Once we reached Buenos Aires we had a choice, do we stay there for 2 days and visit Rosario, Resistencia and Posada's on our way north, or do we extend our stay in the Capital and miss out some of the other stops? In the end we figured that we had been rushing Argentina and we really weren't enjoying it all that much so therefore it would be better to spend longer in BA and spend the extra time trying to enjoy the city. We did enjoy it but I wouldn't say it's an amazing place to visit, it's just another city after all.
What this meant though was that we were 19 hours from the falls with only a few days to get there and neither of us fancied a 19 hour bus ride! Approximately 13 hours away is the city of Resistencia which is promoted in the Lonely Planet as charming with the country's largest selection of sculptures. Sounds interesting? It wasn't!
Andy had already pre-warned us that it wasn't really worth the visit and for that reason we only decided to stay there one night. We couldn't pre-book any accommodation online because it seemed the city is so small and relatively unknown that there aren't any hostels on hostelworld or hostelbookers and all other searches didn't prove any more fruitful. For a city its really only marginally bigger than Verwood.
So after what turned out to be a very underestimated journey time we arrived at the bus station which is several miles outside town. We hopped on a local bus as it only cost pence for the 2 of us and 20 minutes later were walking down the high street on a Saturday morning.
At the end of the high street was a hotel and as it was the first we had seen, and we knew there were no hostel's in town, we decided to check it out. It was ok and reasonable value for Argentina so we booked a night, had a quick shower and headed out in search of a tourist information office and breakfast.
By this time it was actually lunch time and all the people who had been milling about the shops just an hour or so earlier had disappeared and everywhere was shut! Not a good start.
We found out that the location of the tourist information office in the Lonely Planet was out of date (as it often is unfortunately) and no one in town knew where it had moved to. The only place open was the local supermarket so we headed there for food.
We pretty much spent the afternoon wandering the park and main streets. There really are lots of sculptures everywhere but there are no explanations, even in Spanish, as to what they are and their relevance to the city, country, or anything. Apparently there is a map you can get that takes you on a tour of the sculptures and gives a bit more info but with the tourist office no longer in town this wasn't possible for us. The only sculpture that meant anything to us was one we recognised as Evita.
The next day was Sunday and our bus wasn't until 10.50pm, again. We've probably already mentioned it but nothing opens on a Sunday, ever! It also seems like no one gets out of bed or at least stays at home, it really is a day of rest. We spent most of the day watching films we had downloaded onto our Notebook.
The bus journey was relatively uneventful, although once again underestimated in time, and we arrived in Puerto Iguazu, the small town on the Argentinian side of the Falls on the morning of the 7th November. The first thing we noticed as we stepped off the bus was the tropical heat! It was baking! The entire area was being gradually taken over by jungle and palm trees and the soil was bright red. It was very beautiful in a rustic kind of way.
We found our hostel that was advertised with a swimming pool (it was too small to swim in and filthy dirty) and set off to explore once again. We spent a pleasant day wandering the town, meeting some very friendly locals and walking to an area just outside of the town known as the Three Frontiers. You stand on the river front of Argentina and look over to Paraguay on the left and Brazil on the right. There were also many street stalls around selling interesting artefacts and jewellery. Adam had to drag me away!
The next day we jumped on a bus which takes 20 minutes to take you to the Falls. The edge of the falls is 1.7 miles long with 275 individual falls and cataracts. The height of each one varies between 200-270ft. 80% of the falls are on the Argentinian side of the border with the rest belonging to Brazil. Half of the rivers water falls into a giant chasm known in English as The Devils Throat (Garganta del Diablo in Spanish or Garganta do Diabo in Portuguese).
Once the bus pulled up it was clear the area has been turned into a giant park. It's a bit like turning up at Paulton's or similar. There are paved walkways everywhere with may set paths to follow and a little train that can also take you from one area to another. We had booked a boat ride so headed first of all to the office to collect our tickets. Once there we were told we had 40 minutes to wait and it was suggested that we follow what is known as the Upper Circuit to see some of the falls in that time.
We could hear the water long before we could see it. The edge is completely surrounded by jungle in this area and it's not until you get right on top of the falls that you can really see…the noise is deafening!
All I can really say it that it was beautiful and it has to be seen to be believed and understood. Photographs and words cannot explain just what it's like. But it was truly humbling. We spent the next 40 minutes walking along metal structures that take you over the top of some of the falls and provide good views of many others.
Once back at the office we jumped in the back of a safari type jeep with many others (once again most of the other tourists were from other South American countries) and set off on our tour through the jungle. It was a little disappointing though as we are told the best time to visit is in January and February when all the trees are covered in flowering orchids. It's supposed to be very beautiful. We did spot a huge lizard crossing the path though. It was about a foot and a half long! We also found out what Palm Heart is. Apparently it is literally the heart of a specific type of Palm Tree which is very sought after and is found in many local salads (since then we've seen it everywhere). It looked a bit like a leak although not layered and the taste and texture remind me of water chestnuts. I don't like it! The tree is very slow growing though and any growing in the wild are protected as removing the heart will kill the tree. Only those specifically grown in farms can be harvested.
Once we reached the river we jumped in a very powerful speedboat. It was a good job it was powerful as we headed upstream, through white-water!!! The boat was being thrown about all over the place and several times I thought we were heading into the rocks but the driver was very skilful and has clearly done it many times before. We cleared the white-water and headed round for our first view of the Devil's Throat, we couldn't get too close though, then we headed back to the falls we had walked over a short while ago and took a few photographs. Soon we were being told to put all valuables in the waterproof bags provided and we headed into the falls…
…it sounds silly now but I honestly didn't know we would get so wet!!! I thought we would head into the spray for a light soaking and that would be all but oh no…we went ALL the way in! I can honestly say there was not one dry piece of clothing anywhere. Many others had been smart with bikini's under their clothes and a change of clothing for later but not us. My trainers (worn instead of flip flops as I was prepared for a lot of walking) were completely drenched. You couldn't open your eyes the force of the water was so strong but when I did all I glimpsed was white water and rocks!!!
We headed out after a good shower and the boat headed back around towards the Devils Throat. We were told to keep our waterproof bags secure. Next thing we knew the boat was heading into the water again. It was exhilarating! We couldn't go right up to the Devil's Throat itself as the boat would be smashed to pieces from the sheer power of the water but we still got pretty damned wet!
After the best shower I've had in several months (haha) we were then dropped off at the bottom of the Lower Circuit which takes you on a tour of the bottom of the falls we had walked above earlier and several other smaller falls. We were dripping water everywhere but in the intense heat it was actually very refreshing.
Afterwards we headed to one of the café's for a quick lunch break where we saw many Racoons scavenging for food. There are signs everywhere telling people to be careful of their food and not to feed the animals who can become aggressive and bite, etc, etc.
A group of people walked up to a nearby table with a large packet of crisps which they then opened right up for everyone to share, seconds later a Racoon appeared on the table from nowhere, grabbed the bag and ran off with it. Several other Racoons quickly appeared picking up the dropped crisps. It was highly amusing!
After lunch we jumped on the little train for a ride to the top of the Fall's main attraction! One thing I have failed to mention so far is the butterfly's, some the size of a man's hand (although those ones are quite shy) and all the colours of the rainbow. It seems that there are many bright yellow butterfly's that seem fascinated with the train although I'm not sure why. They fly up and down the tracks, alongside the train all day every day, for no apparent reason. It's very beautiful.
Once off the train we followed a metal walkway that takes you right out over the river. Along the way we saw woodpeckers, purple butterfly's, blue butterfly's, turtles and many many people. We walked for probably 15-20 minutes across the river. We could hear the roar of the water for half of that time. Once again the noise of the water increases dramatically once you actually get there!
The Devil's Throat is a big semi-circular waterfall. The water flowing over the edge must have been metres deep and was completely white (save for the red colouration of the soil caused by deforestation in the last 2 decades) and the noise was beyond deafening. It was completely mesmerising!
You can't see the bottom, there is too much white spray, but there were rainbows growing, flickering and fading everywhere. Adam videoed the power of the water but I don't know if we will be able to load it. Our previous attempts to load videos have failed due to poor internet connections.
I don't really feel that I have given the Fall's a good enough description, but I don't know how to.
Back at the train we spotted more of those giant lizards bathing in the sun and once again the yellow butterfly's made their way back along the tracks following the train. It was an exhausting day.
Once back at the hostel we grabbed our bags, checked out and jumped on yet another bus, this one took us across the border to Brazil!
It was an eventful crossing, the bus driver waited for us at the Argentinian immigration office to get stamped out and then drove us across a bridge where the flags painted on the sides change halfway along. On the other side we were dropped off again but this time we were the only ones on board that required a stamp (not sure why) so the bus drove off leaving us a ticket to catch the next one when we were done.
We were stamped into Brazil and then sat on the side of the road waiting for the bus. Half an hour later 2 buses came. The first was the same company as the one we needed but though we waved our tickets and thumbs the driver didn't stop, just waved us away. The second bus driver felt sorry for us and stopped but couldn't take us so just told us to be patient and the next bus would be along soon. He was very nice.
At this point an Argentinian guy came and sat with us. He spoke fantastic English and we had a great conversation about travels. He's a bit of a traveller himself. Eventually another bus came along and he flagged it down for us and we were on our way into Brazil!