s onwards and back southwards as we prepare for our three day bus ride from Puerto Iguazu, northern Argentina to Santiago, Chile…