Bom dia from Brazil - the final country of my South American trip and one of the country's I was most looking forward to all trip. We arrived early wednesday morning after a luxury night bus through Argentina (we were mistakenly upgraded so each got wider, comfier seats). The city of Foz do Iguacu is just over the border in Brazil, so we took a private transfer for the last leg of the journey, crossing over the Iguassu river which forms a natural border between the 2 countries. From the bridge you could see the confluence of 2 rivers, and that point forms a triple border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Unsurprisingly Foz do Iguacu is a pretty multicultural city, and fortunately everybody here still understands Spanish even though Portuguese is the native language. The city is also fairly sizeable, which surprised me as I was expecting a small tourist town merely set up for visitors to the nearby Iguassu Falls - the main attraction of the area.
The falls are situated 25km south of the city and on the first day we went to view them on the Brazilian side, which provides a grand overview of the massively wide waterfalls - it was impossible to see the full width of them from any viewpoint. The setting was spectacular and it felt like being in the Amazon jungle, with trees and wildlife everywhere. Unlike at Niagara they had been able to hide development and tourist infrastructure from view, and the whole area is a protected national park. On the Brazilian side we saw many coatis, which are raccoon type animals, and a few iguanas and lizards along the trail.
We were so lucky with the weather as on our afternoon there the sun broke out for the first time here in a month, and it stayed sunny the whole of the next day too. Prior to this they had had a lot of rain, which meant the falls were in full flow. Normal river level is 0.8m and when we were there it was 2.3m high. Normally, an average of 1,300 cubic metres of water flows over each second, but that was as high as 9,000 cubic metres per second for us, so there was water coming out of everywhere! The river was such a muddy colour as a result and the excessive spray hampered our view in places, but it was an awesome sight that totally totally eclipsed Niagara Falls for me. At one point there was a walkway out over the river closer to the falls, and from this spot is the common postcard view of the most spectucular part of the falls - the Devil's Throat, which is a 270ft (82m) sheer drop in a horseshoe shape. However, from the end you could not see a thing for spray, and I got absolutely drenched! Most people opted not to walk out but it was really invigorating and fresh, and cooled me down in the 30 degree heat (hottest its been all trip).
The next morning it was back over the border into Argentina to view the falls closer up. Most of the falls belong to Argentina and they have many walkways right over the top of the waterfalls and right up to the base of some. The main trail is the Devil's Throat trail right up to the edge of the drop there, but sadly the bridge was underwater so it was shut, and I didn't get chance to see the Devil's Throat yet again! However the high water level meant the other falls were much more spectacular. The river was only a metre or so below the bridges and it was absolutely pouring over through trees and over bushes. You could get right up to the edge and get an even better view than from the Brazilian side. It's impossible to convey in a travel blog but it was an absolutely phenomenal sight - the force and power of the water was unbelievable, and its right up there with Machu Picchu and Uyuni salt flats with regards to the most amazing things I've ever seen. As I mentioned before it really was much much better than Niagara.
After lunch we took an open top truck tour through the jungle in order to reach the launch for the speedboats which take you right up to the falls. Having already seen a snake at close quarters from one of the trails, I spotted some monkeys up in the trees and we stopped to admire them. Apparently they are an uncommon sight so we got lucky. We also saw a toucan, which is definitely one of the most beautiful birds in the world. Even less common but present are pumas and jaguars but we did not see any of them!
The speedboat is Iguassu's equivalent to Niagara's famed Maid of the Mist but it was very different. You were so low down and they did not provide ponchos, just a waterproof bag for cameras. It really felt like we were cruising along the Amazon. On arriving to the falls we were taken really close to the base and got absolutely soaked. The boat was rocking mentally in the rapids and it was a pretty hairy experience. I will admit to being quite scared on the 2nd approach we made, when the driver literally floored it up to about 5m from the base before applying reverse thrust which stopped us in an instant. I really didn't think we would stop in time for a second! We made 3 approaches before being driven back, and that was our last sight of the falls. It was a fantastic 2 days though with the only disappointment being missing the Devil's Throat.
Last night we had a BBQ by the hotel pool with unlimited beer and caipirinha's (the national cocktail of Brazil), so this morning I was a little worse for wear when we got up for a day trip into Paraguay. The weather had gone significantly down hill and we woke up to heavy rain and thunder and lightning - the first storm of the trip. Crossing into Paraguay in our minibus was a weird experience - they did not check our passports or even stop the bus! Strange since South American land borders are generally quite strict, and disappointing since I did not get a passport stamp for my growing collection! The city of Ciudad del Este (city of the east in English) was our destination and it was right on the border so not a long journey at all. It was a world away from Argentina, Chile and Brazil though and was like being back in Bolivia. The city reminded me of La Paz - dirty, crazy and with street sellers everywhere! Many Argentinians and Brazilians take day trips there to take advantage of the cheaper prices, and the shopping centres were pretty much the only attraction. Electronics is the speciality and there were also lots of duty free shops selling perfume and things - nothing I wanted really. I had hoped to find a Paraguay football shirt but didn't manage to, and so returned empty handed. There weren't even any souvenirs to buy. The storm was still raging and it caused a power cut in one of the shopping centres we were at. I half expected mayhem to break out at this point, and people to start looting and things, but thankfully it stayed calm and I did not get mugged which was my first thought when the lights went out! We only spent 1.5 hours in Paraguay as there was very little to see, and I spent half that time admiring how the roads had been turned into rivers by the rain, and watching various large objects like tyres and bins float past. Unfortunately we had to wade through the 1ft deep channel to get back to the minibus, so my trainers got soaked again having only just dried out after day 1 of the falls.
I have 3.5 hours left to kill now in Foz do Iguacu before we take an 18 hour night bus to Sao Paulo, followed immediately by a 6 hour private transfer to the quaint coastal town of Paraty where we are staying 2 nights. It is my 7th and final night bus and I'll be overjoyed when its over with!