We left fabulous Brazil behind with a chirpy ciao and headed over Ponte Tancredo Neves bridge into Argentina. Mr E was feeling rather pleased to find out I had found a couple of hundred Brazilian pesos squirreled away, but had forgotten about until packing my bag. So instead of taking a public bus with a change to another bus at the border, we hired a taxi for less than £10. Our driver Gulman was ace, stopping on the bridge for photos of the three borders; Brazil, Paraguay and Brazil, exchanging our Brazilian pesos for Argentinian pesos and making the whole border crossing a very pleasant easy time.
As soon we crossed the bridge into Argentina the landscape seemed more tropical, the neighbourhood’s poorer and street dogs absent in Brazil were back in force yapping on corners.
We chose to stay at the nice but rather expensively priced Saint George hotel situated in the centre of Puerto Iguazu. Stashing our bags securely in the hotel, it was time to visit the Argentine falls. We walked around the corner to the bus station. The Rio Uruguay return bus ticket was 100 pesos each / £6.80 – the transition to Argentinian prices was a shock after great value Brazil.
The last stop was at the entry to the park. We had read in advance that the visitor centre only took Argentinian pesos in cash for entry tickets, no credit cards were accepted. So with our taxi exchanged peso money we paid the entry fee of $260ARS each, a pricey £18 but once we had seen the falls from this side, we would have paid more!
The indigenous people of the area are Guaraní and the word Iguazú means “Great Waters”. During the wet season from November to March there are 275 waterfall cascades tumbling over into the canyon. We had a massive thunderstorm the night before and the Iguazu river banks were swollen, the sheer volume of water at the falls was astounding.
From the Brazilian side, we had experienced the full panoramic views, but on the Argentinean side you are almost wading in the water you are that close. There are many vantage points in the parks away from the crowds and it feels like you are in the Lost World. The rainforests glisten and rustle, the sound of the water is intensely loud, it’s as if you are far removed from any civilisation. If you’ve seen the movie ‘The Mission’, you’ll remember the praying Jesuit Priest tied to the cross, cascading over Iguazu falls to meet his maker while the mesmerising Ennio Morricone soundtrack plays in the background.
The Argentinian falls are simply spellbinding, two-thirds of the falls are on this side. There are iron walkways over the water connecting islands and land. We could look over the handrails where our trail of sight followed water tumbling down into pools below. We took our rain jackets this time and enjoyed getting sprayed by mist clouds blowing in the wind.
All around the parks are these deceptively cute looking animals called Coati. They run around your feet and hang out especially by all the food outlets ready to stealthily rob food from open backpacks as soon as the owner puts it down on the floor. Despite all the signs advising not to feed them or attempt to touch them, they are wild animals after all that will bite! we still saw people throwing human food to them – don’t feed them!
The Argentinian park offers three trails through the rainforest with differing degrees of accessibility.
The first trail is the Lower Circuit, this trail allows hikers down the gorge to a large pool from the Arrechea falls at the bottom. At a 7km distance, only those with excellent fitness should attempt the walk, the climb back up is via steep vertical steps. This trail is probably best attempted when you first arrive in the park.
The second trail is on the Upper Circuit. The park train transports you from the central station to the start of the 1km trail over the water on a series of walkways.
At the end we were virtually on top of the Garganta del Diablo. We saw the natural power of the water almost within touching distance.
We watched as swallows flying high, swooped and dodged through the waterfalls to their nesting spots in the thick green grasses behind the canopy of water.
The third trail was the Middle Circuit where iron walkways hug close to the edge of the canyon, this trail provided us with stunning panoramic views of the whole 2km expanse of these amazing waterfalls. This circuit was free from the coach tour parties and apart from the thunderous noise was extremely tranquil.
For us the Argentinean side trumped the Brazil side, it was more expansive, less touristy and totally beautiful wandering through the trails. It’s totally true, Iguazu you are fabulous!
Next up: Buenos Aires.